Today, if you’ll let me, I’d like to speak a little bit about the gift of self-publishing–about how it’s a gift not to have to wait for an agent to accept your book, how you no longer need to give away your rights, and how with self-publishing, you’re in control of your book, your creation. I want to speak about how self-publishing is a gift that keeps on giving to–quite literally–everyone who is touched by the process, from authors to readers to–yes, I mean it when I add–those who publish through or work within the boundaries of traditional publishing.
A Gift to Authors
I’ve already mentioned the fact that, with self-publishing, you maintain full creative control over your masterpiece from start to finish. You also retain your rights, your royalties, and total control over your book. The profit goes where it should go (into your pocket), the look and feel is exactly what you dictate, and you get the satisfaction of knowing you have brought your original vision into the world exactly how you wanted to, full-fledged and ready to meet its ideal readers.
A Gift to Readers
And let’s not neglect to give those readers their moment in the sun! With self-publishing exploding onto the market in recent years, there’s an ever-more-broad and ever-more-diverse range of books for readers to choose from, new discovery tools to use to find new books, and ever-evolving ways to read those books. I’m talking about e-readers and ebooks, smartphones and tablets, social media platforms and websites like Wattpad and Fanfiction.net. Many of these websites lack the “respectability” of a professional product only in the eyes of purists; by and large, people are coming around to the idea that what makes for good reading and good writing boils down to personal taste–and there’s absolutely no reason to denigrate another person’s preferred reading material. I’m even talking about websites like LinkedIn and Etsy, which smart authors and smart readers are repurposing to serve as new conduits for self-published works. More options doesn’t always equate to more reading, but many of the tech-savvy silicon generation are connecting the dots and teaching each other how to leap that gap.
A Gift to Traditional Publishing
By broadening the field to make room for more authors and more works, self-publishing has raised the bar for the entire publishing industry. Traditional publishing houses have been forced to adapt, evolve, and rise to the challenge presented by a diversified, richly textured market. They can no longer sit back and take it easy when it comes to dominating sales; instead, the traditional industry is turning away from relying on mass-marketed and mass-printed books and towards so-called “niche” offerings. This is good news for everyone, because niches are petri dishes for innovation and further change. Authors can experiment more, readers can expect to find more cutting-edge work on bookstore shelves, and so on. Which leads beautifully to my next point:
A Gift to the Marginalized
When reinvention is the name of the game, even the stodgiest of stodgy institutions tends to open its doors–or at the very least, crack a window––to let in texts or conversations that might previously have been deemed unacceptable or controversial. As Zetta Elliot writes for the School Library Journal, “Like racism in police forces across this nation, racism in publishing is cultural and systemic.” And why is racism a problem, specifically, in the publishing industry? Miral Sattar of Mediashift puts it another way:
Ever since the birth of my daughter last fall I’ve become more acute to the fact that we live in a whitewashed world, and I don’t want her to go through the same experiences that I did as a child. I became more conscious about buying books that tell stories with characters from varying backgrounds. It’s hard to come by these books from traditional publishers since less than 6 percent of books published in 2012 had diverse characters. You have to look really really really hard or resort to buying books that have talking animals.
Sattar, who grew up in a Pakistani-American household, writes of attending publishing conferences and often finding herself the only woman much less the only woman of color in a room. Like Elliot, she has felt the sting of underrepresentation, and understands what it means to grow up almost entirely locked out of the day-dreams and fantasies that others so take for granted. (Astronauts, anyone? President of the United States? Mage in a fantasy universe?) And skin pigmentation is just one reason that traditional publishers have historically used as an excuse to not publish certain books (and it’s a terrible reason, let’s face it). With a new film adaptation of Annie and the advent of the new Hamilton musical, it might seem like we are making progress on this front–but authors like Elliot and Sattar warn of the dangers of complacency, especially since there are so many other factors that publishers still use and abuse in the same fashion.
Here’s the good news, though: self-publishing has become a safe-haven for authors of color, neurodivergent authors, and authors keen to address civil rights issues. And readers are hungry for these books, hungry enough to prompt traditional publishers to get in on the movement. Change to any institution so dead-set in its habits will be hard-won and slow, but it is happening. If you have felt that there was no room for your work in the market, cast your eyes upon self-publishing!
You’re not alone. ♣︎
|ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.|