‘Self-publishing’ is a phrase we know quite well. Authors seem comfortable identifying with it - it’s been a good few years since the words became popular and meaningful - and we’ve had time to assimilate the term. However, its interpretation seems continually unbalanced by a host of related ideas, conventions, traditions and recent innovations to the point where now, at the end of another massive year for ‘self-publishers’, it might be time to look again at our definition, perhaps for a touch of clarity, but also to see what useful new thinking can be sparked by re-evaluation.
Wikipedia states that self-publishing is ‘the publication of any book, album or other media by its author without the involvement of an established publisher.’ Of course, many authors who began their careers identifying with this definition arguably become the noted ‘established publisher’ with many years of experience and an impressive back-catalogue, and so the Wikipedia entry no longer applies. Said authors have transformed into something else, perhaps something more. But do authors stop thinking, feeling or calling themselves ‘self-published’ once they have successfully published books? Some definitely do, many do not. Perhaps, therefore, there’s no problem with the term itself, or any definition of the term but rather the way we, as writers, marketers and passionate publishers see ourselves.
‘Self-defined publishing’ could be a new term; it’s robust and real, but it won’t catch on. Our clients, however, do define themselves and are talking less about specifically self-publishing their books. Their conversations are in relation to publishing in more fluid, general terms. When you’ve applied for a block of ISBNs and successfully published 5 titles to critical acclaim, are you self-published, independently published or simply a publisher in your own right? And does it matter? Words are just words and definitions come and go. The important thing is not to allow any traditional definition of the frequently-maligned ‘self-publisher’ to become a limiting factor to one’s own thinking and success. The stigma attached to self-publishing is all but gone as more indie-authors are being snapped up by ‘commercial’ publishers (although many decline these offers as they’re selling quite well without the middle-man, thank you very much) and so it might be seen that the only meaningful definition of a self-publisher’s self-image is that which they give themselves. This is an important point, driven home to us at SpiffingCovers by our diverse client base, each who approach their work differently. Let’s just say that some of them are definitely not your ‘average’ self-publisher, they are empowered individuals who strike unique paths and fully own their approach to what they do. When Charles Dickens’ publisher rejected A Christmas Carol in 1843, he hired an illustrator and found his own way to produce the celebrated book, making a valuable point that an author’s instincts about their work can be a strong and insightful driving force toward commercial success, even without a publisher’s approval.
“I found the SpiffingCovers team to not only be great artists but also to be consistently professional”Alexis Grove, author of False Idols
As another year ticks by, we at SpiffingCovers dare challenge recent definitions. All preconceptions become irrelevant as indie-authoring continues to redefine the publishing industry, literally becomes the publishing industry. This is not hyperbole. Author Earnings reported in November that in 2014 the Big Five publishers enjoyed just over 40% of eBook sales with independent publishers counting for just over 30%. Fast-forward to today, and the numbers are radically different with the Big Five dropping hugely to 20-25% and independent publishers increasing to just under 50%. The only relevant gatekeepers now are the readers, with self-publishers seeing huge sales without a single nod from agents or traditional publishing houses. The days of monopolised publishing, and the traditions that go with it, are numbered.
We’d like, therefore, to congratulate our fantastic and innovative clients, who continue to reinvent themselves and the industry with them; throwing off the shackles of words like ‘self-publishing’ which ultimately fall short of the truth.