Last week, I had the chance to participate in a writers panel at The Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA. The panel, titled, “So You Want to Write a Book?” was designed to discuss various publishing options open to first-time authors or people who have always wanted to write a book, but didn’t know how to get started. I was joined by Dan Gerstein, Founder and President of Gotham Ghostwriters; Taylor Kiland, Navy veteran and published author or co-author of five military non-fiction books; and Rick Russell, Army and National Guard veteran and Director of Naval Institute Press. About 40 people attended the hourlong exchange of information, ideas and questions. One of the central themes of the evening was the disruption caused in the publishing industry by the rise of technology, particularly in regards to self-publishing. The “old days” of publishing – monolithic publishing houses buying books from agents to sell to bookstores – has been upended by the ability of writers to reach directly to readers via online publishing and publications, e-books, self-publishing and the ability to market their own books. Of course, there are risks (and shortcomings), but mainstream publishing can no longer scoff at self-publishing as a form of the “vanity press.” When the New York Times is discussing the phenomenon, it’s legitimate. Publishers Weekly, too, has begun to consider self- and digital publishing as more than just a fad. This piece from last summer has some interesting statistics regarding self-publishing. Of note,
•Self-published books now represent 31 percent of e-book sales on Amazon’s Kindle Store. •Indie authors are earning nearly 40 percent of the e-book dollars going to authors.
•Self-published authors are “dominating traditionally published authors” in sci-fi/fantasy, mystery/thriller, and romance genres but — and here is the surprise — they are also taking “significant market share in all genres.”
I’m not saying self-publishing is the way to go for everyone. I can say that, if you decide to publish your own novel or memoir or children’s book, it’s a lot of work. I self-published my second novel, A Simple Murder, and found the writing to be the easy part. The marketing lift – from social media platforms to press releases, events, reviews, interviews, etc. – is significant and not for the faint of heart. You have to be prepared for the long slog and develop a readership over time. The jury is still out on whether self-publishing will sustain itself over the long haul. But the publishing world is changing, and options for writers to connect directly with readers is greater than ever.