The Independent Publishing Magazine | The King is Dead – Long Live The King

POD, Self-Publishing & Independent Publishing is dead. Long live The Independent Publishing Magazine!
Regular visitors this evening will have noticed some subtle changes to the layout of the site. Over the past three and a half years I have introduced changes to the site, ranging from new design layouts to help filter out a sense of clutter, and additional navigation features to deal with expanded content, resources and links. While the reader’s eye may not perceive anything more than a little tidying up, I have tonight introduced the single most fundamental change so far. I’ve been contemplating a name change for the site for the past year, and I strongly considered doing this when I introduced the now familiar black-white-red logo back in early 2010. I held off doing so because in my own mind I had not worked through my own thought process enough.
During the week of the London Book Fair, a lot clicked into place, and it was then I understood my own rationale for a name change. It was a case of humbly accepting some of the medicine I was keen at times to dish out to authors who came to me for consultancy services. There were also companies I reviewed, and at times, criticized for becoming stagnant or downright blind to the changing publishing landscape.
Let me digress for a moment and cast a few thoughts back to an article I wrote about Lulu, one of the most popular DIY publishing services, and one I have also previously used. The article was entitled 2010 May Be The Time For Lulu to Drop The Self From Self-Publishing, It took Lulu a while, but Bob Young went a long way to explaining where Lulu is now in 2011 at the World e-Reading Congress in London last week. Here was my comment on Lulu in 2010 and that it was time Lulu went to the dentist and had a ‘self’ extraction and why they were moving closer to the greater publishing entity.

I believe this is really a critical year for Lulu in self-publishing services. They already recognise from a standpoint of five years, when you could use the slogan self-publishing, and that in itself was enough to set them apart as a strong flagship in the world of DIY publishing services. A lot has changed in the last year. Yes, the competitors of Lulu like CreateSpace have really caught up, and others like Blurb will also make significant gains this year if my research and understanding is correct. But more significantly, the flagpole itself of self-publishing is steadily moving closer to the monolith that has always been the publishing industry. The adventurous offspring is soon to return home under the protection of the family umbrella we all know to be called publishing.

And really, for me, that’s it – self-publishing has become a flag or slogan to be waved around when times are good for the author, and more often, when not, to be disguised under the umbrella of ‘self-publishing companies’ and unscrupulous vanity houses. It’s all meaningless like descriptions of commercial above-board publishing houses described as ‘traditional publishers’. Like a magician conjuring rabbits from a hat – unless you understand how the trick was preformed and the motivations behind author and publisher – it’s meaningless. One person’s idea of self-publishing is another’s vanity. I’ve long stopped engaging in the Yog’s Law debate (money flows toward the author), because, like self-publishing, it’s utterly meaningless. Mark Barrett, writing on his Ditchwalk blog some time back, presented one of the most stunning retorts to Yog’s Law and it’s irrelevance in the modern age of publishing through a kind of reversed engineering of how ‘traditional’ publishing works. This is in my humble opinion one of the best articles written on publishing in the last ten years.
“At its most basic, however, publishing is not a question of maxims or appraisals or even authorial merit. It’s a question of cash money. Which brings me to my criticism of Yog’s Law, my criticism of the industry for exploiting Yog’s Law, and my general exhaustion with the idea that all the bad people are on the outside of the publishing industry and all the good people are on the inside praying to Daniel Webster. Because nothing about Yog’s Law deals with the fact that a pay-you-later publisher can screw authors as effectively as a pay-us-now subsidy or vanity publisher.

To begin, it’s worth noting that Yog’s Law fits quite nicely with the publishing industry’s own propaganda of love and reverence for books and authors. ‘Look,’ the publishing industry says, ‘we’re not taking money up front! We’re gambling on you because we believe in you! We have faith in you! We’re not like those scummy people who ask for money in advance!’”
I’ll stop my digression now. The ‘self‘ had to go from POD, Self-Publishing & Independent Publishing because too many people could place their own interpretations on what it meant – good or bad – and perception of what something means remains that, until it is actually experienced or justified. Likewise, POD (print on demand) also had to go. I spent a long, long time studying and analyzing companies using POD – commercial publishers, small presses and self-publishers. POD has it’s place in publishing as well as being an economical option for self-published authors, but here is the truth of it – like our performing magician above pulling rabbits from a hat – once you understand what it is (an order fulfillment option to avoid inventory stocks) and appreciate its strengths and deficiencies – it becomes a one-trick pony. If, as publisher or author, you dare to hang your hat solely upon it at the end of every evening, then you don’t know how publishing works. It is simply one aspect of publishing today and one being better utilized by very large publishers with strong backlists and capable digital partnerships – not just a publishing means to an end. Don’t hang your hat on it.
I’ve spent a great deal of time working with authors who self-publish as well as those who pursue mainstream paths to publishing. I think I do innately understand all their wishes, needs and aspirations. I still steadfastly encourage authors to follow the normal channels of publishing through agents and commercial publishers before ever considering self-publishing. Of those who are committed to self-publishing, I find myself more often now suggesting they try ebook publishing before they commit to print self-publishing. The risks are lower and the opportunities will be far greater with ebooks. It’s an area I have encompassed on the site through news reports and articles but I have not explored and analysed it to the degree this area now deserves, specifically through service reviews. That’s something I intend to put right with The Independent Publishing Magazine.
And so, tonight – in name only – we cast aside the labels ‘POD‘ and ‘Self‘, and rename the site what it really has always been since it’s inception – a focal point for authors and publishers online looking for news, information, analysis and insight into a changing industry, whatever path they are on.
In short, I am as committed as I have always been to this thing we call ‘publishing’ and …

“…embracing and promoting change in print and digital publishing through author and publisher advocacy…”

No need to set any new bookmarks. We are where we have always been…


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