It’s Time to Reclaim the Titles of Author and Publisher
Don’t despair. YOU ARE in the right place at the right time. This is probably the best time in history to be a writer!
Since I was a kid, I have romanticized the world of the Big 5 (formerly 6)—the New York publishing houses who give birth to literary giants. I imagined agents sitting in cafes, poring over piles of manuscripts, and illusive authors getting drunk or going mad in wilderness cabins while tapping out the next #1 New York Times bestseller. So romantic! So mysterious! So false.
Well, it’s a story of partial truths. Writers still go on retreats. They still get drunk. Some of the rare old-guard still have agents calling them up and asking for the next chapter to show the publisher to justify a $100,000 advance.
The Direct Publishing Revolution
But that’s not most of us, at least not most of the time. Independent authors and direct publishing professionals are creating a new paradigm. We hustle. We wear all the hats. We are quicksilver fast. We can pivot on a dime. We are David to the Big 5’s Goliath.
Our world is daily interaction with our online audiences or clients. It’s sitting down in our homes or offices and pounding out at least a thousand words per day. It is an immediate and direct profession. It’s a community of word lovers.
Reclaim the Titles of Author and Publisher
I’m calling a reclaiming! I’ll state my case:
The old stalwarts market themselves as Big, Legacy, Trade, and Traditional. They bestowed upon themselves these titles of security, dependability, and parental love. That they actually deliver these things can be argued. However, even if it’s true, this level of care-taking is awarded to 1% of authors.
The publicity machines of the Big 5 and their affiliated publishing associations have forced upon the rest of us the lonely title of self-published and upon the direct publishing professionals the marketing nightmares of Vanity, Subsidy, Assisted, or Small. Who on earth would choose this kind of branding for themselves? Nobody is what I’m saying.
Imagine talking to a branding consultant. They ask you what words evoke the feeling of your new company. Do you answer vanity, subsidy, and small? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
In the early days of digital and self-publishing, that’s exactly how we were viewed—as insignificant and self-important. Times have changed. Direct publishing is completely legitimate. As direct authors and publishers, we move over 50% of the eBook unit worldwide. We still lag behind the Big 5 in print units, but only by about 10%, and our piece of the print pie grows each year. Big publishers still dominate in the revenue category, but that’s because profit is their prime objective. Very soon we will overtake traditional publishers in both units and dollar sales.
Millions of writers are producing and marketing books on their own. What’s more, independent authors are making anywhere from a good to an excellent living from their writing. Perhaps, a more sustainable living than corporate publishers can provide.
Who Are We?
Going forward, I propose we stop diminishing ourselves. Instead of using words like self, aspiring, or even independent, I suggest that we are just plain authors. We write books, that’s what we are—authors.
Furthermore, if you’re like me and in the business of helping authors publish their books and make a living (we might be marketing specialists, publicists, book designers, editors, proofreaders, tech support, social media managers, or many, many other things) then we are direct publishing professionals or simply, publishers. We help authors cut out the middleman. We get them the most control and profit possible. We are not vain or small.
We are the majority now, and we are empowered. Our job is to share, entertain, educate, inspire, and design. Words are our power, and we should use them.
So, what’s our battle cry?
I am an author!
I am a publisher!
Now go out there and write that next bestseller.