Friday, December 11, 2009

Traditional Publishers Adopt Self-publishing

In an interesting turn of events, traditional publishers have opened self-publishing divisions: Harlequin has Dellarte and Thomas Nelson has WestBow Press. Harlequin publishes in the romance genre, and Thomas Nelson publishes Christian books. Basic self-publishing for the former is around $600 and around $1,000 for the latter. This decision has caused a stir because these publishers under the new imprints have moved to publishing books for whomever pays the price, rather than as publishers paying writers for books to print and distribute for profit.

There are other possibilities a traditional publishing house could choose. Perhaps something between a publisher choosing to publish a novel or allowing any author to self-publish under its imprint could be possible. A publisher could allow self-publishing under its imprint yet still allow for editorial discretion for who can publish.

A similar situation is already in place with some publishers. Some publishing houses have contests, the winner being published by the house. The writer pays to submit. The publisher makes money and still gets to choose a novel it considers excellent. This isn't much different than self-publishing under a publisher's imprint. Both types of publishers make money by having writers pay rather than the reader.

Publishing houses already establish their reputations (and the house's imprint) on their ability to choose excellent novels. In the future, this may extend to their ability to choose excellent novels of writers who choose (and they allow) to self-publish under their imprint.

Publishing houses would continue to provide credibility and, perhaps, even extend some press for self-published books considered excellent.

Writing associations (and readers) would like some kind of gate-keeping mechanism to sort out the good self-published novels from the bad. Perhaps established traditional publishers moving into sponsoring self-published novels under their imprints will be the answer. Perhaps more will enter the market and begin to compete, lowering the price for publishing a novel with their publishing house name. In the meantime, these new situations stir the publishing world and create interesting reading for both published and unpublished writers.

Note: This post was motivated by 2009 Silver Spur Award winner Carol Buchanan's blog post entitled "Publishers' Shape-shifting" (Dec. 7, 2009). Author of God's Thunderbolt, a self-published novel, Buchanan in her post focuses primarily on the reaction of writer associations to the move by traditional publishers to allow writers to self-publish within their publishing houses. As an award-winning, self-published author, Buchanan's observations are worth reading.

Copyright 2009 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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