I know we’ve all talked a lot about self-publishing and what it means for the more traditional, old fashioned book business, and I’m not really interested in getting into the pros and cons of self-publishing, but I thought it was worth exploring this topic a little bit further and see if there are ways to address how the two worlds can come together.
What prompted by interest in the subject was a few things that came up around the same time. First, I read this piece about the rise of self-publishing and how the digital age is somehow making self-publishing more respectable. I’m not sure if I agree entirely , but she makes some interesting points about how far self-publishing has come. Then, I saw this in Publisher’s Weekly about an entire trade show for self publishers and authors who have either published this way, or plan to, or for anyone curious about what it’s all about. Finally, and perhaps the most interesting piece of all, I had lunch with a prominent editor recently at a major commercial house who told me that they had recently done a deal with an author who had previously self-published her book. We talked a little bit about it, and when I asked her if the book had done very well in its self-published life for them to consider reissuing it, she told me that it hadn’t sold particularly well, and the numbers weren’t all that great. So I asked her why in this ridiculously difficult market did they agree to publish it? Because it’s really good, she told me. Oh, how simple. And how refreshing!
I continue to believe that there are untapped talented authors lurking out there publishing books on their own, in some cases quite successfully. I’ve signed up several self-published books over the years, and it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. One author was self-publishing her novels successfully long before it became fashionable, or as easy as it is today. When she chose to reach out to traditional publishers, we got her a very nice six-figure deal for two books with a commercial publisher, and after a few years of feeling increasingly frustrated by the lack of control over the publishing process, she decided to go back to self-publishing. Another was a cookbook that I resold successfully to a division of Random House, and the book has sold fairly well and looks like it will backlist nicely. A third was a nonfiction self-help book that had some great elements and an author who promised to support the book financially, but I wasn’t able to make it work. I am fascinated and intrigued when I hear stories of self-published books selling to traditional publishers, in some cases for a lot of money or with a big promotional plan in place. And I’ve thought over the years about trying to find self-published books that have done well in an effort to find new clients and new projects. If an author has gone through the time and work required to publish on their own, they have already shown a commitment to their work, and if the stars are aligned in just the right way, maybe we can help them in their efforts by matching them with a traditional publisher who can offer much greater sales, marketing and distribution support. In the perfect storm effect, this can be a major win-win for all parties. Look at The Shack as an example.
There are so many books self-published every year (the stat of 764,448 titles last year is staggering) that there still needs to be some sort of filter to find the quality over quantity. Other than the books I’ve worked on, I haven’t read many self-published titles, and I’d love to learn more about what’s out there. Do any of you have any recommendations for self-published books you absolutely loved?