It was only a matter of time. First came the internet boom with easy and fast access available to people around the world. Then the influx of e-books eclipsed their paper cousins sitting on bookstore and library shelves. In only a few short years, e-book sales have surged ahead while bookstores have been left behind, forced to push sales of e-readers and garner more web presence and online availability. With the e-book revolution has also come another option for aspiring writers: self-publishing.
Self-publishing is not new, but it has become more innovative in the 21st century. In the early part of the 2000's, self-publishing still seemed more about ego than anything else, given that self-publishing was dictated by price constraints and printing companies. However, internet sites like Lulu and Smashwords eventually cropped up to help writers more easily put their words to print in the hopes that their stories would be exposed to more people beyond family and friends. E-readers like the Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader have also led to self-published titles being more readily available through e-book format and able to be purchased by more consumers for prices ranging anywhere from 99 cents to $4.99.
Self-publishing must be becoming a new small phenomenon all its own if even major bookstores are getting on the bandwagon. Something must be going right with the formula (especially since many of the e-books in the Amazon Kindle Top 100 Bestselling, updated hourly, are often self-published works). Sales may never rival those of books backed by large publishing houses, but they're still sales that many online booksellers would love to have.
It's also easy for me to see why self-publishing is a plausible route for many writers. After all, literary agents get hundreds of queries each week -- and, even then, agent representation does not guarantee a publishing deal. Even after a contract is signed, novels take time -- anywhere from a year to upwards of three years -- to be published. As a writer myself (and quite the pessimist, might I add), I sometimes muse about what I'll do if I query and query agent after agent only to have no bites to my line. (Granted, I am far from the querying stage -- but I procrastinate by thinking about the doomsday scenario that may await me in the future.) I'm not an idiot. I've taken into consideration that self-publishing may be the only route by which I can get published before I die. I'm sure all writers have considered it at some point even if they push it away as soon as the thought comes into their heads. Self-publishing is an option, if nothing else.
Of course, self-publishing can sometimes lead to greater things with a bit of luck and hard work. Eragon by Christopher Paolini started its life as a self-published novel that caught an editor's eye by chance; this year, the series's fourth book, Inheritance, will reach store shelves. Self-publishing phenomenon Amanda Hocking published nine novels and sold over a million copies, many of which were e-books; just last month it was announced that Hocking had scored a four-book deal with St. Martin's Press after a bidding war among many of the major publishing houses.
Like or dislike their books, you have to give self-published authors credit: they finish their novels and get them out into the world in whatever ways they can. They deserve respect for that much, at least, whether or not their works ever reach critical acclaim.
They're writing and telling their stories, not letting rejections from agents or fears of criticism get in their ways -- and shouldn't that be how all of us writers should be at our deepest cores? It's definitely something to think about during those dark times of writerhood.
(All of the links I provided are just a small fragment of the resources available out there for those looking into self-publishing. For more information on self-publishing and all it encompasses, the blog Kindle Writers is definitely worth a look because the posts offer the pros and cons of self-publishing, the state of the self-publishing market itself, and even advice towards those looking into self-publishing. The internet is full of information; you just have to dig a little and find what applies to you, your craft, and your goals.)