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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Is Self-Publishing the Future of Fiction?

In 2008, the publishing industry collapsed. Senior editors, executive editors, editors, editorial assistants, art directors administrative assistants and just about everyone else in trade publishing lost their jobs. Literary agents were left with no one to pitch their clients’ projects to as entire divisions of publishing houses scaled back production, and writers were left with projects stuck in limbo. Some publishers went bankrupt and others went out of business
In the aftermath of the publishing industry meltdown, many are scrambling to find a place for themselves and their books in the ruins. With the days of book deals over martinis between agents and editors over martini lunches over, today’s trade publishing have turned into books approved by a committee. It’s a place where best-selling authors and books by celebrities and politicians get priority over first-time writers and fiction projects.

With a 90 percent failure rate in the marketplace, it’s becoming less economically viable for publishing houses to publish original fiction by new writers. Moreover, with the advance for authors now at around about five thousand dollars at a trade publishing houses for a book, it’s not profitable for the fiction writer to write original fiction for trade publishing houses. So new authors who want to write and publish fiction may have to invest their own money to self-publish their own projects to get them on the market to establish their careers as writers.

More and more it looks like the future of fiction is self-publishing. It just makes more business sense.

As print-on demand and eBooks shape the new marketplace for trade publishing, the future of literature seems to be one where the fiction writer won’t have to seek a publishing houses’ approval to get their book to the retail marketplace. With the cost of self-publishing a print-on demand paperback now a few hundred dollars and the cost of publishing an eBook nothing, it’s not cost effective for a fiction writer to continue to spend hundreds upon thousands of dollars submitting query letters and manuscript samples to editors at publishing houses and literary agents to look at their work.

More and more, It’s looking like it would be more cost effective for authors of fiction spend their money on on free-lance editors, cover artists, and page layout specialists to prepare their work for the marketplace instead of on ink, toner, paper, envelopes and postage for queries. By side-stepping the costly bureaucracy of literary agents and editors at trade publishing houses, an author can save thousands of dollars and reap profits much higher than royalties of ten percent of the list price at bookstores.

With fiction by first-time authors bookstores not having that much impact on sales at retail, a first-time author would actually better be served by focusing on online sales through eBooks and print-on-demand. By focusing on these self-publishing venues, an author can establish their reputation and build an audience of readers. Currently, with more readers buying books online a new author has a better chance of finding readers at amazon, pubit, smashwords or the ibookstore or on social media than through promoting their titles at bookstores which are struggling to stay in business.

In addition to saving money and time, the author can also gain much more creative control over the publishing process. By self-publishing the author won’t have to make compromises in their material to appease editors at publishing houses and cut out major portions of their story to appeal to a certain demographic. Moreover, authors won’t have to surrender creative control over their page layouts and their covers to the publishing house and wind up with a finished book that doesn’t provide an enjoyable reading experience for the reader.

Also by self-publishing, the fiction writer can keep their books in the marketplace much longer than if they sold the rights to a trade publishing house. Ususally after six months, a book by a first-time-fiction writer is taken out of print and remaindered if it doesn’t meet sales expectations. However, a self-published book can remain in print as long as the author wants it to remain in print. By having more time to keep a book in print, an author can come up with an effective business plan to promote their title and help it discover its audience.

And by self-publishing an author gets to keep all the rights to their works. Retention of rights enables an author to not only publish a print version, but an eBook version or a foreign version.

If the future of trade publishing fiction is self-publishing? I believe it is. In a few years it’s just not going to be cost effective for trade publishers to continue invest in publishing fiction. It’s also not going to be profitable for writers to spend money submit fiction queries to trade publishers. As the landscape for publishing continues to change, it’s clear authors will control more of the publishing process and when it comes to fiction self-publishing may be the only route to go to get stories on the market.

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