It used to be called vanity publishing, but self-publishing is no longer a niche.
“As digital disruption continues to reshape the publishing market, self-publishing—including distribution digitally or as print on demand—has become more and more popular, and more feasible, with an increasing array of options for anyone with an idea and a keyboard,” the New York Times reported this week, noting that one quarter of the top-selling titles on Amazon in 2012 were self-published.
Now, self-publishing even involves writers who would have no trouble finding a prestigious and established publishing house. One of these is playwright and author David Mamet, who intends to self-publish his next book. “I am going to promote the hell out of it,” he told the Times, “even though I’ll probably make my own mistakes.”
Peter Drucker considered publishing to be a strange beast. Unlike other industries, publishing allows for marginal players, and size isn’t even necessarily a great advantage. Sure, a publisher has to be of a certain scale in order to reach customers, but at the core of the business are editors with a circle of authors. “Beyond the minimum size the large publisher may even be penalized because larger size may make a publisher less attractive to . . . the author,” Drucker explained in Managing in Turbulent Times.
Drucker believed that electronic distribution would to some extent alter our habits of print consumption (and much else, as we explored here). “The new distribution channel will surely change the printed book,” Drucker asserted in Management Challenges for the 21st Century. “New distribution channels always do change what they distribute.”
But he also felt that new technologies often matter much less than the marketing that surrounds them. “There is a common belief . . . that it is new technology that creates sales and with them jobs and industries,” Drucker wrote in The Age of Discontinuity. “But new technology is only a potential. It is marketing, and especially innovative marketing, that converts the potential into actuality.”
So Mamet will have to follow through on his vow to promote the hell out of his book—and before that, of course, understand what his customer really values.
Do you think established authors are wise to venture into self-publishing?