Self-publishing in the digital age
Not so long ago, self-publishing was looked upon with everything from scepticism to mild embarrassment to outright contempt. More often than not, the industry gave birth to a host of second-rate publications – poorly edited, badly bound and self-congratulatory to a fault. Matthew Reilly aside, most never saw the light of day, and the vanity presses earned a stigma that would take years to shake off.
Now, with the launch of Print on Demand technology (POD) and the vast, unfettered growth of the internet, self-publishing has been granted a new, shiny image. While some may still regard it as a cheap and tawdry practice, authors and publishers alike are growing savvy to the advantages to digital publishing. Last week, Bookseller.com published this article (http://www.thebookseller.com/in-depth/feature/82409-digital-focus.html) on how self-publishing has effectively ‘come of age’. According to the author, Felicity Wood, the boom experienced by self-publishing in recent years can be largely attributed to the advances of the web. POD technology, for example, has allowed authors and businesses to lessen the financial risks of self-publishing. Smaller print runs are now not only conceivable, they are also profitable. I believe as well that the internet has opened up the boundaries of acceptability when it comes to launching and promoting one’s own work. After all, the practice of blogging, chatting, writing online travel journals and uploading photos are all basic forms of ‘self-publishing’ in one way or another.
Nowadays, self-publishing may not simply be a case of handing around your personal masterpiece to family and friends. Instead, like YouTube, it can be a short, fast ticket to fame and, if you’re lucky, an official contract. Last year, HarperCollins launched authonomy.com, which lets wannabe authors upload their manuscripts onto the site to be read and ranked by fellow users. The book that receives the highest number of votes each month is guaranteed to be read by a HarperCollins editor. So far, three authonomy.com manuscripts have been picked up by HC imprints. While there is always a risk that one obsessed author may simply get their friends and family to vote them to the top of the digital slushpile, this is, I think, a creative and experimental way of sourcing talent, not only because of the online buzz but also because most of the hard work of sifting through hundreds of manuscripts is virtually done for you.
Another sign that self-publishing may be slowly shedding its second-rate skin is the growing willingness of large companies to partner with would-be authors. British self-publisher AuthorHouse, for instance, offers a Borders Package (for the bargain price of £849), whereby three copies of the author’s book are guaranteed a space in one Borders store for ten weeks. Further orders are placed at the discretion of the retailer. In Australia, Book Pal has come up with a similar arrangement with local chain Angus & Robertson. Under the partnership, readers can order and pick up any self-published title on Book Pal’s lists from an A&R store. Thanks to POD, this effectively means that authors do not have to pay to print and stock their novels – anything ordered is guaranteed to sell.
While self-publishing may not have entirely rid itself of old stigmas, it is becoming an interesting outlet for unpublished work. As far as this role goes, I’m more inclined to agree with Tim Davies, Managing Director of AuthorHouse: ‘I don't see [self-publishing] as competition. I see us as complementary to traditional publishers. More and more of our authors are using us as a stepping-stone.’ Self-published texts will rarely reach the same standard of titles nurtured by traditional publishing houses. No matter how talented the author is, little can stand in stead for good, careful external editing or professional design. Nevertheless, creative use of digital self-publishing can give unknown authors the necessary leg-up that they need, as well as adding to the diversity and energy of online content.
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29 Mar 10 at 6:10
I am an author of several published books. I'd like to reprint some of my titles (some are written in other language than English). Do you reprint books (scan?). Can you give me some information on that topic including the costs.
16 Apr 10 at 0:28
Beware Bookpal... carpetsellers pulling the wool over unsuspecting self-publishers eyes.. you have been warned!...
11 May 10 at 12:54
Alannah, can you elaborate pls or email direct with more info?...
12 Jun 10 at 9:45
I am interested to know why Alannah made that comment. Please address this request for more info....
25 Jun 10 at 11:45
I am ready to submit my childrens book to bookpal.This will be costly and can only afford one go. Please Alannah if you have information I would be ever grateful...
25 Oct 10 at 21:51
Alarm bells going off for me too ! I am considering self publishing a children’s book myself-would love any info regarding the above comments from alannah ( 16/4/10)...
07 Feb 11 at 8:57
Alarm bells went off for me when I read on the Bookpals site ‘Traditional publishers charge authors thousands up front’ – say what? I have had books published by Macmillan, Rigby, etc. Not true. They paid ME up front, and I ain’t famous. I was also put off by bookpals' sprinkling of ‘bait words’ like ‘J.K. Rowling’ ‘billions’ and ‘Oprah’.
First timers need to get clear the distinction between printing and publishing. The first is making a book. The second is selling it, and the second is the BIG one, where you need the most help. It’s alos where most self-publishing outfits fall down. Creating a web-page for you (for a fee!) will NOT sell your book....
24 Jul 11 at 23:52
I really much agree with your points of view ..hope to hear from you more quality information soon.....
04 Oct 13 at 10:36
I’ve been doing some research into BookPal – have read two positive reviews and heard/read two negative reviews mainly about the quality of editing, which I believe they’re trying to remedy. It’s true that marketing is the hardest part.. if you’re not prepared to spruik your book then best just DIY for fun....
10 Jan 14 at 15:12
My experience of bookpal was a nightmare…endless errors from their end. Entire chapters deleted. Photos missing. Sections bolded. The time senstive book was delayed by nearly a year. I eventually pulled it from sale and am re-releasing via another publisher. Four years of work. It is impossible to actually speak to anyone in authority at BPal. Don’t believe me? Try it. All calls go to a virtual office. Your editor may also be non-contactable for weeks on end. BP has been
fixing the problems for years. It’s patter. My advice? Avoid.
23 Jan 14 at 17:38
I have been considering BPal also. My first book. It has been edited and proof read. Called them left two messages. They must have enough business. They obviously don’t need mine. Maybe I dodged a bull it? Question is where do I send my book?...