How Self-Publishing Has Changed the Industry

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

I read a recent blog post on The Guardian book blog about the 10 ways self-publishing has changed the book world and, after Jim’s post yesterday, it got me thinking about how I would explain the current state of the book world to friends and family who are neither authors, nor wanna-be writers, but who, as book readers, are nonetheless intrigued by all the changes going on in publishing. 

I’ve summarized the Guardian’s top 10 list below and am interested in whether or not you agree (though I do think most of them are pretty self-evident):

  1. There is now a wider understanding and increased visibility about what publishing is (and acceptance that it’s more difficult than it looks). Self-publishing has enabled people to learn the process and understand what is involved which has led to a wider awareness and diversity in the publishing process.
  2. We are no longer confident that publishers and agents know what everyone wants or should read. 
  3. The copy-editor is now in strong demand as writers realize the limitations of self-editing. Freelance copy-editors are now in high demand by both self-publishing authors and traditional publishing houses.
  4. The book as a ‘precious’ object is re-emerging as publishers produce limited, luxury editions.
  5. Authors are being empowered to do their own marketing and are no longer reliant on publishers to mediate the relationship between authors and their readers. Looking ahead, authors are likely to be less compliant with what their publishers demand of them.
  6. The role of the agent is also changing. With self-publishing, agents need to find new ways to make their work pay.
  7. New business models and opportunities are springing up offering ‘publishing services’ from manuscript and plot development to editorial and marketing assistance. Publishing is thus emerging as a process – accessible as a variety of different services – rather than an ‘industry’ as such.
  8. It’s not all about making money. Self-publishing means recognizing and preserving content that has value for someone but that doesn’t mean the process has to yield an income to be worthwhile.
  9. The end of the ‘vanity press’ put down. Self-publishing is now seen as the ‘homing ground of the instinctively proactive’ – those who can identify the market, meet its needs and deliver directly. 
  10. Self-publishing brings satisfaction and happiness in and of itself as each writer meets their own needs (which may only require a finished product or small sales to a niche market).

The most important element I take from this list is the notion that publishing is emerging as a range of processes, accessible to all, rather than an industry that so many viewed as an impenetrable fortress. I am also intrigued by the comment that authors will probably become less ‘compliant’ with the demands the publishers place on them, as they are empowered to understand their own market and reader needs (especially as authors now have many of  the tools [such as social media] to meet these needs directly).

Here at TKZ we have had a number of blog posts regarding the question of self-publishing, its challenges as well as its rewards. So what would you say is the number one way self-publishing has changed the book world?


What’s wrong with readin’ that?

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

The Guardian book blog recently had a piece entitled nothin‘ wrong with teen fiction’ which discusses the ‘raised eyebrow and indrawn breath’ that we all remember so well when we were caught reading something that was (disapprovingly) considered ‘teen fiction’. You remember the books – the ones by Judy Blume or VC Andrews – the ones that your teacher regarded as something akin to eating Lucky Charms for breakfast rather than whole-grain granola, in the belief that teenagers should be eating a diet of classics by the likes of the Brontes, Jane Austen or Charles Dickens.

Now that I am in the midst of final edits to my own young adult WIP, I am reminded of the snobbishness with which high school teachers seemed to regard these popular teen books and I’m starting to wonder, with the advent of bestselling series such as Harry Potter and Twilight, whether the same prejudices still apply when it comes to genre or mass-market teen fiction. Are teachers still curling their upper lips and flaring their nostrils or are they just relieved to see teens reading anything at all?

My own guilty pleasures as a young teenager included Len Deighton and Alistair MacLean thrillers, a drippy historical girls’ school series in which I got to channel my fantasies of going to a Swiss finishing school and marrying a doctor, and various TV/movie tie-in books which had all the literary merit as a bowl of cocoa puffs. I have to also confess to devouring Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, but at least this was something my English teacher could relate to…she reserved her horror for the girls who tried to do book reports on novels by Jackie Collins or Danielle Steel.

There is only one book, however, that I remember was (virtually) banned at my school. It was a coming of age book called Puberty Blues and for a young teenager (I must have been about 12 at the time) the fact that my own mother disapproved of it was enough to ensure that I had to clandestinely procure a copy. Now I think back I can’t understand what all the fuss was about – except for the sex and drugs there was nothing controversial:) Today’s teenagers would no doubt think it very lame.
So here’s my question – what books do you remember drawing the ire of your parents and teachers? What ‘teen fiction’ books were you guilty of enjoying? Do you think any of this snobbery has changed or are popular teen books still looked down and frowned upon?