Self-Publishing News: 9.24.2018 – Publishing Trends Roundup

Blue september paper banner with colorful brush strokes.

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing, specifically regarding publishing trends within the publishing industry, and their implications for all authors!

September has been a busy month in publishing trends! For one thing, there has been the annual trend toward gatherings, trainings, workshops, and conferences for writers becoming more friendly toward and inclusive of self-publishing authors. Take this article, from Tripp Crouse of KNBA, on the 2018 Conference for Writers and Illustrators, recently held in Anchorage, Alaska. Didn’t know that Anchorage was a hot-spot for literature? Well, now it most definitely is, and Crouse’s interview with Writer’s Guild President Brooke Hartman breaks down what, exactly, the conference was about–and in part, it was about “vet[ting] your different options,” including self-publishing (and how to go about it). If you happen to have a writing conference taking place near you, it’s worth checking out the lineup to see if they have a session on self-publishing; chance are good that it will.

Another trend this year, and this month, has been the leveling of the playing field. Self-publishing is no longer just a viable alternative to regular publishing as a means to an income; it’s a viable addition to business plans everywhere–and it’s making headlines on Forbes, among other business-savvy publications. In this article, Forbes contributor Abdullahi Muhammed puts self-publishing into a pantheon of four freelancing options which create what he calls “passive income,” or “sources of regular income that require little or no effort after the initial work has been completed and can generate consistent revenues over time.” Now, we know on this blog that when it comes to writing, one’s work is never over, but it’s worth hearing him out.

It’s not just regular conferences happening around the country this month: there are conferences specific to self-publishing authors now! This one, the 2018 Independent Authors Conference (#indieauthorcon), was presented by BookBaby, self-proclaimed as “the nation’s leading self-publishing service company” (metrics unknown, but everyone has to write sales copy). Despite its affiliation with one specific self-publishing company, the conference, which is upcoming in November, is broader than that: the Broadway World News Desk writes that “Rhe Independent Authors Conference features workshops, panels, and presentations from over 25 publishing experts, covering all aspects of self-publishing, from editing and production to book marketing and promotion.” Whether you go to this conference or another, that lineup sounds impressive enough to inspire some good work, indeed.

Last but not least, here’s a press release from self-publishing company Blurb, now partnering with Adobe (of photo and PDF editing software fame) to allow users of its Lightroom platform to make the best of both worlds. It’s only one among many in terms of new additions to a growing collection of companies enabling creative services in self-publishing, but it’s worth keeping an eye on; Adobe has quite the portfolio, and a great deal of influence over international visual aesthetics.


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

selfpubicon1

Copyright Infringement Rampant on CreateSpace

piracy

I don’t think it’s any secret that Amazon owns CreateSpace. I also don’t believe it’s any secret—especially after the author uproar that occurred in April—that CreateSpace no longer offers “creative services” such as interior book formatting, cover design, editing, or the like. When they ceased offering those services, they severed the one last component that identified them as a “publisher” instead of a “content curator,” which is the role CreateSpace now plays, and is a far cry from meeting the goals of writers who dream of publication.

A perfect example appears in a recent article on the Publishers Weekly website, written by Kenny Brechner and titled “Pirating on CreateSpace,” in which he identifies very specific examples of flagrant copyright infringement by individuals (I wouldn’t call them writers) sharing (I wouldn’t call it publishing) content through the CreateSpace platform.  One objective of a publisher is to protect their authors, and also prevent circumstances like the ones reported by Mr. Brechner. Unfortunately, the exact opposite objective is true for a content curator like CreateSpace.  Since it’s “free” to “publish” content there, CreateSpace and Amazon value neither the content nor the authors who created it. Instead, their goal is to compile as much content as possible for the purposes of offering it—usually by giving it away or encouraging their authors to give it away through thinly-veiled “marketing promotions”—to lure new Amazon members into its Prime, Prime Video Streaming, and KindleUnlimited memberships (all of which require monthly/yearly dues, and none of which reward the content creators for their contribution).  

