The digital age has turned publishing on its head. Writers now have more options than ever before to get their voices out into the world. A writer can now publish a book professionally, find a respectable readership and be reviewed in mainstream media, all without the imprimatur of a publishing house. Whether or not they are heard – whether or not that is their goal – is another question, and one I’ll explore in another piece.
Joel Naoum, publisher, editor and founder of Critical Mass Consulting discussed self-publishing with a group of interested writers at the NSW Writers’ Centre on 7 April 2017 . I caught up with Joel later and we talked further about the new face of publishing.
The freedom of the digital era to publish new writers or new books by existing writers, without having to bow to strictures such as shelf space, has been liberating. The market is out there. Despite fears, people still want to read books and look for an immersive reading experience in a traditional mould – the long form book – without interactive websites, reading apps, or distracting hyperlinks. Genre fiction – with its high turnover – has found a natural fit with digital publishing and romance, particularly, is now more than 50 per cent digital.
The accessibility and cost-effectiveness of digital publishing is a logical destination for self-publishers. Critical Mass is an advisory service for writers who have written a book, or thinking about writing one, and are exploring self-publishing options. After working as an editor at Macmillan and then heading up its digital imprint, Momentum, he launched Critical Mass Consultancy to fill what he saw as a gap in the market. With writers wanting to put books into the public domain and the IT capabilities and platforms available, the missing links were connecting the two.
Marketing is the behemoth which forestalls many writers. Joel confirmed that so much of traditional publishing is the grind of marketing – copy, covers, blurbs, promotions – and shepherding the writer through the process. He acknowledged that the most successful self-published authors were either adept at this, or learnt quickly how to outsource it to professionals. Becoming a successful self-published author is akin to becoming a small businessperson – the most innovative, the bravest do well. That said, an authentic presence is essential. He encouraged writers to use platforms with which they were familiar and were most likely to suit their genre.
He agreed with my concerns that self-publishing has pushed these functions onto the writers, but more control over your authorial voice is no small compensation. The sense that the reading public is in danger of being swamped is certainly there but he is confident that the cream will rise to the surface. Advice on how to navigate that road to get the best book possible is probably a good investment.