Monday, July 5, 2010
The Publishing Universe
Many of the old publishing houses are still around. They will probably remain for a while longer, continuing to provide their services in their present capacity. In time, they will pass into history like buggy whips and vinyl recordings. Nothing lasts forever.
New worlds are evolving and challenging the tradition long thought to be the only route to publication. These outlying planets are new — rogue empires that are a haven for rebel writers. All are welcome and none are turned away. I'm referring to the world of self-publishing, also known as POD (print on demand). This new route to publishing is actually not as new as it may appear. Evolution and consumer demand have morphed the old vanity press industry into something much more desirable, respectable, and viable for today's writers. Although some may consider the POD destination to be a black hole that an aspiring author should avoid at all costs, others see it as a way to achieve their publishing goal. As the publishing world cuts costs and becomes increasingly more digital, the options offered by POD are becoming even more feasible for writers. In fact, more light is escaping from these black holes every year and illuminating new publishing success.
Some literary agents don't appear too fond of self-publishing or the value of self-published books. Perhaps it's because of the freedom it gives writers, or the control it takes away from agents. In fact, some recent posts on agent blogs have been quite enlightening, as are the many comments they've received, a large portion of which disagree with the opinions of those agents. Obviously, agents need to justify their existence as the gatekeepers for what material will be printed and passed along to the readers of the world. I don't devalue that duty in the least. I'm just not certain that's working out very well these days, because I've read a lot of published material lately that I would consider inferior to the excerpts that have been submitted to this blog by unpublished authors.
But aside from the control issue, there is another obvious reason that agents are not keen on the self-publishing option. If writers suddenly decided to take publishing into their own hands and stop submitting their work to literary agencies, more than a few agents would be looking for new jobs. So, it isn't surprising to hear an agent denounce self-publishing.
However, more and more writers are deciding that an agent's opinion is not the only opinion, or the final opinion, or the opinion that should determine the fate of their manuscript. Some writers have become weary with the rejection, have changed course, and have taken the self-publishing route. Many have gained more success with this new approach than their years of determined effort in traditional publishing ever brought them. It's a whole new world out there, and writers now have options other than turning their future over to an agent with no vested interest in their success.
But as a writer, you must determine the final fate of your story. If you decide to set your course for the POD Galaxy, the better-known outposts include Create Space, Lulu, Xlibris, and iUniverse, to name a few. These options allow a writer to bypass the traditional routes to publishing and just get on with it under their own direction and control. Your book can be published with generally no, or very little, upfront cost. It can be available to your readers in a short time in printed form on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or it can be downloaded in seconds to a Kindle or other digital reader. And if you think digital publishing is just a flash in the pan that's going to disappear, just ask literary agent Nathan Bransford.
If you haven't investigated this option for publishing your work, you might want to take a look, just so you know what is currently available in today's high-tech world. And if any of you have gone that route, please leave a comment and let us know how your journey went and whether you returned home safely or not.
Posted by Michael at 12:06 PM