Literary and Commercial Considerations in Self-Publishing

My thoughts on this excellent article by Nick Levey.

tl;dr re my comments

  1. the situation is fluid
  2. those too lazy to do the work of digging through the onslaught of independently published work are missing out, but perhaps they deserve to
  3. I am not embarrassed that I self-published and it is not a fall-back position, it is my first choice.

Maybe I need a tl;dr for my tl;dr


Quotes in italics (my comments in parentheses.)

shows just how uncomfortably firm the association is between traditional trade publishers and literary value (which we know doesn’t exist: publishing is an industry, it is commerce with primarily financial goals)

There are many possible reasons why literary fiction has fewer examples of successful self-published works, but perhaps the simplest answer is that readers of the genre are served sufficiently by traditional publishers (This is a powerful argument against self-publishing literary fiction to make money which means I’ll have to do it to make art)

a narrower and more volatile market instead of a broad and sustainable one (As author businesspeople, we must take the view of our own sustainability, not that of the market as a whole. If I can live on what I earn from writing, that means exponentially more to me than whether or not my genre or books as a whole are selling better or worse.)

Mainstream literary fiction, we can assume, has different assumptions and associations, and its readers are more reluctant to explore alternative modes of publication (Where does that conclusion come from? Curious about the data supporting the statement that readers of literary fiction are reluctant to explore non-traditional publishing avenues. Chicken, meet egg.)

David Vinjamuri . . . concludes that the “problem with Indie books is that there are so many of them.” (I restrain myself here, but, too many books? Egads.)

Such readers were often also unconvinced of the value of rereading (and later) price can be a key factor in the experience of its products (Note to self: non-rereaders want digital [which = disposable] so dial back my obsession with selling print.)

between 1830 and 1859, more than half of the novels serialized in Australia were written by just one man, John Lang (Great googlymooglies, that’s amazing.)

The spread of literary culture has always been furthered by treating novels as the commodities they are, subjecting them to the whims and peculiarities of the market in order to improve their uptake by the public. (Lovely thought. This is primarily where traditional publishing is missing the boat.)

gives authors the ability to choose how much their book is worth (Badly worded, that. Price and value are entirely disconnected.)

Many post-pressers are thus working only transitionally within this domain, while holding out for traditional validation. (This bothers me.)

(Learned a new word: stoush.)

it’s difficult to view current self-publishing as aligned with an underground when it is so dependent on the technology and the business model of Amazon. (A troubling truth. But why do I find it troubling?)

For Kloos, traditional publishing is still the desirable pathway for the production and dissemination of the literary object; self-publishing comes as a last resort. (I have no respect whatsoever for those who abandon what they believe is the proper course of action. If you think traditional publishing is “real” publishing then either do the work or opt out, but don’t settle.)

Self-Publishing: It’s Not Settling, It’s a Choice

photo by Sigurd Decroos the article is too long and wandering to use in today’s newsletter, there are some salient quotes in Ether for Authors: Is It Time for Publishing to Call a Truce? Porter Anderson quotes Dr. Florian Geuppert of Hamburg-based Books on Demand. The emphasis in both quotes is mine:

We have surveyed 1,800 of our 25,0000 [sic] authors in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and Scandinavia … About one-third of the authors we surveyed made a conscious choice against traditional publishing … We can identify three big groups. The first is the hobby authors. Then there are professional writers. And then there are the experts, who use self-publishing to share their expertise—being a coach, being a scientist, being a business person.
All of them across the groups said their reasons for self-publishing are first, creative freedom and control over their rights and content; second, it’s the ease of the process; third, it’s basically fun … and the desire to self-publish is even higher among professional writers.

One third of authors surveyed (by a print-on-demand company, we should note) made self-publishing their first choice.

Does that really mean the other two-thirds settled for something less than their real goal, traditional publishing?

A number of points come to mind:

  1. Don’t settle. If you want a traditional publishing deal, I think you’re wasting your time and effort, but if you still want it, don’t settle. You’ll never ever ship art that’s worth anything if you settle.
  2. Why do the majority of authors who end up self-publishing still consider it a second choice? Do they think they’ll make less money? Earn less fame? Have to work harder? Deliver an inferior product?
  3. Is fun the difference? Is this adventurous spirit where the split happens? Are we looking at, not business choices, but personalities?

Self-publishing is not automatically second-rate, second-class, second choice.

You can help prove this by producing a top quality book: the writing, editing, formatting, design, all of it.

I’m holding myself to a higher standard with all my books next year.

What could you do better with your books?