Since CreateSpace/Amazon uses content and its creators as loss-leaders for subscriptions, they are hardly compelled to prevent copyright infringement or acts of piracy. In fact, as you can see from Brechner’s Publishers Weekly article, it was only after the article appeared on a highly respected industry website that Amazon bothered to do anything about it … and the author himself was unable to get CreateSpace to take any action at all, though not from lack of trying.  And as you’ll see from the comments already piling up below the article, this wasn’t an isolated case, nor is it something that authors are willing to tolerate. Comments include phrases like:

“I’d say, Createspace should be embarrassed – beyond measure.” – GISELA HAUSMANN

“…this article is a wise word of caution to us writers.” – Carol Johnson

“Same thing happened to me. I discovered one of its CreateSpace books had pirated both some text and several of my photos from my website that included those texts and those photos selected from my traditionally published book.” – Mark Mathew Braunstein

In fact, the same thing happened with one of my own books, too: Publishing Gems. I discovered that it had been copied in its entirety through the CreateSpace platform without my knowledge or consent. Not only was CreateSpace selling the pirated version, but so were a vast number of Amazon Marketplace booksellers. When I contacted Amazon about the infringement, they were quick to remove it. When I asked them the name of the individual who was responsible for this act of piracy, they ignored me entirely. Then I started receiving emailed requests from all the Marketplace booksellers, notifying me that they had removed the stolen book from their virtual shelves, and asking me to “approve them” for continued business under the threat of cancellation from Amazon.  Here’s the interesting part – all their emails were nearly identical, as if someone from Amazon’s legal department provided them with the exact verbiage to use to request forgiveness.

Do you know what that tells me? It tells me that copyright infringement happens so frequently through CreateSpace that Amazon’s legal department has come up with an actual procedure to cope with it.

Is that the kind of publ—er, algorithm, you want handling your books?

computer piracy


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

Self-Publishing News: 7.24.2017 – Publishing Trends

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing, specifically regarding publishing trends within the publishing industry, and their implications for all authors!

Could changes be in the wind for the literary establishment? In her July 14 article for the Sydney Morning Herald, ​Jane Sullivan posits a firm “yes!” She begins with the story of Naomi Klein and her latest book, No Is Not Enough. But what, exactly, was not enough?As Sullivan reports, it was “the prospect of going to a big US publisher to put [her book] out” as well as the inevitable delays which accompany traditional publishing. “Instead,” writes Sullivan, “Klein bypassed both her agent and her previous publisher […] and went straight to a small press.” This allowed her to release her book both at home and abroad in a timely fashion, all the more important since Klein’s book comments upon the current political situation in America. She chose Haymarket Books, a small Chicago-based nonprofit publisher, eschewing decades of tradition and her own storied history as a blockbuster success.

The remainder of Sullivan’s article examines the rise of self-publishing, contrasting it with the so-called “vanity” press, and touches on the stories of three independent Australian authors pursuing self-publishing today: fiction author John Birmingham, cartoonist Judy Horacek, and romance novelist Kylie Scott. Each of these “hybrid” authors came to the new publishing paradigm on their own terms, and by their own path–and Sullivan’s article concludes by hinting at why their stories may be important for a new generation of authors. Read the rest of this excellent article at the Sydney Morning Herald!

Well, it’s official: Brits love books, and they love writing them almost as much as they like reading them according to this July 21 article which appeared on Fife Today, the website of the Fife Free Press, providing news from Kircaldy in Fife, Scotland. The article covers the results of a recent poll by self-publishing company Type & Tell, wherein one in eight British residents was found to have “already written or is currently writing a book (13 per cent), while 39 per cent of people are planning to write one.” Interestingly, the study also shows that science fiction, drama, and children’s books, not romance, are the leading genre contenders in this large population of authors–although there was plenty of diversity represented in genre overall, with mystery, crime, short stories, fantasy, and romance all in the mix, as well as nonfiction. That’s a lot of books!

But the most interesting finding of all? According to Fife Today:

Despite the rise of e-readers, the research shows that people are still in love with the feel of flicking through the pages of a physical book. Eight in ten (82 per cent) budding authors want to see their words printed on paper, while just over half (58 per cent) would be happy to be published in e-book format.

This more or less confirms our suspicions here on Self Publishing Advisor–that one should never close a door on printed books, but certainly pursue publishing options which enable a diverse readership with both paper and digital predilections to access your stories! To read the entire article, visit the original article here.

You can find all of these authors’ excellent books for sale online.


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.
Kelly
ABOUT 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.

From the Archives: “Espresso Book Machine”

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.

