Just like blogging allows someone to write something and share it online, it is also possible to publish things on websites for promotion and distribution. You can share videos you make on YouTube, and music or PodCasts you create on iTunes. You can also share writing. Not just straight-to-the-web, free-to-view writing. You can now publish and sell your own work in paperback and ebook form.
Before, to "self-publish" meant that you needed to finance all of the printing yourself. You needed to be responsible for all of your marketing, and you were going to need a lot of cash to make any of it happen. Booksellers were unlikely to touch self-published works, and the lack of internet meant that there were no ebooks and no online distributors. There was no Facebook or Twitter to help you spread the word about your published work. What a sweat!
Now, self-publishing is cheap and easy to do. Websites like Lulu and CreateSpace allow you to publish your work in simple steps. CreateSpace is even owned by Amazon, which means that anything you create with them can be purchased through the Amazon website.
Easy, easy, easy. So, if it is so easy, how successful is it? Do people read self-published books...or do they avoid them like a virus?
A lot of people don't read self-published books, simply because they don't have any knowledge of them. You will still be hard-pressed to find a self-published book in a bookstore, but with online buying becoming more popular, it isn't too much of a problem. Like any book, you need to rely on word-of-mouth to get people to be knowledgeable of your book's existence.
In order to generate word-of-mouth, you need readers. Plenty of people get ideas of what to read from magazines and newspaper reviews, but also online reviews on blogs, bookseller websites and book databases. If you can get an avid reader or book reviewer raving about your book to their followers, it won't matter that your book is self-published.
The trouble is getting those readers to even consider a self-published book. It's true that a lot of people avoid reading books that aren't published through publishing houses. It is widely thought that if you do not have a literary agent or a publisher, your work was probably rejected on the basis of poor quality. These are the industry professionals, after all.
Does rejecting a book solely on the account that it is self-published make someone a book snob? I don't think so. It is often said, "So many books, so little time..." If there are so many books that someone wants to read already, it can be a hard task to take a chance on a book that may not be high-quality.
I'm not against self-publishing or reading self-published books. I like the idea of someone being able to take control of how their work is handled and distributed, if that it the route they want to take. I also like the romanticism of finding a gem, a secret treasure. Of course, there is no guarantee that I will like a particular book, whether it is traditionally or self-published.
I've not read many self-published novels, so I haven't had a range of raving experiences with them. Would I venture into reading more? Sure...but I'd have to be hooked on the premise, and I'd want to sample the beginning of the text to see what the writing is like, just like I would with any novel I was curious about.
There have been some great success stories with self-published authors. That doesn't mean that it will happen for everyone, but it is possible. Also, just because a ton of people rave about a book – self-published or otherwise – does not mean that everyone will like it. It all depends on the individual – what genres they like to read, how many books they have lined up already, and how willing they are to take a risk on an author they haven't read before.
What's your preference? Do you read self-published works? Under what circumstances would you be open to giving one a shot?