Laura Bastian is a student in the MA Publishing course at University College London who recently completed a period of work experience at whitefox. She has an MBA in marketing and worked in marketing and sales for ten years before deciding to pursue a career in publishing.
Exactly what does publishing’s “new normal” mean to publishers, authors, and readers? Does the infinite bookshelf of the digital world invite more sales and a long tail of opportunity for a larger pool of authors? Or does it refer to a world crowded with mediocre content, in which the very best writers struggle to get noticed above the noise?
It seems publishers and authors may have differing opinions (and overall moods) when it comes to the industry’s future.
“There has never been a better time to be a writer. It could be that the best of times are yet to come,” Hugh Howey writes in his latest Author Earnings Report. Per his findings, “self-published authors are out-earning Big 5 authors by a 27% margin.”
While the report will surely be parsed at length, it is evident many writers are feeling optimistic and empowered in the new environment.
This was also apparent at the London Book Fair, where the Kindle sponsored Author HQ hummed with energy. Seminars on book discoverability and hybrid publishing models overflowed to standing room only, as authors eagerly sought to learn from those who have mastered self-publishing, including Howey himself, Polly Courtney, and Bella Andre. The Author HQ operated in a seemingly parallel universe to the traditional publishing happenings in the exhibition room next door, where business continued as usual.
The verdict: the terms “self” and “independent” publishing are perhaps misnomers, as the best of the bunch curate their own hand-picked teams to edit, proofread, design, produce, and market their books.
It seems self-publishing isn’t about going it alone after all. The model for publishing a book has become more atomized, to use Mike Shatzkin’s term, but the fundamentals have not changed.
Under the “new normal,” making that connection between the content creators and the editors, designers, and publicists becomes increasingly important. It’s the difference between books that get lost on the digital shelf and those that rise above the chaos.