Saturday, October 6, 2012

Self Pubs are the New Minor Leagues

Okay, I'll be honest: I don't know that much about baseball. But I do know that the Major League teams draw their new players from the Minor League teams. So if you want to be a player in the majors, you start out in the minors, perform really well, and then you have a chance to get pulled up.

Seems to me that this is the new model for publishing.

Traditional publishers used to get their debut authors from agents whose interns sifted through the slush pile day in and day out to find what they considered to be gems. Aspiring authors had no access to the big publishers; they had to get an agent first. Agents became the gatekeepers to publishers and it was their job to weed through the masses and present only the best books to editors for consideration.

As we all know, the Kindle revolution threw a monkey wrench into that time-honored structure.

Aspiring authors who'd been turned down by hundreds of agents started self-publishing their books online. And people bought them. Lots of people bought them. Some of these authors were so incredibly popular that their books ended up hitting bestseller lists.

Other authors took note and followed, tired of the gatekeeper system that kept them from doing what they wanted to do: write books and connect with readers.

As a result of the self-publishing phenomenon, many have been wondering what the future state of publishing will look like. Where will agents add value? Will they disappear forever? Will the traditional publishing companies collapse altogether?

Au contraire, mes amies. I would say traditional publishers are better off now than they were before.

Now, the TPs (I'll call them that since I'm getting tired of typing it out! Well, and it sounds like toilet paper, which is funny.) are cherry-picking the self-published authors who do really well. It's the Majors drawing from the Minors, people. The TPs don't have to take a chance on a debut author or cross their fingers and hope that the public will react well to the book. They don't have to do much editing (if any) and they don't have to worry that the market will be gone by the time they've slotted a book for release.

When a TP sees a self-published book topping the charts, they can swoop in, throw around the bucks and their impressive distribution (which, let's admit it, is an obstacle that self-pubbed authors can't really seem to overcome), and viola! They have an instant hit on their hands and a happy, successful author with a bright future. It's win, win.

And I think it's the future of publishing. It's only a matter of time before everyone will have to prove their worth via the self-publishing route. Few, if any, debut authors will get picked up via the old querying model.

I'm not saying this is good or bad, just different. And what's a revolution if not to shake up the old and come up with something new? Readers who buy ebooks will become the new gatekeepers to an author's success, not agents.

What do you think? Have I missed the mark? Or do you think this is where publishing is headed? I'd love to hear what you have to say on this brave new world of publishing.