A personal and poignant look at the current state of independent presses and self-publishing despite downsizing in the literary industry.
Writer beware! The present state of the economy is no respecter of those that write for a living and profess to be more than worthy of the last book, article or essay written. We ply our trade as writers of worthy measure, and expect returns on our investments and a fairly decent modicum of success to justify that writing is a livelihood and not a liability. With this said, I’m always trying to allude and come to terms with balance in the industry where all concerned can have options to do what we do best. This brings me to the gist of this article in the form of a query -- are the independent and small presses more of a viable option for authors, aspiring or veteran for indelible ink to continue to flow? Time evokes change, and with change comes challenges and charges that cannot be ignored. It’s not an embellishment of practical purposes to say that when I first started out as a Book Reviewer and Literary Consultant in November 1999, the publishing industry indeed was in a different mindset than what we face today. Conservative bottom lines and years of staid status quo aside, information technology and the extrapolation of the internet (and all of its adjuncts) has led the transformation and given us more latitude. As a freelance writer who has plied the trade in numerous academic journals and university press publications over the years, I recall ten years ago the prevailing headline centering around a case about us (freelancers) reclaiming our rights to have our work republished with our permission in electronic journals and databases. Soon after, blogs were just coming into being and virtual marketing was all the rage! Social networking was unheard of -- no Facebook, no Twitter, no MySpace and certainly no race-specific entity like Black Planet.com were apropos. Social networking was constituted with what you did individually to garner time, place and setting for your own notoriety,
We all are aware of what has transpired in a new age of publishing lore heralding the prowess and availability of timely distribution, mass production and efficient marketing of one’s writing. In my opinion though, value and the need for writers to feel comfortable in being seen, heard and appreciated has not diminished. We would want to use the best avenues to get our points across, and to be appreciated for what we write, be it with a mainstream publisher or whomever we choose to herald our cause. Albeit, we’ve continued to write as proper editing is still a concern for the finished product to legitimize sustained readership. Time notwithstanding, and facing issues that has effected the bottom lines of the major publishers, emphasis now focuses on independent presses and the questions surrounding validity and wether they are still viable. How successful are they at getting the work of deserving authors despite genre-specific entities individually or collectively? I surmise that the key to what you are reading now hinges on the you making discernible options for any growth that you may not be getting from your current publishers...it’s all about taking advantage of what the market can bear, and how you can find happiness in any independent spirit, and the power to not be apprehensive in trying something new.
Back in the day we identified anything where we had to expend inertia and extra sweat to get the majors to pay attention to what we wrote as ‘Guerrilla Marketing’, remember? In those days of do-it-yourself initiative we persevered because we were determined to cater to the passion that drove us and where the power of literature kept us in a community of other writers who could identify with struggle. Yes, times have changed, but so as options in lieu of the status quo that the majors have always instigated. Now, publishing is dominated by a few huge multinational corporations, many of whom see themselves as progenitors of information or entertainment rather than as "basic” publishers. Although I ask questions about the validity of independent and small presses, the basic issue of self-publishing will always be in the back of our minds for a better way to go. Commercial publishers, subsidy publishers, vanity publishers, self-publishing what’s the difference? People often use the term “vanity publisher” and “subsidy publisher” interchangeably. Strictly speaking, this isn’t correct–there are differences. However, with the current state of our economy the aforementioned are doing what they can to provide better options to authors. The lines so to speak have blurred over the past few years as the majors have streamlined and downsized. What you’ll most often find nowadays is neither a vanity publisher nor a subsidy publisher in the classic sense, but a hybrid of several self-publishing entities. i.e., following the vanity model in terms of pricing and selection (building a fat profit into its fees and publishing anyone who will pay), and the subsidy model in terms of book ownership and income to the author (the publisher owns the finished books, and the author earns royalties on sales).
In closing, I sincerely believe that authors nowadays should explore and with a deeper level of examination what the independent publishers are offering. Not all of them are created equal. I believe too, that we should all be about establishing our own autonomy...own more of any whole you’re a part of. Hopefully we will write better prose and flood the market with quality work where we would be in demand in lieu or us volunteering a foot in somebody’s door! We are at a seminal and historic juncture in publishing, where author and artistry is synonymous with a ‘where am I today?’ query. Call it a revolution, which is a bit of an overused word these days. Or maybe a second renaissance if you will, which has a slightly more romantic flavor. At any rate, the world of publishing is never going to be the same – and we have God’s better judgment in Him throwing a wrench into this whole literary thing to force us to see that there’s options, and perhaps a better way of supporting the fact that writing is more than just words!