Back on July 20, 2006 here, I said:
The latest POD technology makes it relatively easy [for publishers] to produce a quality, bound book at a reasonable rate.Now the new Time article, titled "Books Unbound," talks about the success of three self-published writers:
Notice I am not including aspiring authors. The reason I am not is because, even if they now have a way to produce printed copies of their work, there is still no system by which they can successfully market those books. I personally do not believe in selling books by hand out of the trunk of your car--UNLESS you are doing so as a part of a publisher's marketing campaign during a book tour.
I think that day is coming. Sooner or later a viable system will evolve by which authors can self-publish AND market their work. That day is not now, but it is probably not too far in the future.
Giga-selling fantasist Christopher Paolini started as a self-published author. After Brunonia Barry self-published her novel The Lace Reader in 2007, William Morrow picked it up and gave her a two-book deal worth $2 million. The fact that William P. Young's The Shack was initially self-published hasn't stopped it from spending 34 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.While I am not denigrating these novelists' success in any way, I do believe Time did not do an adequate job in analyzing those successes. There were very specific reasons for the success of both The Lace Reader (an investment of $50,000 by the author in marketing) and The Shack (a niche Christian market together with help from influential people in that market).
The case of Christopher Paolini was a "once in a lifetime" stroke of luck. Listen to his 2004 interview in the UK's Guardian:
The Paolinis led a simple life, earning a living from small publishing projects. After seeing the finished manuscript, they agreed to throw the whole family business behind their son's book. It was a huge risk . . .In my opinion, the Time article has an overly optimistic tone with respect to a novelist's chances for success in self-publishing. While I firmly believe self-publishing is a viable route for a non-fiction writer with a niche market, I think fiction writers have still not overcome the three biggest hurdles in self-publishing. I described these hurdles here in October of 2006:
The bookshops were hard. No one had heard of him. 'I would stand behind a table in my costume talking all day without a break - and would sell maybe 40 books in eight hours if I did really well,' he recalls. It got to the point where, if the book did not start to turn a profit, the Paolinis would have had to sell their house and take regular jobs in the city.
'It was a very stressful experience,' he says. 'I was fried. I couldn't have gone on for very much longer.' Then chance came to his rescue. Novelist Carl Hiaasen was on a fishing holiday in the area; his stepson saw the book in a shop, read it, loved it and showed it to Hiaasen who immediately contacted his publishers. Paolini's feet have barely touched the ground since.
(1) The need to develop a system to vet books for bookstores and libraries to ensure a quality product;While I don't agree with Time's implicit recommendation to self-publish a novel, I DO agree with the article's assessment of the changing publishing market. This passage particularly caught my attention:
(2) The need to develop a system for marketing (just slapping a book on Amazon or eBay will not drive traffic to it); and
(3) The need to overcome a justly deserved reputation for publishing crap.
Old Publishing is stately, quality-controlled and relatively expensive. New Publishing is cheap, promiscuous and unconstrained by paper, money or institutional taste. If Old Publishing is, say, a tidy, well-maintained orchard, New Publishing is a riotous jungle: vast and trackless and chaotic, full of exquisite orchids and undiscovered treasures and a hell of a lot of noxious weeds.Go here to read the entire article.
Go here to read my decision tree for deciding whether to self-publish.