∗∗∗∗∗

[ Originally posted: January 31st, 2012 ]

The Espresso Book Machine® (the “EBM”), which Time Magazine named an “Invention of the Year,” provides a revolutionary direct-to-consumer distribution model for books. Put simply, the EBM is an automated book-making machine. The operator selects a title to print, and within a few minutes a book emerges, with a full-color cover, trimmed to an exact size, and indistinguishable from the publisher’s version. As we say, “Hot off the press!”

Currently, Espresso Book Machines have been set-up in select universities and libraries including:

  • New York Public Library
  • University of Michigan Library
  • World Bank InfoShop, Washington
  • New Orleans Public Library
  • San Francisco Internet Archive
  • Manchester Center Northshire Bookstore
  • University of Alberta
  • McMaster University Bookstore
  • London Newsstand UK
  • Library of Alexandria, Egypt
  • Melbourne, Australia Angus & Robertson Bookstore

New locations are constantly being added. The EBM is a great opportunity for self-published authors. Some self-publishing companies, such as Outskirts Press, offer this marketing option. By purchasing this option, your book will be available to be ordered, printed, and sold at every current and future Espresso Book Machine location. To learn more about this option, contact your self-publishing company.

– by Cheri Breeding

It’s been rather a long time since we’ve touched on the subject of the Espresso Book Machine here at Self Publishing Advisor, despite the fact that the above post from 2012 remains one of our most popular posts of all time.  What is it about this machine––what’s the big deal?  And more importantly, is it delivering upon its promise as a revolution for the self-publishing print-on-demand (POD) business?

espresso book machine
photo by Chuck Zovko of Columbia College Today

There’s a long and a short answer to both of these questions, of course.  The EBM is not just a pretty gadget that happens to churn out new books as quickly as the average human takes to brew an espresso; it’s a gadget that has the potential to close the last leg of the loop and put full creative (and financial) rights into the hands of those who have historically been excluded from the publishing process.  I’m speaking of the author.  While its many bells and whistles are nice features––like the database of rare or out-of-print books you can resurrect in all their original glory––the real appeal of the EBM is that it literally as well as physically puts a high-quality printed book in your hand in around seven minutes.  For the average self-publishing author, the experience of holding and experiencing the weight of all those sleepless nights and odd hours writing is simply unattainable––that is, without a service like the EBM making a limited run financially manageable.  Holding a clean and professional copy of your baby is a reward in and of itself, and the expediency for which the EBM is renowned makes it easy to share the joy of your book.  That’s the magic of the Espresso Book Machine!

espresso book machine
photo by the University of Arizona

As for the EBM’s outlook and longevity, the news seems to be good.  The machines aren’t available “just anywhere” yet, but they’re becoming less of a trial to find.  I recently had the pleasure of witnessing an EBM at work in the University of Arizona’s library, where undergraduates printed out copies of research-related texts, graduates printed out beautiful bound editions of their thesis projects, and professors printed out volumes of their own masterworks-in-progress.

Members of the public, too, have made the UofA’s EBM a popular destination––and it’s not just an Arizonan phenomenon!  According to Canada’s The Windsor Starthe Windsor Public Library’s EBM alone produced “10,699 books” between 2012 and July 2015, when the article was published.  Says librarian Sue Perry, the EBM’s installation “led to the birth of a writer’s group and gave people a way to publish their work even if they only want one book.” Now that’s quite a testimonial.

According to WorldCrunch, the EBM and its competitors are on track to “save” the print publishing industry.  At the Paris Book Fair, the CEO of the EBM’s main shareholder (reinsurance company SCOR) went on the record to say that the Espresso Book Machine and those who use it “will be the invisible hand that will adjust the market,” eliminating what he called “economies of scale” by making it possible to print either 1 copy of a book or 1000 without the gymnastics of traditional publishing arrangements.  WordCrunch goes on to note that, a decade after stealing the limelight of both tech and print-on-demand industries, the Espresso Book Machine is still “experimental but game-changing.”  And that’s about as good of news as one might hope for!

We look forward to seeing what 2016 holds for the Espresso Book Machine.

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.

Diversity & Self-Publishing (ep. 4)

Three Wednesdays ago, I launched an ongoing series of blog posts centered on some of the questions we ask, or should ask, regarding diversity in self-publishing.  Two weeks ago, I explored the first two questions in detail (“What’s the track record of diversity in publishing?” and “What about within self-publishing, specifically?”), while last week I sought to address two more (“Are there differences, and why or why not?” and “Why does diverse representation in literature and the industry matter?”).

