From Jane Friedman:
My question is: Is self-publishing going to become the predominant, preferred, or recommended means for authors to launch their careers? While we might all agree there are more paths than ever to get published and be a successful author, some advocates of self-publishing—primarily those (perhaps exclusively those) who write genre fiction go a step further: Don’t evenbother getting traditionally published. Self-publish first.
Usually the model or formula is expressed like this:
- Write a ton of material.
- Publish it yourself on all the digital platforms.
- Repeat as quickly as possible.
- Make a living as a writer.
For those unfamiliar with this emerging model of authorship, you may think I’m oversimplifying. Not by much. This model doesn’t care about quality. It says: You will get better as you write more, and besides, everyone knows that quality is subjective. It says: Don’t waste your time perfecting something that you can’t be sure makes a difference to your readers or your sales.
Nor does this model rely on marketing and promotion. According to its rules, the author is better off producing more salable product, which, over time, snowballs into more and more sales, and people discovering and buying your books. Do you need a website? Of course, like any author does. Do you need to market yourself or your work? As little as possible, the model says. Focus on writing your next book.
. . . .
1. This model relies on a readership that consumes books like candy, or readers mostly interested in finding a next read as quickly and cheaply as possible. (We’re starting to see the impact of this cheap-read behavior: agents asking publishers to reduce prices because it’s inhibiting the greater volume needed to reach maximum profits.)
If you’ve ever walked into certain kinds of used bookshops (especially back before e-books became prevalent), you’ve seen the racks and racks of mass-market romances and other genre fiction, sold for 25 cents each. A customer might walk in, buy a grocery bag full, walk out, then return the following week for a refill.
The new era of self-publishing authors are, by and large, serving these customers.
I call it commodity publishing. It’s not about art; it’s about product.
But isn’t that what traditional publishing has been about all along? Isn’t it also commodity publishing? It is a business, yes?
Funny, it’s the business that no one gets into for business reasons. It’s the business that, if you asked its individual participants, would likely prefer to talk about the art or culture of the business, would prefer to make the argument that it focuses on quality work that deserves publication. Yet those with trade experience know how the decisions really get made: based on a profit-and-loss analysis (P&L) and for the benefit of the bottom line.
. . . .
I’m now on the edge of a longstanding argument: whether genre fiction is as “good” as so-called literary fiction. I’ve had more than one person challenge me on the definition of “literary” fiction on the premise that it’s an elitist, exclusionary term that implies that other types of fiction can’t be as intelligent or complex. That is to say, it is possible for literary romance, literary thriller, etc., to exist, and that “literary” should not exist except as an adjective to some other genre category.
That’s a sensible argument. But I do think it’s relevant to talk about how readers self-identify, or how they decide what to read next, and you can be certain there’s a class of reader who considers themselves devoted to the consumption of, at the very least, serious fiction. Serious fiction means: you don’t read it or skim it in an afternoon, and you don’t go through an entire grocery bag of them in a week. A lot of people enjoy both types of fiction. Yet you don’t often find authors who are switching off between writing beach reads and next year’s critically acclaimed novel. Further, authors tend to get pigeon-holed and marketed in a particular way to the same audience over years, since that’s how commercial success works best (see: James Patterson), and even if we find this constricting from a creative standpoint, it’s a sound marketing strategy.
All this to say: I don’t think it wise to recommend self-publishing as the first strategy for writers outside of the genres.
Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Ant for the tip.