Self-publishing has taken off thanks to the ease brought forth by Amazon, Smashwords, PubIt, LuLu, etc. Of course, the rise in eReaders has certainly helped. Just wait until everything is digital (I love my regular books, but I am also a realist). Unfortunately, there are many (and I mean MANY) people out there that refuse to buy anything self-published. Some of that is the individual authors faults (errors and snobbery) but most of it has to do with simple tradition. People have always bought their books from traditional publishers and they just simply don’t know of the other routes.
I remember when I downloaded my first illegal music file. It was 1999 and it came from a thing called Napster. I thought it was the coolest thing! I didn’t have to buy anymore CDs. I didn’t really think about how bad it screwed the artists over. Now I do, but I also know that the music industry had to adjust. The big labels and musicians didn’t go down without a fight either. They whined and moaned and told us that their way was the best because they knew what they were doing. They sued and sued. In fact, they won most of their cases. Unfortunately for them, they were fighting a new era brought on by the internet. Nobody could stop the digital world of sharing. So, instead of trying to stop it, they eventually came around and adjusted. Sure, people still download illegally, but with iTunes and Google Music offering better solutions for all involved, everyone came out on top. The artists get paid and we get our music for a relatively cheap price.
I know it is not exactly the same, but I equate the music situation with the publishing situation. Self-publishers are the ones downloading the free music and crashing the party of the major labels. They are breaking into their profits (supposedly) and not playing on their established field. So, how are the publishers responding? Slowly and not happily.
One of the main arguments coming from “real” authors is that self-publishing waters down their work. Yeah, I guess they have beef, but can they really stop it? Nope. There is absolutely no way they can stop self-publishing. They know that deep down, and we have seen them work to adjust to that reality. They are now picking off the best self-publishers. You know the biggies, but some examples are Fifty Shades of Grey and of course, a great indie success story, Wool by Hugh Howey.
I see it as a good thing, and not just because I’ll be self-publishing soon. Sure, we have some kinks to work out, but it offers everyone freedom. First, it give the authors a chance to be found. Let’s face it, publishers really do miss some good work. They are not book gods. Often, an authors hard work is left in the hands of an intern who’s job it is to decide whether a piece of work is worthy or not. I know, they have a lot to do, but now, the public can be the gatekeepers. They can decide what is good or not. Very American, huh?
In the end, and if they play their cards right, publishers can get in on this. They can almost let the public do their job for them in scouting good work, pluck off the indie authors with good deals, and publish them. Sure, the power shifts to the author more than ever, but I like that. Power at the top sucks no matter what you are talking about.