Thinking about yesterday's post, I decided that instead of just making a priori statements about the viability of self-publishing, I should probably try to work out why I, personally, think self-publishing is going to be a significant (if not the dominant) form of publishing in the future.
Readers like it.
If you are a reader, self-published books are two very important things: Cheap and easy! I mean, $2.99 for a book! Excellent! And you don't have to scrounge around a used-book store--you don't even have to wait for someone to ship it to you. You just push a button and it's yours.
Now, I have read things by people saying, "Oh my God--self-published books are so awful! I read one and it was so awful! I swore never to read another! Readers are going to get tired of self-published books and the entire industry is going to collapse because they are so awful!"
I have also read that Tracy Garvis Graves recently sold 360,000 copies of, yes, a self-published book.
I am on record as not much caring for Stephen King or the entire romance genre. That is my opinion. I am but one person. The opinion of one person (or of me and the several of my friends who also do not much care for either Stephen King or the entire romance genre) doesn't matter. There are millions of people who love Stephen King and the romance genre. Both are fantastically successful. Neither is in any danger of collapsing because The Great and Powerful Me doesn't like them. The audience is clearly there.
Writers like it.
No, it ain't easy being a self-published writer. You gots to work and work and work, a-slavin' away at production and marketing and a-writin' the next book.
But you see a book at the end of it, which is a major improvement over most people's experience with traditional publishing.
You have control. If something doesn't work, you can fix it. You can write what you want. You own your work, and nobody can deep-six it because they want to fire your editor.
And the 70% royalty is awfully nice, too.
Traditional publishers are afraid of it, and investors think it is the future.
I've said this before, but you should be deeply wary of any company that looks to the future and sees no place for itself. And all the investor money is going into e-reading, while chain bookstores languish and go under. That's a real problem if your publishing business is utterly dependent on the chain bookstores.
No form of media has managed to un-digitize.
The record industry fought digital music tooth and nail, and what happened? iTunes. (And Weird Al Yankovic's "Don't Download This Song," which is pretty much priceless.)
As for video, people are producing their own shows that they broadcast on YouTube or sell on their Web sites, and even big-budget television is undergoing serious change as people get used to streaming.
Who is going to stop it?
Maybe--maybe--the television companies will get really aggressive, yank all their offerings off streaming services, and sue the crap out of anyone who pirates. And then television might be able to un-digitize. Maybe.
How could that happen with books? The gazillions of producers aren't going to stop writing, and they're not going to stop self-publishing (unless something better than a 70% royalty comes along).
Call me crazy, but I don't think that's going to happen. I also don't think that readers are suddenly going to start clamoring to pay $10-$15 more for a less-convenient book format. (Yeah, I don't care if you beautifully hand-craft your beautiful books out of beauty. Cheaper is better, and believe me, there are plenty of pretty self-published books out there.)
That leaves the retailers to destroy the industry, and what is their motivation again? Are they tired of hitting six-figure jackpots whenever there's a runaway hit? Are they tired of a 20%-65% profit off each sale? Since more companies keep moving into this space, I'm thinking the answer is no. No they are not.