Category Archives: Conferences

A Slice of the Literary Life: Self-Publishing is no longer a Dirty Word

This past Friday and Saturday, I attended the 2nd annual Slice Literary conference, held by Slice Magazine, in illustrious Brooklyn, New York.  Coincidentally, this is my second time at a literary conference.  I was not disappointed.  Not only did I meet with some incredibly talented writers, but I also had a chance to meet editors and agents and listen to some of the brightest minds expound on all things literary.

The first panel I attended was the Self-Publishing Panel.  I am fascinated by the world of self-publishing, which is quickly shedding its stigma as the new kid on the block. One of the panelists, John Fine, Director of Author Relations and Associate General Counsel at Amazon, indicated that in 1999, self-publishing was merely vanity publishing but due to the ‘democratization of the means of production,’ self-publishing, print-on-demand and other forms of self-publishing have become increasingly used and accepted.  Penguin’s recent $116 million acquisition of e-publisher Author Solutions and Random House UK’s distribution unit’s acquisition of ePubDirect, are strategic moves that indicate a sea-change in the publishing industry’s perception of self-publishing and e-publishing.

One of the upsides of self-publishing, as pointed out by Associate Editor Hana Landes of Spiegel & Grau, is that self-publishers have a tremendous amount of data about the end-user or reader.  Landes mentioned Anthropology of an American Girl, which was originally self-published (not digitally but rather hand-created) in 2003 and contained a note from the author that she had lost faith in the  traditional publishing world, only to garner a cult-following, which eventually led to a traditional publishing deal.

Indeed, many authors have turned to e-pub and e-distribution platforms such as CreateSpace and Kindle Direct, in an effort to dictate their own terms of success.  There are countless stories of authors who have garnered a following through self-publishing.  Genre-specific categories are particularly successful as e-books (i.e. romance, sci-fi, thrillers).  Additionally, so-called ‘interstitial works,’ those works that are not long enough to be a  book, yet too long to constitute a magazine, may fit perfectly within the $2.99 pricing sweet spot that is so popular on Amazon.

The relative upsides of self-publishing are however, tempered by the advantages that traditional publishers still have: stronger distribution channels in real markets such as bookstores, editorial support, marketing and publicity.  The author may feel a little spread too thin as a one-person publishing powerhouse and publishers still play an important role in supporting the author in these related yet critical ways.

Instead of fearing change, publishers are finally starting to fully embrace it.  Although it didn’t really start picking up until the Kindle hit the market, due to wholesale changes within the publishing industry (publishing has shrunk, editors are freelancing, there’s more competition, authors, noise, competing forms of entertainment, etc.), self-publishing is here to stay.

As Mr. Fine pointed out, ” The smartest authors today are those who are trying everything.”  Or, if I may comment, the smartest authors are those who are not afraid of trying new things and experimenting with different approaches to their work.  The dream of obtaining the six plus figure advance still lives on, but the reality may be something more attainable.

What do you think about self-publishing?  Is the stigma really gone or does it lurk in the shadows still?  Are more publishers going to embrace self-publishing or do they only seem to be doing it because of the adage ” if you can’t beat the competition, join them?”


Filed under Authors, Conferences

Muse and Marketplace 2012–The Author Needs Love

This past weekend I attended the Muse and Marketplace 2012 Writer’s Conference and what a revelation.  It was my first time attending the Muse Conference, but hopefully not the last.  Every panel was extremely informative and well-presented (I attended two panels on the craft of writing a memoir, by Nahid Rachlin and Trisha Ryan, respectively, and the non-fiction panel which featured editors and agents that acquire non-fiction titles).

The highlight however was Saturday’s keynote address given by Richard Nash, visionary publisher and upstart, if you can call him that.  He gave a broad but optimistic speech about the future of publishing.  He stated that the 20th century was about sorting out supply and the 21st century will be about sorting out demand.   The key point he made however is that authors don’t just want to be published (that’s not the ultimate goal per se), but they want to be loved.  It does no good to the author to merely see his or her words in print and not have any books sell.  How do authors get love?  By engaging in a continual cultural process of reading and writing.  Nash stated succintly “the reader completes the text.”  That is, the process of reading is really part of the entire cultural context of being readers and writers.  The writer needs a reader to ‘complete’ and add to the text, their own understanding.

Where does technology come into the process of acquiring love through the written word?  Technology can provide a context from which to understand the text and help authors obtain more love by being more closely engaged in the conversations between writers and readers.  One audience member characterized technology as cold and un-thinking but if you think about it, technology is only a tool that one can choose to use or not use.  It doesn’t have any characteristics, in and of itself, but rather how technology is used imbues it with its moral characteristics.

So the take-away is this: don’t be afraid of technology, embrace it, because it may help writers obtain more love.  If you don’t feel comfortable with technology, learn it or find someone that can help you set up an online platform.  Something as simple as a blog has great impact.

Looks like publishing is playing catch-up compared to some other industries.  For fear of being too literal, I will just say that there is no harm in using online dating to find your mate.   Literally using technology to find love.  It’s been done before and there’s nothing wrong with it so dive headfirst into the internet space, you’ll likely find some love waiting for you!

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Filed under Conferences, Musings