Has self-publishing given the industry something to think about?
In the publishing sector, much general opinion is that the self-publishing industry is slowly but surely becoming a real threat, both to publishers themselves and the book industry in general. It’s now easier than ever to write a book and get it published on your own terms. No agent, publisher, contracts or editing needed. Some have suggested that self-publishing is devaluing the industry, one badly-written eBook at a time. Obviously there are always exceptions to the rule, but when paying 99p for a book, are you really expecting literary genius?
The publishing sector is highly respected, and is an industry rich in history and ground-breaking artistry. Now, eBooks and self-published novels can make anyone an author. They are sold cheaply, sometimes even given away, and because of this, they sometimes lack quality.
Once the book has been written, there is no guaranteed editing, proofreading or second opinions by experts, although sometimes self-published authors do pay for this themselves. In general however, many would argue that it cheapens the publishing process, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to sift through the millions of self-published offerings out there to find something of genuinely high quality.
So how can traditional publishers combat this threat going forward? Here are a few ideas.
What separates a book written by a self-published author from one that has gone through the traditional publishing procedures? Usually, quality control. Now more than ever, publishers need to ensure they only publish the highest quality texts. Reading enthusiasts will appreciate this level of craftsmanship and it will keep them coming back for more.
Quality is a publisher’s greatest asset and their unique selling point. They have the tools, capital, and experience to do achieve this. This is something a self-published author will usually be lacking.
Consider a shift in price
Hugh Howey, a science fiction writer, never charges more than £6.99 for one of his self-published books. Compare this with a traditionally published author in this field and their books are generally double the price. Publishers should perhaps recognise that there are quality self-publishers out there, and they are undercutting them. In a world where more consumers resent paying for content, especially in digital format, is it time for a shift in price points?
This doesn’t necessarily mean plummeting to bargain-bin prices, but even shaving a small amount off the retail price could see more interest from avid readers.
Headhunt the up-and-coming authors
People read books to be entertained and inspired, and to gain knowledge and insight. The key factor here is the quality of the content and the authors. It will always pay off to invest resources in headhunting the best authors out there – people that are under the radar but have great potential.
This could involve going out and locating indie authors with real talent, and signing them before they have a chance to continue their self-publishing. It’s all about being ahead of the crowd and keeping abreast of the industry. The earlier the better, and sometimes it’s about nurturing the potential for later rewards.
Fight for bookstores and use your online audience
It’s a sad fact that bookstores are largely in decline, and libraries too for that matter. How many have closed near you? It’s something that leaves many people saddened, angered and concerned for the future. Publishers, especially those with high influence, need to fight for bookstores to remain open – and are doing so.
Why is this important? Essentially, because not only will it get people behind them and their products, but also because they will sell more books. Self-published authors won’t be lining the shelves of Waterstones, Borders or other major retailers. Those shelves are in high demand and it’s the top publishers that have influence in this domain. In the case of online bookstores, publishers have the advantage of large marketing and advertising budgets, so they have an opportunity to place their products in the eye-line of potential buyers in the right online marketplaces.
The world of publishing is complicated, but exciting. Its future is uncertain, but publishing has adapted to massive changes over the past decade, as we recently outlined in a blog post. What is clear is that traditional publishers have a lot of work on their hands. But if the self-publishing world continues to push low-quality books, and traditional publishers retain a high level of quality in their offerings, readers will remain loyal to the publishers and authors they know and love.
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