Less than a year ago, I thought (well, I'd always thought) that self-publishing was a cop-out, an admission that your book wasn't good enough for a traditional publisher. Guy Kawasaki's book opened my eyes to the new reality: the self-publishing successes, the problems with traditional publishers, traditional publishers signing self-published authors, and shockingly, the successful authors moving to self-publishing.
There are incredible new options, tools, resources, and distribution platforms available to the savvy self-publisher: CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, BookBaby, Lulu, Lightning Source, Blurb, Smashwords ... I could go on. The power to 'do it right' is now in the author's hands, but you have to be, as Guy Kawasaki said, Author, Publisher, and Entrepreneur! Writing the book? That was step 1. Self-publishing a book that's equal to its traditionally published cousins is a long, intense, collaborative process, and really, more like ... waaaiiittt a minute. [Epiphany.] I'd been doing it for years! Self-publishing (the right way) is exactly the same as making an independent film (the right way)! Well, whad'aya know. Looking at it like this, I don’t know why there’d be any stigma at all. Let’s make some historical comparisons.
For years Hollywood was king, the gate keeper of the movie industry. Let’s call them the “traditional publishers.” But who remembers the digital video revolution? When high-quality video cameras and top-of-the-line video editing software became readily available? Anyone who wanted to make movies now possessed the technology to do it. And make them they did, lots of them. Let’s call them the “self-publishers.” Digital video democratized filmmaking. Along with the rise in the number of films being made, more distribution channels emerged. The film festival circuit expanded exponentially, indie cable channels, the internet, YouTube! These were all avenues the self-publishing filmmakers could use to get their movie seen. Sometimes Hollywood stepped in and bought rights to a great “self-published” film. Sometimes the “self-published” film garnered critical acclaim and launched the filmmakers’ careers. And, yes, sometimes the self-published film was lackluster and faded into obscurity. But so what? Isn’t that the way with all entrepreneurial endeavors? Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose?
Here’s the point. Amazon and companies like it have democratized self-publishing. Self-publishing a book today is no different than self-publishing an independent film during the last decade or two. Look at the bare bones of the indie movie-making process. First, you write the script. Second, you gather a team of professionals, cast and crew, to help you. Third, you shoot the movie. Fourth, you edit the movie. Fifth, you use every means at your disposal to market yourself and your movie so it’s purchased by a major broadcaster or distributor. And you do all of this on your own dime (if you live in Canada you might get lucky with government grants).
Now look at self-publishing books. First, you write the book. Second, you gather a team of professionals, copyeditor, editor, and designers, to help you. Third, you use every means at your disposal to market your book so that it sells, gets picked up by a traditional publisher, or launches your author career. Lots of similarities, am I right?
Whether you’re self-publishing a book or a movie, you’re betting on yourself. Yes, there are lots of sub-par movies and books out there as a result of the democratization of filmmaking and publishing (this is where most of the criticism comes from). This isn’t news in the entrepreneurial world; lots of products don’t make the grade. But this reality is accepted in the filmmaking world, so why not the writing world? And even if you do everything right is it a long shot? Kinda (marketing is tough) but that’s why success feels good!
We’re all entrepreneurs, filmmakers and bookmakers alike, be it a good investment or a bad one.
- C.R. Bruce
C.R. Bruce’s first novel, “Stalled,” is slated for release in January, 2015. You can follow his progress to publication at http://www.crbrucewrites.com