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.


  1. I think you're completely right. TPs (I had to use it, LOL) I think are scared by this because it's change, but you're definitely right in saying that this works out better for them. They essential have no risk. They're getting a product that's already selling, so how can they lose? This is great for indies and I can't wait to see the future :)

  2. Victoria- Thanks for your comment! Who wouldn't love a no-risk proposition like that, right? My friend and fellow YA self-pubbed author, Tammara Webber, just got picked up by Penguin for her book, Easy, and one future book. She's happy and I'm sure they are ecstatic, too. There have been several others recently, which leads me to think this is definitely the way things are headed!

  3. I think your right. Self publishing has made it easy for publishers to pick up new authors. There are so many self publish authors that may not be doing "well" by someone's standards but they sell books and are as good, if not better than some published authors. And deserve to be picked up by some publishing company.

  4. You are right on the mark! It's agents who are hurting more than publishers, and they have to get creative in what they can offer both writers and publishers. Readers are now functioning as agents did-- sorting through the slushpile (now ebooks)and finding what's good.

  5. You are spot on! I can name at least 10 authors who were indies and were picked up by TP's (haha, toilet paper). I myself never tried for a trad deal, but I just signed with an agent after indie pubbing. I know for a fact that agent's assistants are trolling the ebook best seller lists and looking for new talent. It beats the heck out of querying and getting stuck in the slush pile!

  6. Yes, you are completely right and I foresee this happening more and more. Self-published books are the new slush pile. Traditional publishers only have to let the books rise to the top and skim off the top 0.01% and pay them big money. A lot of these self-published authors going traditional are making seven figure deals.

  7. I like that a lot! I know it happened, and it gives me hope. Let the readers decide what's good. Makes sense, right? Meanwhile, even though some books will never make it to the bestseller lists, all those self-published authors are making "some" money out of their books (as opposed to sending queries and hoping the replies won't all be form rejections), and their friends, family, and acquaintances get to read their novels. Everyone now has a chance to succeed if they want it badly enough.