Today during Blog Jog day I came across an article by Tiffany Jansen about whether self-publishing hurts chances at a traditional publishing career.
It's an interesting question and here's my take. As I do, I'll take you back to the 1970s and 1980s. At that time I was just a youngster, and everyone was buying LPs. I never ended up buying a lot of records. Why? Because I didn't agree with the idea of having to buy a whole LP just to get the title track. I felt that it was somehow forcing the consumer to buy more than they intended. And then Napster and others came along to provide individuals with the tools to be able to share music, making much of the music sales cycle instantly obsolete. The music industry started making a stink, and I thought "Serves you right. You've been gouging people for decades, and now you don't like the decrease in sales resulting from people who have figured out how to get only the song they're interested in." Let me clarify that I don't agree with people getting for free what others have worked hard to produce - that's not my point. My point is that an industry shouldn't be holding consumers and producers hostage by claiming that the only valid way is their way. I didn't like it when the industry concerned was music, and I don't like it now that the industry concerned is written works. I for one am thrilled that resources are now available to regular people to get their creations to the markets that want them. (And individual songs can be bought for a dollar - gees, how long did that take? 30 years?)
Interestingly enough, I was watching a program recently in which the interviewee said that, at traditional publishing houses, decisions about what gets published are made by accountants. Exactly my sentiments. Unless you're a well-known celebrity like Tom Cruise, or already a prolific author like J.K. Rowling, publishing houses don't want to talk to you because there's no guaranteed profit - they have to figure out what the probability of financial success is, and fewer and fewer publishers want to take that risk. So, just as music has begun to be published by independent resources, I say publishing should follow the same route. Traditional publishers are grasping at the ever disappearing reins of the power they once wielded. And they had authors begging to be signed on (same idea goes for agents, by the way). Authors are the creators, and let's not be deceived that publishers and agents should be revered and pursued to get that elusive deal. For some reason, the balance of power has shifted away from where it should reside - with the author.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who read the story of Amanda Hocking's A-to-Z self-publishing success and said "Aha! I thought so." And the fact is that the connected world is now so huge and full of diverse interests that everyone's written works have markets and no publisher or agent should be touting themselves as the gatekeeper to success.
So go and publish traditionally if you wish, but celebrate also the freedom to do so independently through self-publishing. Success is all in the effort you expend, with some skill thrown in.