Self-Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab is an article in today’s New York Times on how this one area of publishing is booming, while it seems all other areas are scaling back.
The headline itself doesn’t quite fit the article (but oftentimes the headline is written by someone other than the article’s writer) in that many of the prominent self-publishing companies don’t require much of a payment in advance (if any payment at all – see Lulu.com).
The downside of self-publishing, according to the article, is the lack of advance payments and the absence of the marketing efforts that traditional publishers offer. However, when one is publishing a niche book, the marketing offered by a publisher, unless they specifically serve that niche, won’t necessarily do much for sales.
This is, as many things seem to be, reflecting a trend. With web sites, blogs, wikis and other “new” media flourishing, it makes sense to apply many of those principles to the publishing world. I want the traditional publishers to do well; they provide access and support to writers that we would sorely miss if they went out of business. However, I suspect that in five years we will see more self-publishing (especially if you combine the small publishing companies that will form around the idea of print-on-demand and small press runs).
For libraries: prepare to widen your search for materials. Traditional vendors will eventually need to find ways to include these “niche” publications in their offerings; in the meantime Amazon and others will be the primary nesting ground for these books. There will be a period of time in which it will seem that it is harder to find the right books than before; afterwards it will be easier than ever.
There is a concept for all this, not mentioned in the article: The Long Tail.