Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The self-publishing stigma: Is it shrinking?
So, I was telling her about it, half-rolling my eyes over it, half-forlorn. Then, out of the blue, she said "Why not self-publish it?" Being schooled in "How To Be a Respected Children's Illustrator 101", my first knee-jerk reaction: "Well, I can't! I wouldn't! No children's author/illustrator would self-publish their own book, and expect to be taken seriously in this industry."
Self-published books have been (no secret here) a Dirty Word in respected publishing circles, children's or otherwise, right? But then, I stopped and really thought about it, and I question this old code. It's outdated. These days, businesses and industries and their ideas, and opinions move at the speed of light. Self-publishing is coming into it's own, in a big way. (Children's and otherwise.)
I have a lot of evidence that points to just that: My father and his wife, a very successful illustrator/graphic designer team, have recently self-published their own book. The e-book market is on fire. After some hesitation, I've even purchased a couple of e-books. Guess what? I'm extremely happy with them, and I'm lining up for more. Children's illustrator Dani Jones is currently publishing graphic novels in both hard copy and e-book formats. I have to then wonder, why have I been surrendering the destiny of my own story to the shoulders of a major publisher? I have all of the tools at my disposal with which to publish it, and market it, myself. Sure, my book probably won't see a shelf in Border's or a B&N (though these days, who knows? That could be just around the corner). But plenty of people (most?) shop on-line these days. Self-published books can get ISBN numbers. You can certainly sell your own self-published book through Amazon, as well as other channels.
Probably the biggest 'unknown' is whether self-publishing can hurt our reputations as Children's illustrators. To some in publishing that hold on to older ideas and ideologies, hey, it might. But if so, it's time for them to embrace the present and rethink strategies. In the past few years, I see the sea change in the publishing industry on parallel with what the music industry started going through ten or twelve years ago. Given all this, at the end of the day, I think it's a risk worth taking.Why not?
For artists and writers, I feel the self-publishing stigma is definitely fading away. People are using e-books as marketing tools to help them sell other services, as well as being a potentially lucrative product for them. A successful "how-to" e-book in a niche industry can help put you on the map as a go-to resource or even as an expert in that field. The tables have seemingly turned, and people are using it to their advantage. I think it's a completely realistic idea to use your experience as a self-published children's author/ illustrator to help you gain leverage in children's and other industries. People have been self-publishing children's picture books for years now. I never thought twice about doing it myself. Until now. Things are different now and the road is wide open.
The bottom line is three-fold: the WORK, the MARKETING, and YOU. If the work is of a very high quality (on par with the quality of books from a publishing house), AND you have a solid base of people who enjoy your work and art and support it by purchasing your work, AND you are using all the marketing tools at your disposal and using them in smart and consistent ways, I believe our self-published works CAN find their audience, Children's or otherwise.