Recently a new book was released titled, Publishers on Publishing: Inside India’s Book Business. and I had the honor and privilege of being interviewed for a chapter in the book. What follows is an excerpt where I answered specific questions posed by the editor. One of the main things I realized as I went through this process is the world has shrunk for authors. The challenges and opportunities that used to be country specific are now true for almost every author no matter where they are located. That is why it is more critical than ever that authors stay informed through resources like the Author Learning Center. See if you agree with my answers.
What is the role of self-publishing in publishing world today? Has it changed over the last decade or so?
Self-publishing has created a dramatic shift in power and control of the market. Prior to self-publishing becoming a viable alternative, the power to decide what readers could purchase rested in the hands of agents and publishers. But now, authors who self-publish have a say as to what is available to readers. So the market has more choice than ever before. In addition, authors who believe in their books, can still make them available to readers even though agents and publishers may reject them. Publishing is now democratic.
This revolution started about 15 years ago, but what has changed in the last decade is self-published books are better. More authors are taking more time to write a better book and investing in editing so their book is as good as it can be. A second trend is Hollywood is now looking at self-published books for ideas. That would not have happened 10 years ago.
The need and the reasons your company has introduced this within Author Services and done so recently? What has been the experience and trends in India?
If you are looking to self-publish, you have three options. The first is Do-it-Yourself (DIY), where you do everything yourself using a platform like Lulu. The second option is what I call General Contractor, where you hire the people to do the work, but you coordinate the activities. The third option is supported self-publishing, which is one company who offers every service you need to get your book done.
Simply put, there are authors who want the convenience of having a one stop shop of professional services available to them. That way they don’t have to depend on their own talents or take the time to search for what they need. They have one phone number to call to get everything they need to get their book complete.
Here is a link to a white paper called The Four Paths to Publishing which gives you even more detail.
As for India, our experience has been similar to other countries around the world. There are a certain set of authors who prefer to work with one company rather than do the work themselves or try to find the resources they need.
How does the economics of self-publishing work, for publishers? How does it compare to traditional publishing?
The main differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing is who makes the investment of money, who controls the content and speed to market. In both cases, authors earn royalties, but traditional publishers have the ultimate say what the final content is and how soon it is made available for readers. Self-publishing requires the author to make the financial investment, but the author is in control of the content and speed to market decisions. Also, in most cases, the author can earn a higher royalty percentage when they self-publish.
What are the services most used? Is it more publishing services or for dissemination?
The services most authors use are book and cover design for both print and e-book. And we make sure those books are available in distribution. Books used to be a planned purchase, but with online purchasing and digital books, books are now a spontaneous purchase. So authors don’t have to make a decision about what distribution or formats they want. We make sure their books are available for readers anywhere and in any format they want to read.
Beyond those services, a number of authors also purchase editing services to make sure their book is as good as it can be.
Marketing services are not as significant for Indian authors because it is a bit more difficult to cover the market with one service.
Why do you think this is the case?
I think design and distribution are the hardest things for authors to do well so we make them available in a very easy way. And if your book is not designed well or available in all formats, you have very little opportunity readers will find it.
You mentioned about how self published books get picked up by publishers for traditional publishing. Could you tell us a bit more about how this happens and why? Please share a specific case study.
There are two primary ways books get found by traditional publishers. First, many traditional publishers operate self-publishing platform. That gives them early visibility into books that are getting early sales momentum. A second way self-published books get discovered is by agents or editors watching lists on Amazon. If they see a book climbing, they will reach out through social media to contact the author.
A great example is the book, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, written by Bronnie Ware. Bronnie was a palliative care nurse and began to see themes among the people she was working with near the end of their lives. From that experience she wrote a book. However, she lived outside of any major city in Australia and had no hope of finding an agent or publisher so she self-published with Balboa Press, which is a division of Hay House, a traditional publisher. Her local paper wrote a story. Then The Guardian in the UK picked it up and then it spread like wild on Facebook. Within a month Hay House picked up her book and now it has been translated in 27 languages. Had it not been for self-publishing, Bronnie would have never been published and Hay House would have never seen the book and the world would not have been enriched by her writing.
With the role of publishers changing to become more for dissemination and visibility rather than for editorial and production, what impact would this have on the self-publishing landscape?
Self-publishing will continue to evolve and create more services that enable authors to make more readers aware of their books.
How do publishers remain relevant in an arena where self publishing and purchase of bespoke services becomes easier? Future of traditional publishing v/s self publishing?
Publishers are like movie studios. There are some books that would benefit from the expertise and experience of a traditional publisher, just like some movies need the resources of a big studio to make the project come to life. So as long as there are books like that, traditional publishers will always have a role. As for the future, I think traditional publishers will publish fewer books, but they will be bigger books. Just like we see with movie studios. Self-publishing will continue to grow as more titles are made available in the market so readers will have more choice than ever before. That will be a good thing because more authors who can impact people with their writing will have that opportunity. Also, self-publishers will offer more resources to authors such as The Author Learning Center (www.authorlearningcenter.com) to help authors produce better books and get to their goal.