Since there’s a nice symmetry to the use of pairs, and because I’m feeling a bit rebellious against such staid notions as symmetry, I’m going to look at the following three questions today:

  1. What could healthy diversity actually look like?
  2. Who benefits from diverse representation, and who benefits from a lack thereof? (and)
  3. Can we make it happen?

And so it begins.  What could healthy diversity look like?  In its broadest sense, diversity should mean that all people who want to see themselves represented in literature and in publishing should be equally supported in developing their voices, seizing opportunities for upward mobility and vocality, and striving to achieve their dreams.  At the very minimum, it means that those groups which have historically been marginalized, whether minorities or not, should face the same barriers to representation as everyone else––and no more.  And diverse representation in publishing and self-publishing also means that those in the privileged oft-heard sector must cultivate an attitude of respect, support, and inquiry without descending to patronization, pity, condescension, judgment, or other, subtler or more violent forms of negativity.

Diversity looks like a community in which individuals are respected for but not defined by their race, gender, legal or medical status, sexual orientation, religion, or other aspects of personal identity.  And frankly, diversity in publishing and even self-publishing, in the long utopian term, looks a little less white, a little less male, a little less ableist, and a little less like mainstreamed convention.  Diversity, done right, doesn’t look like any one thing.  It looks like a farmer’s market, perhaps, or barely controlled happy chaos.  It looks like a community that cares about and for its members, representing the interests of all authors, readers, marketing and publishing specialists, not to mention all the craftspeople, librarians, academics, students, and other groups that might receive trickle-down benefits––because, who benefits from diverse representation?  Everyone.

No, really.  Everyone benefits from diverse representation, even those who might profit from a lack thereof.  Sound confusing?  Consider two baskets, one which holds a single huckleberry, and one which holds a whole supermarket bin of huckleberries.  Hundreds of huckleberries.  Thousands of huckleberries.  Uncountable millions of huckleberries, and the families and friends of those huckleberries, and the communities from which those huckleberries come from, and the communities in which those huckleberries end up, and the introverted huckleberries who maybe call home once a month.  A man may prefer the basket which holds one single huckleberry, but first he must convince himself and everyone else in the grocery store who might want a huckleberry that all those other huckleberries don’t exist, or that they exist but aren’t likely to be as good, or advance as far up the huckleberry pecking order because of some inherent flaw of character, or the simple blind fury of fate.  This is how a man might prefer and profit off of the single-berry basket scenario.  But if he happens to open his heart and mind to the reality of the other berries out there, his taste will expand, and his world too … and all the other shoppers get what they want, and all the huckleberries end up making their glorious splash.

Have I worn you out on huckleberries yet?

Really, the most difficult question to answer of all is this: can we make it happen?  Well, of course we can.  All of us, together.  Readers, writers, and (self-)publishing specialists alike.  Marginalized and non-marginalized, mainstream and countercultural.  Together.  We’ve seen some progress, as I already mentioned in my first blog post of this series.  This progress has convinced me that it is not only a moral imperative to carry on, but plain good sense.  We’ve got the means, we’ve got the will, and we’ll find the way.  Through concerted and strategic and repeated action, we can enable people of diverse origins and identities to succeed.  And we will.

These thoughts barely scratch the surface of these questions, much less the conversation as a whole.   As I continue pondering how to go about touching on the other questions I posed three weeks ago, please drop me a line in the comments section below with your own thoughts or suggestions!  And of course, check back next week as we delve into still more of the self-publishing world!

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.

Diversity & Self-Publishing (ep. 3)

Week before last, I began to examine the ongoing conversation centering on diversity in self-publishing that has sprung up over the last couple of years, and only risen in importance and visibility since then.  Last week, I addressed two questions:

  1. What’s the track record of diversity in publishing? (and)
  2. What about within self-publishing, specifically?

This week, I want to address two more questions.  The first, as you’ll see, follows on immediately from number two, above:

Are there differences between the track records of traditional publishing and self-publishing in regards to diversity, and why or why not?

