There has been much debate in the marketplace about self-publishing and small presses and the impact of digital publishing on the marketplace for books. A lot of that conversation has revolved around the ease at which anyone can publish a book and the quality of the work that is being published by these new presses and aspiring individuals.
There are those that say that an author should not self-publish or work with a small press—that it degrades their value and lumps them in with a bunch of hacks that can’t tie their shoes, much less provide a quality product that meets some as-to-now unwritten expectation of quality. That it is the domain of the ones that just couldn’t cut it.
There are those that say that self-publishing and publishing with a small press is creating a perception in the market place of poor quality control and poor work over all, that authors that choose to publish in this way are either lazy or poor at their craft.
- Does anyone say that of independent musicians?
- Does anyone say that about independent film makers?
- Or actors or comedians?
- Or the thousands of entertainers on YouTube who have loyal, even cult-like followings?
So why are books and authors different?
[icon name=”arrow-circle-right” class=””] The answer: they aren’t.
To all of these people, I say—Whatever you want to believe, you are welcome to it. But it just doesn’t matter. That’s because the market place holds the power, not these anachronistic opinions.
There is no question that the burgeoning new marketplace is adrift with poor quality product and new businesses (publishers) that have not developed the systems of quality control that old-line publishers have developed over decades. That is a no brainer.
Again, it doesn’t really matter. The world is shifting. The marketplace is changing. Soon, it will swallow those that don’t adapt—and from the changes we will see a whole new crop of authors and a whole new crop of talented artists emerge, unburdened with the biases of big publishing, and an overly-mature oligarchy. Poor quality will get sifted out as artists that can’t get an audience are weeded out, unable to sell their books. Some great authors will get lost in the thousands of marginal books, but in the end, it will be a stronger, more robust market place than ever before.
Resisting it is not only foolish, it is doomed to failure. Markets are unmerciful in how they deal with those that cannot adapt.
We’ve already seen massive shifts in the publishing and distribution marketplace. Closures of bookstores, startups of small presses and a thousand outlets to help hungry authors self-publish, along with ancillary service providers like freelance editors, book cover designers, e-book formatters, and on and on, are becoming common place. It is the beginning of a landslide in changes that will completely alter how we buy books and how we publish them.
The advent of digital distribution is having a similar effect on video and film production, music distribution and has redefined what it means to be successful in the arts. Arguably these artistic products are further along in their evolution than book and magazine publishing, having been dealing with it for years upon years.
They still struggle with it. It is the chaos that comes with open markets. It is the opportunity that comes with open markets.
Digital distribution has stripped down the barriers to entry, allowing a flood of new artists to put their work up for all to see, for the market to judge – not a music executive, or a literary agent, or an editor. These were the realms owned by the label or the publishing house or the studio. Now, they are on the defensive, and the new world is shifting under them.
We can complain about the changing market, snivel about and lament the complications that this new and exciting marketplace brings, or adapt, get on board, and take advantage of a wonderful, changing time in history.
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