Most new authors pitching a manuscript to an agent or publisher will be rejected. Many times.

Years ago, a few authors chose vanity presses as an alternative. These companies published books at an author’s expense. Most readers thought the author’s efforts were rooted in excessive pride and shunned the books. Now many authors self-publish their books and some appear on eBook bestseller lists. What’s behind the acceptance of self-publishing?

Self-publishing usually involves providing digital eBooks while vanity presses historically have involved creating bound books. However, there is overlap. In both cases, authors foot significant expenses and are responsible for self-promotion. Also, agents and publishing houses don’t act as “gatekeepers” of quality.

The rise of the Internet is behind much of the acceptance of self-publishing.

For authors, the Internet has made bringing a book to market easier and cheaper. Authors can download their books to online retailers for free, with retailers paid a percentage of royalties. They still face editing and cover design expenses, but at least service providers are abundant and some cost competitive. As for promotion, authors can take the driver’s seat with an online presence through their own or reader websites, blogs and social media.

The Internet has been a boon to readers, too.

Readers have always relied on reviews to decide what to read. The online world has allowed readers to exchange book reviews easily. The result is readers can curate books themselves, and often prefer to do so, just like they choose their own music and restaurants. Reader curation is as legitimate as relying on agents and publishers to tell them what to read. In fact, because there’s no underlying business, it may be more legitimate.

There’s still the problem of too many poorly written self-published books crowding the space for capable authors. I think new paradigms will emerge to resolve this, whether through indie sales statistics and/or awards, self-published authors satisfying criteria to qualify for membership in professional author organizations, or more technological advances.

If your goal is sharing a great story, self-publishing is a fine way forward.

Copyright © 2014 Peter Fritze

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