As MediaShift’s correspondent Miral Sattar notes in her excellent article for PBS, diversity has always had a little bit more of a foothold in the world of self-publishing than it has elsewhere.  In large part, this can be traced back to the blue-collar, anti-establishmentarian streak that gave rise to the self-publishing industry in the first place.  Wanting to place profits in the hand of an individual author as opposed to a company or a collective?  When it comes to books, that’s a radical idea.  Wanting control over the entire authorial, publishing, and marketing process?  That, too, falls outside the established framework provided by traditional publishing.  All of this independent thinking and hungering after self-realization has led to an environment that fosters rebels and self-starters and free-thinkers and otherwise marginalized peoples.  That includes, of course, people of diverse origins, pursuits, and identities.

In her article, Sattar mentions a whole host of self-published authors, including CJ Lyons, Orna Ross, Lara Nance, HM Ward, Kailin Gow, Margarita Matos, Abdul Qayum Safi, Lozetta Hayden, Manuela Pentagelo, Tejas Desai, and Aleysha Proctor.  And these are just a very few of a very great many self-published authors currently putting their books out there.  There are others: Mary Sisney, Liz Castro, Nadeem Aslam, Johnny Townsend, Qasim Rashid, and so, so many more.  The fact is, if you want to publish something that the mainstream publishing industry isn’t prepared to market, and which isn’t angling to be a blockbuster seller, then the generous spirit of the self-publishing world is always waiting.  We live in a day and age, thankfully, when the self-published book is no longer synonymous with “I’m selling this out of the trunk of my car” (although that may still be the case), and with a whole host of resources out there, from internet forums to hybrid publishing firms, the self-publishing author can count on sending a high-quality–if radically counter-cultural–product out there into the world.

Why does diverse representation in literature and the industry matter?  Why should we authors and readers and (self-)publishers care?

This fourth question is, in some ways, a much harder one to answer.  As with many things in life, it might seem easy to fall back on a rote answer (you either do or you don’t), or to fall into the trap of trying to heavy-handedly preach readers into one perspective or another (because I said so!).  The fact of the matter is, caring about something as radically life-changing as diversity and representation is more than just a private act, but it’s also something you can’t just tell people to do.

When someone leans in over the dinner table and asks me why they should care about diversity–as has happened fairly often this last year–I fall back on a whole retinue of explanations: the statistics about social stratification and advancement or regression, the ethical and moral ground upon which we build healthy and just societies, and the anecdotes of people I know who have found themselves on the wrong side of the line when it comes to representation.  And of all of these arguments, the most effective one is, appropriately enough, one that requires a little imagination.

Imagine you are a child, any child who doesn’t look like a descendant of a hundred Caucasian family trees, who maybe doesn’t tip the scale quite to quite the same number as any of a thousand Disney Channel stars, who maybe comes from a faith background or an ethnic background that isn’t mainstream Christianity or undecided, who maybe has physical or emotional disabilities, who maybe identifies as something other than cisgendered or “straight” or is questioning their identity, who maybe comes from a dysfunctional family or society.  Imagine you have any one of these attributes, or a whole heady cocktail of them, and ask yourself this question: Have you seen yourself in a popular book lately?  How about on TV or in a movie–as the main character?  Have you seen yourself anywhere but in the bathroom mirror and have you seen yourself compassionately rendered there?

I remember the first time I found myself in a book, the first time I encountered a character who looked and felt and acted and believed like me.  It was absolutely, entirely, 100% life-changing.

Why should we care about diversity in publishing and self-publishing?  Because we want our children to grow up knowing that they don’t have to live in the shadows.  That they are lovable and loved.  That they don’t need to bleach their skin or get rid of their accent or faith or private struggles in order to be a whole human being.

Explaining to a child who has never seen a familiar face or life story told on television or in books or in music why they’ve never seen that story is absolutely heartbreaking, not to mention difficult.  One hopes that we don’t have to end that conversation with “…and it looks like it’s going to stay that way for a while.”  One hopes we can end that conversation with: “But see?  We’ve made progress, and here is a whole host of stories to get you started.”  Others have put together powerful arguments why diversity in publishing (of any kind) is important, too, so I think there’s a lot of hope we’ll see change within our lifetimes.

These thoughts barely scratch the surface of these questions, much less the conversation as a whole.   As I continue pondering how to go about touching on the other questions I posed two weeks ago, please drop me a line in the comments section below with your own thoughts or suggestions!  And of course, check back next week as we explore still more of this complicated tangle!

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.

