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Latest changes in the book trade 4


Self-publishing' - career suicide' or 'really great'? | Latest changes in the book trade 4

The current situation in the book trade is one of rapid change. It's important for writers to understand what is happening as it will impact on their own chances of getting their work published and how it will be published. This newly revised series will look at the changes in the book trade, with a different focus each week. First, where books are heading and what changes are taking place at the sharp end of the book trade - the bookselling world.

4: Self-publishing' - career suicide' or 'really great'?

'When I first considered self-publishing I worried that it might be career suicide. But my experience has been really great. They have given me access to retail distribution and to excellent marketing services. They also set me up with a print-on-demand service in America.

Publishing is evolving. Technology is changing everything and I think the self-publishing industry will prove more adaptable than traditional book publishers. If you are confident in your story and in your writing then it's certainly worth considering. Just be prepared to get involved in marketing your book.'

Frances O'Brien, author of Sheer Bliss, in Writers' ForumBritish writers' magazine which is highly recommended for all writers. It features wide range of news and articles which help writers to improve their work and get published:

This helpful comment is still a good way to start this article and gives a positive perspective on a route to publishing which is becoming ever more popular. In the last few years it has become possible to publish your own book for just a few hundred pounds. The print on demand revolution has led directly to the huge growth in self-publishing. Particularly in the US and the UK, it is now easy to get your book into print for a relatively affordable sum.

What has changed since the first version of this article was written is that it's now even easier to find a self-publisher and the whole sector is thriving.

In the current situation, with cutbacks in publishing and even greater difficulties for new writers trying to get published, self-publishing does provide an alternative route. Many writers become extremely frustrated by the difficulties in finding an agent and getting a publisher to take on their work. Publishers have cut their lists even further and have postponed books in their schedules. They are concentrating on picking out potential bestsellers and ignoring everything else. (See Publishing.)

The fact that publishers are buying very little means that it's harder than ever for agents to sell their clients' work. At a time when more people than ever before are writing, agents are consequently taking on very few new clients, and it's become very tough to find an agent.

Self-publishing can be a great learning-curve and there are plenty of stories of authors selling their book successfully and subsequently having their work taken on by a publisher. This may be the key to a well thought-through approach to self-publishing, which is to see it as test marketing. If it's successful, then you have tried your book on a wider market and given it - and you as the author - useful exposure. If you don't manage to achieve this, then you have at least had the pleasure of seeing your book in print.

The web can now offer the possibility of a different approach to self-publishing, which is to see it as an end in itself, an alternative way of publishing your book. After all, Amazon and other online retailers have revolutionised bookselling, and their success has shown that book-buyers can be reached on a massive scale online. The Internet, by its very existence, offers a hugely exciting marketing tool. (The next article in Latest Changes in the Book World will deal with this.)

For self-publishers, getting your book printed is easy with print on demand and there are plenty of companies now to help you with this, including our own WritersPrintShop self-publishing service. The real problem is still how to sell your work.

Authors generally have limited access to the book trade and it can be hard to get any book, particularly self-published titles, into bookshops. Often the most that can be achieved is a display in the author's local bookshop. Depending on the kind of book it is, a writer might be able to sell it directly at their lectures, as a promotional tool, or after their readings.

It does have to be acknowledged though that some kinds of book are easier to self-publish than others. Fiction is difficult, but many kinds of non-fiction can offer other ways of approaching the potential market, through the subject area. Poetry, perhaps surprisingly, lends itself rather well to self-publishing because of the opportunities to sell your book after your readings.

Any self-publishing author ought to set up a website and try their hand at online marketing and selling. Some will make a splashy success of this, but there are many who sell only a handful of copies to family and friends.

The UK has the largest number of titles published in any country in the world - around 200K per annum at last count. Many of these are self-published, but it is in the US that there has been the greatest growth in self-publishing, with a 60% increase in the number of poetry titles published, for instance, in a single year a couple of years back.

Does the world need this exploding number of books? What about quality? It sounds a lot, but who's to say that even one reader is not worth catering for, if they constitute a market and you can reach them?

The individual writer can make their own decision on this - and perhaps it is this freedom to carve your own path which is the most enticing element of self-publishing.

Chris HolifieldManaging director of WritersServices; spent working life in publishing,employed by everything from global corporations to start-ups; track record includes: editorial director of Sphere Books, publishing director of The Bodley Head, publishing director for start-up of upmarket book club, The Softback Preview, editorial director of Britain’s biggest book club group, BCA, and, most recently, deputy MD and publisher of Cassell & Co. She is also currently the Director of the Poetry Book Society; During all of this time aware of problems faced by writers, as publishing changed from idiosyncratic cottage industry, 'occupation for gentlemen', into corporate business of today. Writers encountered increasing difficulty in getting books edited or published. Authors create the books which are the raw material for the whole business. She believes it is time to bring them back to centre stage.


Latest changes in the Book Trade:

1 Bookselling
2 Publishing
3 Print on demand and the Long Tail
4 Self-publishing' - career suicide' or 'really great'?
5 Writers' routes to their audiences
6 Copyright under pressure

From the WritersServices site:
Inside Publishing on POD
The advantages of POD
WritersPrintShop self-publishing service