Self-Publishing Gets Respect

Jeremy GreenfieldAs the success of 50 Shades of Grey makes clear, the book business has made piece with the self-published author. Now one of the best-selling authors in history, E.L. James first made her work available to readers via non-traditional, self-publishing routes. James is hardly alone, however, as not a week goes by without word of authors making their names and their livings without resort to publishing contracts.

“For me, the dominant message is that it’s a great time to be a writer. And depending on how much you like some of the self-published work, it might be one of the greatest times to be a reader,” Jeremy Greenfield, Digital Book World editorial director, tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “As for the publishing industry, there’s new competition from these self-published authors to sell their books to readers. I think most publishers, though, are looking at what’s happening in self-publishing as more of an opportunity than a challenge.”

As part of the annual Digital Book World Conference & Expo, several programs throughout the day on January 17, 2013, will examine self-publishing, including the results of a DBW and Writer’s Digest survey of authors. On Tuesday, January 15, Copyright Clearance Center presents a pre-conference workshop, Understanding and Managing Copyright in the 21st Century.

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One Response to “Self-Publishing Gets Respect”

  1. Jody Rein December 9, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    Hi there, excellent interview; thank you both! A couple of historical notes: Lots of folks currently reporting on SP and digital books aren’t aware that traditional publishers have long been open to re-publishing successfully self-published books. As Jeremy said, publishers are businesses, then as now, eager for a proven product. I crafted (in part) my careers as an editor in the late 80s & early 90s, and as an agent thereafter, through “discovering” self-published books. Strong-selling self-published books have been on publishers’ radars (and on bestseller lists) since long before Amazon was a gleam in Mr. Bezos’ pocketbook.

    Interestingly, Jeremy, the largest shift I see in today’s SP to traditional market (besides numbers, of course), is from practical nonfiction to genre fiction. Before affordable digitization etc, SP fiction was usually pretty lousy, because talented novelists generally found homes, and the ones that weren’t published were, for the most part, unpublishable. There were so many more publishing opportunities with traditional houses then (much less consolidation, lower advances, more mass market outlets, more editorial encouragement to “grow” authors rather than pluck them fully bloomed.) The only sensible reason to self-publish fiction, then, was after rejection, which was most likely justified. Good books really didn’t fall through the cracks that much.

    NONFICTION, on the other hand, was often undervalued. Most books were purchased at bookstores, and bookstores and publishers had some funky ideas about the sorts of books consumers would be comfortable buying at the cash register (sort of like erotica before our shady friend). So books on alcoholism, co-dependency, abuse and other experimental topics (new age, etc.) often were self-published by people who were immersed in an emerging market. Literary nonfiction writers–the Caros and Hillenbrands of the world–never, to my knowledge, first tried self-publishing. But for practical nonfiction–products with identifiable and reachable markets similar to online genre fiction today–self-publishing has always been a viable path to publication. . Several such books I acquired many (many) years ago have sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and continue to sell (such as YOU MEAN I’M NOT LAZY, CRAZY OR STUPID by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo, which sold 25,000 copies SP and now has more than 250,000 copies in print with S&S).

    And don’t forget the huge SP inspirational successes, like THE CHRISTMAS BOX! But that’s another story…

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