The New Self-Publisher

by | Oct 12, 2009

Many people who self-publish, or who launch an independent publishing company to issue their own books have avoided the entire “get an agent/sell to a large publishing house” path in favor of a process that gives them more control of their book, gets them to market faster, and guarantees that, if they should produce any profit, they will get to keep the lion’s share of it.

Holy Grail of Publishing Still Holy?

The holy grail of self-publishing for most who enter it remains getting the book contract from a major publisher. Blogs and forums teem with authors trying to strategize their self-publishing efforts in order to attract that big contract and the (anticipated) fame, fortune, and a seat on the Today show that comes with it.

But there are an increasing number of authors who have opted out of the entire publishing system for quite other reasons, and I think one who exemplifies this “new” approach to self-publishing is Joshua Porter, an interface designer and the author of Designing for the Social Web, published by New Riders in 2008.

When it came time for his new book project, Porter decided to start his own publishing company and publish the book himself. There’s a short interview with Porter by Mark Bertils in which he explains his decision to go it alone when he could easily have obtained a contract from a publisher for his second book.

Changing the Book Game, and Why Not?

What’s interesting to me in this interview is that Porter equates being published by a publishing house simply as “distribution.” And where many authors are dismayed that the publisher they’ve signed with is going to take a year or more to produce their book, Porter’s complaint is that he often felt rushed by the publisher’s process, and felt that it didn’t mesh well with his own way of working.

Now, Joshua Porter is a very bright guy. In addition, he has over 20,000 people on his blog’s feed. Assuming he can hire out the editing, design and production of his book, what has he actually given up? Undoubtedly he will be the prime mover in guaranteeing the book’s success through his large network and the spreading network effects from his own efforts. He’s already proved he can write, and that his book will sell.

Rather than look to the “publishing establishment” for validation, marketing, or editorial help, Porter has matter-of-factly rendered the publishing industry as superfluous to his chosen path. And I think there is little doubt that when his new book comes out it will be a success, although it may never register in best seller lists anywhere.

Is There A Publishing Tipping Point?

This seems to represent a turning point of a kind. And even though Joshua Porter is a techie writing on techie subjects, the outline is clear.

All the emphasis on creating “Author Platform” may eventually lead to authors with such strong platforms for both message and sales that the intermediaries we are used to dealing with in the book publishing world will evaporate for these authors, as they devise books intended for a specific audience, and sell them into that audience with their own facilities, websites, blogs, landing pages and all.

We have come to an interesting point. What’s your opinion?

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