Monday, October 4, 2010

Bootstrap Publishing: A Look at the Current Market

There's a subject out there that has been discussed, researched, and disected to such a degree, the new author may find themselves in a conundrum of sorts. How do I publish? What constitutes success in publishing today?

As a potential new author I find myself standing at a crossroads. I am a traditionalist by nature. I like to do things the way they have always been done. Is it my generation category? Is it just personal? I don't know. What I do know is the business of publishing is changing as quickly as new technology enters the market.

Growing up in a bootstrap state also plays a role in how I view the way things should be done. For those of you who are unaware of what a bootstrap state is I will define it for you briefly. A bootstrap state is a State, such as the one I live in, North Dakota, where you are expected to make your own way without a lot of assistance from others; AND do things the way they have always been done. There's not a lot of wiggle room for new technology or methodology. Granted, things are changing here, especially in Fargo, but the underlying message is still - tradition.

I have always believed if a professional person does not believe that my work is worth publishing it probably isn't. However, after months of research and market trend analysis, I have discovered the closed markets in the United States and the United Kingdom are having a significant impact on new authors. New authors are clammoring to the POD and vanity presses for the simple reason it seems they can no longer access the market any other way. Over the last few months, I have come across authors who are seeking publication in India, Germany, and even China, for the simple openness of the market in those countries.

The 'slush pile' seems to be an accurate term for the countless numbers of manuscripts received on a daily basis by publishing companies and agents across the US and UK. In this author's opinion, I feel that the slush pile is now making its way to the market via self-publishing - regardless of quality. I can't say that everything that is self-published is not worth publishing. In fact, I won't say that. I think, based on my own quest for publication, that it is frustrating and nearly futile to try to enter the publishing market in the US and UK. I think that we are seeing the frustration showing up on websites like Amazon all over the world.

The question each of us new authors need to ask ourselves at this point is: "Is it worth it to pursue traditional publishing?" Do we even have a chance to enter the market taking the path most traveled? Somehow, I don't think so. It's not a criticism of the publishing companies. After all, they are in the business of making money for themselves as well as the author. I think they are so overwhelmed with the sheer number of inquiries, are subjet to the economic state of the country, and having to deal with the new competitors they just can't seem to get a handle on what to do next.

The current solution seems to be to bootstrap publish - do that which they know works and keep doing it. Take on celebrity and known authors for sure sales and to hell with the rest. But what happens when there are no more celebrities? Known authors become stale in the market? All the gems in the slush pile have moved on to more lucrative sales and marketing methods; or, are publishing in other countries and have lost interest in the traditional publishers?

It might sound like a new author whine fest here, but it's not. It's a new author taking a realistic look at the market and gauging the chances of actually achieving publication through traditional means. Perhaps, just perhaps, she is grabbing hold of her own bootstraps and preparing to go into vertical market publication and not worrying about whether a traditional publisher is interested or not. Maybe, just maybe, there are many more out there who are doing the same thing. No whinning, no venting, no begging or pleading agents or publishers to please read my manuscript, just going about the business of putting their books in the hands of the public the best way they know how.

I used to think it was about quality of writing. I honestly did believe that for a long time. Now, I'm pretty sure it is more about the business of bootstrap publishing on the parts of agents, publishers, and authors. The publishing world will never be the same. The competition in the market has exploded exponentially. It's time to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get the job done in the way that fits each of us best. Neither is better; only one is easier and less frustrating. It will be interesting to see the way the market shakes out in the next year or so. Until then, keep writing, keep working, and never give up.