Thursday, October 18, 2007

Democratisation or Self Publishing

So where do aspiring new authors go to get published?

They can try a publisher or an agent, but the slush pile gets bigger and the rejections more automated year on year. They can try projecting themselves on MySpace, Facebook and the social network scene, but again that is getting crowded and popularity doesn’t always reflect talent. They can become a celebrity and even get the book it written for them, or they can take what many once thought was the ultimate ego trip and self publish.

Does self publishing provide an easy route to fame and fortune or is it just another slushpile? Are there now new publisher alternatives?

We now read HarperCollins UK is to launch a new community site that is focused at encouraging new writers. is set to launch in early 2008 in the UK, with the intention of developing it in other countries in the future. The aspiring writer uploads their work onto the site and others can read, make comments on it and also make recommendations. The objective appears to test the popularity of the works and the writers and cherry picking those that rise to the top for consideration for publishing. There are obvious questions about the protection of the authors’ ideas and ownership of the works posted. Will the works be exclusive to HarperCollins or become another source for others to trawl? Will the works be fully protected and how long will they be posted for? Who will be allowed to comment? We wait for the launch and the rules to be announced but given the Spinebreaker site we commented on earlier this week are we seeing the the democratisation of literature?

Its interesting to also read that at a time when publishers are reaching out to create social sites such as Authonomy and Spinebreakers the self publishing world is still not at that tipping point predicted by so many. IUniverse, one of the first digital self publishing ventures, is now being acquired by a competitor Author Solutions. There are many sites and services to self publish which offer a variety of services from editorial and design through to distribution but all have to be paid for by the author and none offer any guarantees. The list is significant; Grosvener House, Lulu, Publish and be Dammed, Trafford, Cafepress, etc. However even with open channels such as Amazon and cheaper POD technology success is hard to find. It’s unlikely that the investment is too much, or the actual process too complex, but more likely that selection, shaping, publicity and marketing are still key attributes to publishing.

Someone recently described publishers as venture capitalists and perhaps it also a case of who takes that risk that really counts.