25th July, 2019
5 min read
How Self-publishing Empowers Authors
It used to be that the only way of getting your book published was to hope you’d get an agent, who could land you a publisher, who would publish your book. But now self-publishing has become a common and empowering route to publication enabling authors, or, in fact, anyone with a story to tell, to get their writing from the page to the reader in any number of formats.
The Constraints of Mainstream Publishing
I’ve often heard the rise of self-publishing positively compared to a perceived shrinking or increasing conservatism within the wider publishing industry. In fact, I don’t see it like this, the mainstream publishing sector is vibrant and full of creative, beautiful and courageous books. In fact, the independent book publishing sector is thriving. Just this week the shortlist was announced for the Small Press of the Year Award which celebrates the best in independent book publishers and highlights the mainstream publishers who are taking risks in their publishing output. However, whatever the size of a mainstream publisher, they need their books to be profitable so all submissions are assessed on quite a specific basis, and the smaller companies have to turn down great submissions to keep their lists trimmed and costs managed, especially in the present climate when publishing is expensive (especially in terms of energy costs, paper costs and delivery)!
The Freedom of Self-Publishing
An author who is self-publishing is free from these considerations, working toward a different set of outcomes and financial decisions. Ultimately, it's the author (and therefore the self-publisher) of the work who asks ‘what am I happy to spend on this project’, not the senior team of a publishing house deciding, ‘how much can we make from this project?’ So we see the growth of self-publishing as being linked to the confidence of the indie writing community – people become authors because they have a story to tell, they have a hobby (writing) they wish to pursue, and they want to publish on their own terms. This confidence to publish that sits alongside advances in digital technology has led to an increase in writers choosing to take control and publish their books themselves. A recent article in The Bookseller magazine focussed on how mainstream publishers are signing up more originally self-published authors, observing that these authors have already tested the market, know what their readers like and how to reach them – all factors that will help the mainstream publisher have a guaranteed success when republishing the title. The full article is behind a paywall here.
Five Reasons Why Self-publishing is Empowering
- Telling your story in your own words: Some self-publishers elect to take the indie route as they wish to tell their stories in their own words, without significant editorial changes being imposed from outside.
- A ready-made market: Some authors already know their target readership and know exactly how to reach and talk to that market. They plan their publishing specifically to reach that market, and keep all the returns on sales.
- Diversity of voice: The mainstream publishing industry has had a rather seismic change in recent years as it has looked to increase the diversity of voice in its publishing output and the diversity of staff commissioning and working on those books. Self-publishing however is open to anyone who can and wants to write a book, regardless of their background or their connections to agents or publishers. There are many different ways to self-publish and at varying price points, which means that writers are no longer dependent on what publishers might think readers want, or what is currently available.
- Self-expression: Writing is a creative process and creative processes are known to be incredibly important for our wellbeing. Writing is a pleasurable hobby, one that can be undertaken almost anywhere. Publishing the results is an extension of that creative hobby – and can bring an immense amount of satisfaction. Increasing choice for readers: The number of books published every year is growing – largely due to the rise of self-publishing. This means that readers have more choices of books, and that niche reading interests can be met and fulfilled. The challenge here is the discoverability of those books.
Different ways to empower your self-publishing
Self-publishing is liberating as there are so many different ways to do it. Some authors only want to go digital and free, others want to do everything themselves, others might commission separate services or providers to carry out each part of the publishing process, yet more use a self-publishing services provider like Troubador to undertake the entire process for them. Each has benefits, each can have pitfalls, but all of these routes mean that authors are more empowered than ever. Troubador was founded over 25 years ago in response to authors seeking assistance to publish the types of books that would never be suitable for traditional publishing deals – these were niche books or books on topics that certainly had an audience, but not in the quantity to make the return on investment by a mainstream publisher worthwhile. We also initially saw authors approaching us after failing to secure a publishing deal or agent.
Fairly rapidly, however, the tide turned and authors started opting to self-publish as their preferred route to publication – not as a second choice. The authors we work with every day now are publishing for so many different reasons – which can include publishing simply for pleasure, as an extension of their business, for their friends and family or perhaps to seek literary notice.
Self-publishing is not one-size-fits-all – the goal that an author has for a book defines how it should be published. With such a multitude of options available, it’s important to understand all the possibilities which is why we take such a bespoke approach to the self-publishing process. The nature of what we provide means that authors pick and choose the services they need according to their projects. A book can either be taken entirely from manuscript to market, meaning that we undertake every single step on your behalf or we can fill in the gaps in publishing skills that you need. This model, we think, sits alongside the whole of the UK publishing industry in a positive way – with authors and books moving from self-published to mainstream and mainstream to self-published, all the while empowering both the readers and authors with increased choice.
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