The Paradox of Self-Publication

After writing a couple chapters of TEOH, I am using early 2014 to set up this website and study the world of publishers, promotion, and self-publication.  Chapter 1 of my book discusses the fast-changing pace of lifestyle and technology in the 21st century.  I have found that the publishing world is caught up in sea changes too.  I started writing TEOH in 2009.  The blogosphere was already well-established but still fairly new and growing quickly.  It also happened to be right at the beginning of the e-book revolution.  The Kindle was launched in 2007, the Nook in 2009 and the iPad in 2010.  The growth of E-book sales has been so dramatic in this decade that some experts are wondering which quarter it will be now when e-book sales overtake the market share of print books.  What does all this mean for a small-time writer?

lost_in_crowdThe obvious advantage to 21st-century authorship is that I am now able to post a blog like this and instantly put my work online for worldwide access.  The disadvantage is that every aspiring writer in the world has the same opportunity!  The result is a flood of drivel.  Lost in the sea of self-published content, I am still just as invisible as ever.  A Google search will bury my blog behind 10 or 100 pages of results, many of which are on completely unrelated subjects.  I’ve heard it said that public attention is becoming the world’s scarcest resource.  This is the paradox of self-publication.  Where this leaves us is that big publishers are still necessary gatekeepers.  Those publishers may be becoming more and more electronic and online, but they are still the few visible channels in this hyper-competitive market.

The transformation to self-publishing parallels the music industry.  Everyone under the sun is able to post their songs and videos online.  I recently heard of the site Forgotify.  It is a gathering place for the 4,000,000 songs uploaded to to Spotify that have never been played once!  The web is becoming a junk drawer for creative projects.

E-book sales are largely driven by commercial fiction anyway.  A non-fiction book like TEOH, especially with numerous references and pictures, is not the kind of work that drives e-book sales.  I’m sure that someday I will consider a conversion to formal e-book standards and a listing with Amazon or Apple.  But, as a published work, TEOH is a better candidate for print.  Meanwhile, of course, I will always have my own online presence here.

From what I’ve read so far, the conventional wisdom is that it takes a few months to attract any attention at all online, and a good year or two to get decent viewership numbers.  That’s a year or two of dedicated web management.  It doesn’t happen by itself.  Pundits recommend having an online presence for at least a year before approaching publishers.  You have to prove that you have the potential to sell well.  That presents a nice chicken-and-egg dilemma, doesn’t it?  You have to be published to get attention from readers, but you have to establish viewership before publishers will do business with you!  It seems hopeless without saving up and marketing out of my own pocket.

With this in mind, I’m glad that I was already dedicated to TEOH as a lifetime project for my own edification and enjoyment!  If I were counting on income or public recognition, I would have given up long ago.  Publication is a possibility worth pursuing, though.  It would add a whole new dimension to this book.  I’ve seen plenty of published books that had very little to say.  If they can do it, so can I!

I’ll use this page of my blog to comment on the world of publishing and my progress toward that goal.  I already have a little secret, a networking lead to a successful author in my field.  Stay tuned!  😛


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