The Wall Street Journal has a great introduction to the new world of self-publishing:
Much as blogs have bitten into the news business and YouTube has challenged television, digital self-publishing is creating a powerful new niche in books that's threatening the traditional industry. Once derided as “vanity” titles by the publishing establishment, self-published books suddenly are able to thrive by circumventing the establishment.
It’s finally possible to skip the traditional publishers altogether, publishing yourself (via Amazon, for example), and get discovered by fans directly! Of course, you’re own your own with editing (contract it out? ask the significant other?) and advertising (social media, anyone?), and there are no advances on your sales.
On the other hand, there’s no publisher telling you what you can and cannot say (but then again, there’s no publisher/editor telling you what you should say and shouldn’t say…), and no sending your manuscript in–and then never hearing back with more than a form letter.
Instead, you write great stuff, put it up through Amazon, some fans discover you and… presto! You’re rich & famous! Amazon’s discovery algorithms help with this (the more people read and like your work, the more often it gets recommended), but you still need to get that critical mass started (which is one thing a publisher can do for you).
So this is great for fiction. I wonder if it has any possibilities for academic work? How would a department rate your self-published book in terms of tenure decisions? By number of copies sold? (But academic works never sell much.) Somehow, I suspect the academic world will be very, very slow to accept self-published works as “real” publications…
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