Ten good observations about self-publishing

This article identifies ten ways that the self-publishing trend has changed the world of books. All are good points, but this one hadn’t occurred to me:

8. It’s not all about making money. If, as I believe, self-publishing means taking personal responsibility for the management and production of your content, this can be achieved as effectively via a single copy to be kept at home as the sale of thousands online. Self-publishing means recognising, and preserving, content that has value for someone – but the process does not have to yield an income to be worthwhile.

I also liked this one, but for a different reason:

3. The copy editor, a traditionally marginalised figure, is now in strong demand. If you are well-connected through social media, can isolate what your writing has to offer and get the message noticed by a reading public, you can probably manage the marketing of your work. The one thing it’s really hard to do is self-edit. Long ago publishers outsourced copy editing, relying on the freelance labour market – and freelancers are now being actively sought by self-publishing authors too. The price for services for which there is both high demand and scarce supply tends to rise.

I definitely agree that it is difficult to self-edit, based on the evidence. I’ve read a fair amount of self-published work, some obscure and some bestselling, and the biggest shortcoming by far is in the editing. I am always willing and usually able to look past bad editing to get at the ideas or the story beyond, but my inner editor is continually dismayed at how much easier the writing would be to read if only some basic technical mistakes were corrected.

I may publicize this later, but for now I’ll bury the offer here: if you have something to say in writing but aren’t confident in your writing skills, I’m willing to help—tentatively. My time is limited, and I’m not interested in charging at this point, so I need to limit myself to projects that provide clear (if intangible) benefits to both me and the writer. If you have a substantial writing project you want to self-publish and think I can help you as an editor, please get in touch so we can discuss it.

The dust begins to settle

For a few years now I’ve closely followed the trend of self-publishing. Unlike most trends, this one seems to have landed exactly where I hoped it would—publishers have been circumvented, ordinary writers now have direct access to their readers, and life is markedly better for writers and readers (while much worse for the publishers). It’s still too soon to know whether this will lead to the death of Ortega’s “mass man”, but we can hope.

Although Hugh Howey is the latest writer to experience wild success with self-publishing—and therefore an outlier—he has done us all the favor of soliciting stories from writers who are experiencing moderate success, which he defines as $500-1000 a month. There are a lot of them, and Howey claims that he needs to redefine his earnings range upwards, i.e. a moderately successful writer who self-publishes can earn significantly more than $1000/month.