Dear readers, today I want to a broach a subject with you which I know will provoke many reactions.
Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this blog I would like to pre qualify it by saying the following. I wish to become a published novelist, by that I mean that I will be sending copies of manuscripts to agents with the hope of securing one. I hope that agent will then procure a publisher to print the book and that it will end up in all of the big bookstores around the country and perhaps even the world. With that you should hopefully realise that I do not, as many unpublished writers I’m afraid to say do, hate the publishing industry.
I do think it has its flaws, just like any other business, but I in no way despise or hate it or the people trying to make money from it.
With that said I shall continue by posing a question.
Q) Is self publishing the future for novels?
A) I think that it is, and over the next few paragraphs I shall try to explain to you exactly why I feel that.
The first thing I shall say on this subject is that publishing requires, to a certain degree, a level of foresight not dissimilar to that of an oracle (name that actual prediction guy.)
This is because when a manuscript is bought from an author to be published it is the start of a long process. There will be multiple edits, there will be cover designs coming and going. There will be marketing happening where they try to drum up interest both inside and outside of the industry (i.e. to booksellers and also to readers.) All in all there is generally a delay of roughly one year before a published book will be available in stores for purchase.
Because of this delay the agents and publishers need to think about not just what is selling now in the world of books, but what they think will be selling in a year or twos time. They need to forecast trends that are not yet here and hopefully hit them by the time the books come out.
So why, you might ask, does this become a suggestion that self publishing would do a better job. It has always happened this way so why change it now?
Well, I think we need to recognise a few things here. First, is the fact that sometimes books don’t sell simply because they aren’t available. Maybe there would have been a trend for Gnome murder mysteries last year if some had been published, but the powers that be did not think it would so they didn’t publish them. The reader can only read what IS published, not necessarily what they would WANT to read if they could read anything.
Secondly, knowing that to be published and make a living from writing you have to hit these trends (this is a generalisation and in no way a hard and fast rule) then it also limits writers on what they will choose to write. If writers knew they could publish whatever they wrote because there were no ‘gate keepers’ then the breadth of published works may be far greater.
The third and final point I am going to make in this post, is, I think, the most interesting and potentially the one that gets spoken about least. So far, everything I have said is largely opinion based and may or may not lead to more people choosing to self publish in the future. This right here, is pretty much a dead certainty, so let’s get to it.
Right now, the western world and indeed the financial world in any country is very centralised. It all revolves around banks, the people who hold onto all the money in one central place. We have already seen a huge trend towards non-physical currency and this will only continue and get greater as time goes on.
Please note, when I say non-physical I am not talking about bit-coin or any other similar currency, I mean, everyone spends money on their credit or debit card. Very few people carry physical cash and the establishments which only accept cash are becoming fewer and further between.
This to me suggests only one possible future for finance, something like you often see in science fiction, credits. A form of currency that is not based on any physical commodity. If that happens…you don’t need banks, there is nothing to put in a vault so why build vaults and hire people to run them? Everyone could have their money encrypted on some form of memory stick, or card or even just in some form of cloud storage. Basically, it will mean bye bye banks and bye bye the old world of money.
Why in the world would this mean more people self publish you might ask? Well it isn’t a direct link BUT be aware that money is just one of the things that is becoming less centralised. Most modern technology coming out is leaning towards less centralisation, it is just the way the world is going. Now ask yourself, what is a publishing house if not a centralised authority in charge of editing, printing and selling books? You’re right, it’s nothing, because that is essentially the dictionary definition of a publishing house. If everything else is becoming less centralised then why would publishing be any different? There has already been a massive increase in self publishing with things like Kindle and Kobo and that is likely to increase.
As it stands there is still a stigma to self published works and there will be for some time, but it is decreasing and I cannot see it ever doing anything other than decreasing. Until one day, there will be no stigma. Authors won’t fear being called ‘not real writers’ if they choose to self publish because it will be a very real and very lucrative option for them to take.
Finally I would end on a point I heard about at a publishing seminar. 90% of books that are written and sent to publishers (possibly more than 90%) are never published. Those books will never make a single penny in revenue and will never be read by anyone. 100% of self published books are published, meaning that the vast majority of those will sell at least one copy which is infinitely more than they would have sold had they gone to a slush pile to die.