Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: September 29th, 2009 ]

In a recent blog post, literary agent Nathan Bransford wrote of on-demand printing and distribution:

“No warehouses, no catalogs, no print runs. Online vendors, as we’ve seen, will sell anything. In this scenario, does the Author of the Future, especially one with a built-in audience, really need a publisher? Well… yes. Maybe.”

Bransford goes on to argue in favor of the author/publisher relationship, stating that the role of the publisher lies in the dirty work – copy editing, cover design, distribution, marketing, etc. We know that writing and publishing is often the easy part – the real execution comes in getting books effectively into the marketplace. That is where real self-publishing options stand out. Be prepared to pay for the services you and your publishing consultant determine best suited for your goals. In the long-run, you’ll thank your self. And so will the readers who have the privilege of enjoying your work.

Bransford: “But publishers would have to be extremely author-friendly — they would be providing a service, not relying on their traditional role as gatekeepers and distributors. Publishers won’t be able to rely, as they have traditionally, on the fact that authors need them in order to reach their audience, just as authors won’t be able to rely on publishers losing money on most of the books they publish.”

Keep your eyes and ears open. Self-publishing is on the way.

– by Karl Schroeder

Gatekeeping.  If you’ve spent much time around the literature of either traditional publishing or self-publishing, you’ll have heard the term “gatekeeping”–and often.  This is because it’s a big deal, regulating and potentially even censoring the works that others read for work and pleasure.

Publisher’s Weekly came to the phenomenon’s defense back in 2014 (“In Praise of Editors, Agents, and Every Other Gatekeeper in Publishing“), Self-Publishing Review called for it to stop just this last month (“Indie Author Gatekeeping Has To Stop“), while Porter Anderson of Thought Catalog and Hugh Howey of The Wayfinder both claim that self-publishing authors and companies alike have introduced new forms of gatekeeping to replace the old (“In Self-Publishing, The Gatekeepers Are Dead. Long Live The Gatekeepers!” and “Gatekeepers for Indie Publishing,” respectively).

And that’s just to list a few of the many, many, many hundreds of articles, blog posts, and other opinion as well as peer-reviewed pieces out there on the subject.  The furor over gatekeeping has far from died down since Karl first wrote his blog piece in 2009, some seven years ago.  If anything, the ferocity of debate has only been heightened by time, although some of the vim and vigor can no doubt be attributed to living during a politically charged time (on all issues, not just presidential) in which language has become a polarizing weapon (if it wasn’t already such before).  But there are other considerations too: the world of publishing, and the dynamic relationships between print and digital, traditional and hybrid and indie publishing, not to mention readers and authors via social media, has crossed a rubicon.

Several rubicons.

So, much has changed … except our ongoing concerns over what constitutes “rightful” or “allowable” control over what gets published and how, and who exerts that control.

Consider the fact that you, a self-publishing author, have a role to play in this drama.  You choose to publish, to believe your story is worth putting out there into the world, come what may.  (It is.)  You choose to hold your self-publishing company and awards panels and yes, even your readers, to a high standard of ethical behavior.  You fight for equal rights to publish, especially those who didn’t come to the table with the same resources or privileges as you.

Consider the fact that you, a reader, have an equally important role to play.  We’ve written in the distant past about controlling the market by controlling how and where you spend your hard-earned cash … and this is just a quick reminder that the market isn’t defined solely by top-down control from gatekeepers, or even by bottom-up grassroots gatekeeping.  It’s not really defined at all, but rather exists somewhere in the hazy tension between these two forces.

Karl’s 2009 post was accurate–to a point.  Self-publishing authors do control what they pursue publishing, at least.  But editors, publishers, and self-publishing companies exercise their right to reject or embrace those authors’ manuscripts, another obvious and visible kind of control.  And last but not least, readers control which authors (and publishers, and self-publishing companies) get a cut of their paychecks.  It’s a complicated relationship, and it’s not likely to streamline itself soon.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

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