The cycle seems to perpetually go around on this. Every few months or years, we all start talking about self publishing and all the pros and cons that come with it. The major difference this time around is that there’s been a pretty significant paradigm change in the publishing industry. The rise in popularity of ebooks and ebook readers (like the Kindle and Nook) have made it easier than ever to get a book. Even more important, it’s made it even easier to publish a book.
A writer can now choose to go exclusively electronic and publish a novel as an ebook. It’s easy to get them listed in marketplaces like Amazon or Barnes and Noble as well. Of course, the same questions come around about quality. Is the author really doing himself/herself any good by skipping the editing process that happens when going through a traditional publisher?
One person who has been an advocate for self publishing recently is J.A. Konrath. At the end of December, he even came right out and said that you should self publish. And, I have to admit, he makes a pretty good argument for it as well. He’s published quite a few posts recently by himself and others who self publish that make an even stronger argument for self publishing. Here’s one by Aaron Patterson on his experiences.
I still have somewhat mixed feelings about the whole thing. I’ve argued before that there is a certain sense of acknowledgment that comes with getting the acceptance from an agent and then again when you sell a book. However, I find myself wondering if that same sense couldn’t be achieved by having a book sell thousands of copies a month in ebook form?
There is no question that the quality issue will continue to come up. But, I think that if you are planning on self publishing your novel, it’s your responsibility as the author to publish the best work you can. Which should include at least one pass by a professional editor. Sure, it’s going to cost you some money, but so will putting out sub-standard work.
I think this whole argument needs a bit more thought before I can honestly say which way I would go, but recent changes and evidence seems to point to the self publishing ebook as the way of the future. I’d still be curious to hear how these authors handle foreign rights (Konrath confirms having an agent for that), translating those same, and many of the other rights issues that come up that an agent would traditionally handle. Or, perhaps if the book is popular enough to have those problems, the author then goes looking to hire an agent to do that part?
Update: Here’s a very good post by Jim C. Hines, whose opinion I deeply respect, on this whole thing. I think he takes a much more level-headed approach to the whole thing.