Diversity & Self-Publishing (ep. 2)

Last week, I launched a series of questions addressing the nature and role of diversity in publishing, specifically within the self-publishing industry.  Before I return to those questions, a quick proviso: there’s been a lot of mud-slinging on both (or all?) sides of this debate, which can be both wild and wonderful (and occasionally, deeply problematic for all of us involved in getting words out of our heads and dispersed into the world).  But we’re not here to sling mud at anyone.  We’re here to ask questions and, hopefully, to listen.

Some of the mud-slinging can be interesting to read, or in some cases, listen to: just last month, NPR and Intelligence Squared U.S. hosted a debate over Amazon’s incredibly complex role in the whole mess of traditional versus self-publishing paradigms.  As I sat listening to the podcast this last week, I found myself both shocked and perfectly unsurprised at the ferocity of the debate––shocked, because we’re not used to our literary spokespeople literally shouting each other down on the debate floor, and unsurprised because, well, we’re talking about books and reading and literacy and therefore something both deeply, intensely personal, and also universal.  The debates over diversity in publishing are proving equally impassioned, and rightfully so.  Which brings me to last week’s first question:

What’s the track record of diversity in publishing?

It’s not a good one, particularly if we’re talking about publishing in the Western tradition, what with it being so interwoven the various other Institutions (with a capital “I”) that shape and influence society.  Which is not to say I advocate treating publishing artificially as if it has been cut away from every other element of life––not at all.  I do advocate paying close attention to how the social, political, and cultural institutions interact.  Hashtags like #WeNeedDiverseBooks have evolved beyond mere declarations of personal unhappiness to creating safe spaces for ongoing discussion about these complexities, and the data being mined is revealing.

Take the University of Wisconsin’s article on “Children’s Books by and about People of Color Published in the United States,” which shows that of the 2,500 children’s (trade) books published in the United States in 1985, only 18 were written by African Americans.  When you consider the demographics of the United States, wherein African Americans represent 13.1% of the population, that number should have been a lot higher.  Closer to 325 books.  Progress has been made, along all sorts of vectors, but of the 5,000 trade children’s books published in 2014, the CCBC reports that only 84 were written by African Americans and 180 were written about African Americans.  The percentages of other minority groups––ethnic, religious, gender, and others––show similar levels of underrepresentation.  Right now, a debate is raging over the representation of mental and physical well-being, and the current ways in which the publishing institution reinforces ableism and neuro-normativity.  Young Adult (or “YA”) literature has proven to be a particularly rich medium for addressing these growing concerns.

What about within self-publishing, specifically?

I’m so glad you asked!  Self-publishing (and all of its hybrid forms) has proven to be another haven for the marginalized author and all sorts of minorities––both in terms of authors and readers.  Because one point of the publishing triangle has been erased––or at least drastically altered––there has always been more room for the nonconformist, the outcast, and the malcontent within the welcoming arms of the self-publishing industry than there has been elsewhere.  Without fear of expulsion, ostracization, or censorship, the self-published author can write what needs to be written, and publish what needs to be heard!  The welcoming legacy of self-publishing is one I’ve examined before––in fact, many of the Late Great authors I’ve written about over the last few weeks either found themselves unwelcome within, or otherwise distanced from, traditional publishing.

I don’t have any numbers for you about diversity in self-publishing.  It’s practically impossible to collate the data, given the diverse forms and outlets and types of self-publication out there.  Many self-published works aren’t catalogued the way traditionally published books are, and so the data set just isn’t there.  But as Daniel José Older writes so beautifully in his BuzzFeed article (“Diversity is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing”), “it’s not just a question of characters of color, [and] it’s not a numbers game. It’s about voice, about narrative flow. […]  We see diverse futures, laden with the tangled past of oppression and we re-envision models of empowerment and survival. But only a few of us make it through. There is a filter and the filter is white culture.”  Suffice it to say, it seems as though the self-publishing industry has provided a platform for diverse voices to be heard, and diverse readers to be reached.  There are ways to change the institution from the inside, but in the meantime, authors can count on finding at least a modicum of representation within the self-publishing industry.

These thoughts barely scratch the surface of these questions, much less the conversation as a whole.   As I ponder how to go about touching on the other questions posed in last week’s blog post, please drop me a line in the comments section below with your own thoughts or suggestions!  And of course, check back next week as we explore still more of this complicated tangle!

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.