With electronic self-publishing becoming the latest tulip mania, one of the questions hashed and rehashed in publishing circles is whether authors who are finding success in this venue would be willing to give it all up in order to be published by a “traditional” publisher. E-publishing evangelists deny that there is any point or desire to go back to the shackles of mainstream publishing. Why would you sell your art for pennies and let agents and publishers take the bulk of your earnings, they query. Take your work back, do it yourselves, and make 70% of the income, they encourage the masses.
We publishing types have been losing sleep lately over our own future. Gatekeeping has gone out of vogue in this new democracy. Also, we worry that our services may become obsolete now that anyone with an internet connection can upload their work and start getting their check from Amazon or Kobo within days. Even enterprising houses are getting into the self-publishing business and calling it community building.
So, over our coffee and bagels on a recent morning, the staff of DGLM wondered whether all of the above is incontrovertibly true. Anecdotal evidence leads us to believe that many people who self-publish (including some of those who are making nice money doing so) are actually interested in traditional publishing as an outlet for their work and value the services that an agent, editor, production team, and sales and marketing force provide. Many are excited when we offer representation and seem to feel that the most important thing we agents bring to the table is allowing them to focus on their writing instead of the “business” side of the business. (This, by the way, is something I think all authors appreciate, as finding the time to be creative can be difficult even in the best of situations.)
Clearly, the future of publishing is electronic media and we love a literary success story, whether it’s generated by Random House or by a self-published author. But amidst all the greatly exaggerated reports of traditional publishing’s demise, here’s an informal survey. Would you still go the traditional route even if you were making the big buckaroos doing it yourself?