In many ways, technology has revolutionized the way we read. Attention spans feel shorter, whole stories have been clipped into bite-sized, punchy tweets and emotional reactions have been replaced by gifs and emojis. One of the greatest advantages of the digital age is the fact that information has become much more accessible. It follows that as reading changes, so does publishing.
With the advent of the digital age, the field of publishing has been turned on its head in recent years — first with the emergence of e-books, and now with the rise of self-publishing. With the help of technology, professional writers and hobbyists alike can now publish their own material in much the same fashion as the major publishing houses. A step up from the indie zine days of the photocopier, this innovation puts control of the material back into the hands of the writers.
On the one hand, self-publishing allows writers total freedom and creativity in deciding exactly how their story is told. On the other, this places an enormous amount of responsibility on the writer to handle all additional aspects of the publishing process, including cover design, layout, formatting, editing, sales, marketing and distribution — among other things. This is what Amazon author and publishing relations director Neal Thompson referred to as the “democratization of the literary world” in a discussion about Amazon’s self-publishing programs at this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival. For most writers, this process can seem daunting. Depending on the type of material one is trying to publish, the traditional agent-and-imprint route might not be an option.
Amazon.com is currently in the process of developing a number of programs to ease the strain of the self-publishing process. In addition to their 14 traditional, agent-submitted imprints that publish books in both digital and print formats, they host DIY options such as Kindle Direct Publishing, which focuses on e-books; and CreateSpace, which handles print publications. Both of these options allow writers to sell their books directly on Amazon’s website.
There is also Kindle Worlds, for fan-fiction inspired materials, and Kindle Scout, a crowd-sourced publishing program where readers vote on submitted manuscripts. The winning manuscripts are then published by Kindle Press with a five-year contract, $1500 advance and 50 percent e-book royalties, as well as marketing by Amazon. Amazon also offers other tools for authors looking to promote and sell their self-published material. These include audiobook options, “Author Central” pages to house the author’s information directly on Amazon’s website, book giveaways and a membership with Amazon Associates, which provides promotional advertising through Amazon and gives writers 10 percent in referrals.
Self-publishing has many pitfalls — most importantly, that a self-published book does not yet carry the same weight as that of a traditional publisher’s imprint. Besides that, there is the expectation that self-publishing writers will still hire their own team of editors, because everyone, even the most sage of writers, makes mistakes. This is an added expense for which many writers will need to account. Still, the option to self-publish remains a great one, and hopefully many writers will take advantage of this blossoming technology.
Email Alexandra Pierson at [email protected]
Check out the rest of the Arts Issue here.