There are probably as many reasons to self-publish as there are not to. Today, however, the stigma surrounding self-publishing is far less than it was a few years ago—that’s when Amazon made it very easy for authors to publish their own work in the Kindle store.
There is a joke in publishing circles that says that Kindle is Amazon’s slush-pile, and it’s not that far from the truth. To understand what this means, you need to know what a slush-pile is. Imagine all of the submitted manuscripts that have been sent to agents by authors seeking representation. Any submission, partial or full, that has yet to be read (and not rejected) by an agent is in the slush-pile. Simply put: if a manuscript has escaped the slush-pile without rejection, it means that an agent has vetted your work.
Agents have traditionally served the role as the gateway to publishing. One of their jobs is to assess an author’s work to see if it’s worthy of their effort to try and market it. Very few authors pass through this gateway. And though some “greats” may go unpublished while a lot of crap does get published, the system has generally worked for many years. This has changed because the ease of self-publishing has made it possible to eliminate the agent from the process. And one side effect of this is that agents no longer perform the vetting process.
Take this one step further, and we’ll also realize that the publisher is no longer a part of the equation. One of the significant contributions a publisher provides is editing, and although some writers will argue the point, all books could use a good editor.
The upshot of all of this is that today with the advent of the ePublishing “revolution” there is a lot of unvetted material for purchase that would have never made it out of the slush-pile prior. Bypassing the agent has effectively shifted the slush-pile from the agent’s desk to the Kindle store and other places like it. But, really, it’s not such a bad thing after all.
The elimination of the agent and traditional publisher has two very potent effects on the industry. First, it allows more books to be published; and second, it puts the power into the hands of the most important person out there—the reader. Readers are in fact the new agents, and free samples are the manuscript submissions. The Internet and eBooks have made this all incredibly easy.
If a book’s free sample has a “hook” or whatever it takes to make the reader want more, they’ll buy it. If not, it stays in the slush-pile. When a reader leaves a review—good or bad—this feeds the most potent form of marketing any book can have—word of mouth. And that, in my opinion, is a pretty good thing.
There are quite a few out there who’ve written on this subject. And yes, ironically, they’re all indie writers. Some have been traditionally published and have gone indie, while others have gone from being ePublished to to “tPublished.” Regardless, here are a few items that I’d recommend for anyone interested in learning more about self-publishing:
- Be the Monkey by Barry Eisler and J.A. Konrath
- Ditch the Agent by Jack King
- Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran
- Reader’s Rule by Bob Mayer
I’ve written a semi-related article on the importance of book reviews, please find it here.