A while back, I posted a discussion about my feelings about the battle between good old fashioned books and new e-books. Now an article on io9 has got me thinking about another dimension of the e-book that may prove useful for fledgling authors. The article can be read in its entirety here, but the gist of it is that self-publishing is taking off as a legitimate way of getting your work to readers. With the e-reader technology, people who publish in a digital format are gaining an audience and getting their names out there. Of course, the article is quick to point out the caveats of this new system such as there being no quality assurance as well as no way to make sure that what you’re reading isn’t just a rip-off of another work but with different character names. The other problem is that the sheer volume of material being poured out is overwhelming. How can one sort through all of that? Some authors may end up buried under the mountains of competing material out there. In the end, is it worth it? Is self publishing the right thing for you?
The answer is going to come down to a number of factors. One of them being the level of control you want to exercise over your work. Editors are going to ask you to make changes to your work. I don’t think anything gets published without revision. Some of it is necessary error correction, some may be stylistic, or who knows what else. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it’s good to have a fresh pair of eyes critique your work. They may see flaws that you, as the creator, are too close to the work to see or acknowledge. In the end, the collaboration can make the book a stronger piece. This is assuming of course you can handle some critique and don’t mind changing what you’ve set down. While I definitely think one should stick to one’s vision, one should also be ready to concede that it can be improved. Being able to play around and experiment is after all a part of the creative process. As I’ve also said, patience is also a part of the creative process which is another thing that will help to determine what path you choose.
The road to publication is long and frustrating and there are no guarantees that you’ll reach the finish line. However, publishing in online format is pretty much a snap. You’ll instantly be able to put your material out there and hopefully start to build a readership. While the problems inherent in having complete control are pretty apparent, I can’t think of a major problem with getting your work out right away that I haven’t already mentioned in the previous paragraphs. Again, there won’t be professional editing or the opportunity to have a professional give his/her opinion on your work. But other than that, I really have to say, e-publishing has it all over traditional models when it comes to the speed of making your work accessible. And I can’t think why that would be a bad thing in itself. Especially because after putting who knows how much time into a book, we’d all like to see it appreciated by someone. And that reminds me of one other small detail that I mentioned briefly.
Books with a publisher behind them get advertised whereas a self published books will only get the amount of attention you yourself can generate. When you walk into a Barnes and Noble, new arrivals are usually displayed front and center. Sometimes, you can catch a book signing where an author is there to speak about his/her new book and drum up interest. These things are not available to the self published author. All you can really do is hope for word of mouth and advertise across any medium you have access to. And the internet will turn out to be both a great ally and a major impediment. On the one hand, information travels fast on the internet. People share their discoveries and if one person talks to another person who tells maybe two friends about your book who tell a few more, then you’ve got a wave going. But there is the problem of there being so much information and competition that it may take a while for anyone to discover you. I’ve already mentioned that but I think it bears repeating. It is certainly possible to gain an audience but I won’t claim that it is an easy process. So in the end, what do I think?
I think the best thing to do is to go both routes. Why settle on just one? Send you work in to an agent, see if you can spark interest at that level. If not, use the internet and e-publishing as a proof of concept, show them that your story will entice people to read. I plan to put my novel up on an e-book platform once it’s finished and send it around to more well established channels. The thing is that there are many ways to get known and to make a name for yourself now. Don’t think that you have to go the route taken for years or that the internet is the new, superior way of spreading your story. I will use every tool at my disposal to get my story read and hopefully entertain readers. Both systems have positive attributes and both have drawbacks but they also have unique advantages that, if used wisely, can help validate the work you put into a story. Does self-publishing make it look like you can’t get a, “real,” book made? I don’t think so at all and increasingly this is becoming an archaic way of looking at self-publishing. Self publishing has become just one more way of getting content to readers.
I have read some self-published books and I think that there is some great stuff out there. I don’t know why the authors of some of these books chose that particular route, if it was necessitated by not having a publisher buy into their story or if it was a personal decision, but if it was the former, then this new option has allowed me to read some great stories I would not have been able to otherwise. Of course I’ve read some stinkers (just being honest) but I’ve also read some published books that made me wonder whether the editor was on blow that day. There may be a fair bit of dross out there but there are some absolute gems as well. And I think that that sums up the published book market as well. Not every story will suit everyone and not every story has the polish of some other story. But it’s certainly worth looking around for those stories that are going to grab you by the throat and there are no shortage of those in the self-published book department.
What are your opinions on this? Is it better to go the traditional route or the new self-publishing avenue? Or both?