While I was brainstorming what I wanted to write this piece about (my version of brainstorming looking very much like drinking coffee and reading on my Kindle), I had a strange thought, which bloomed into a veritable forest of queries. What, I wondered, did the process of self-publication entail? How has the e-book changed the game, both for publisher and authors? Is it possible for average authors to make a living this way? After a mild argument with myself, I switched to decaf and went to work researching.
Amazon, it turns out, offers Kindle Direct Publishing ( https://kdp.amazon.com/ ) to anyone who has an account. There are several different programs for prospective authors to use in publishing e-books, but I think Amazon’s effort deserves place of pride for many reasons. Primarily, it is exceptionally user-friendly. As long as you put together and submit your work according to their rules, they will generally have it published and for sale within twenty four hours. Another major boon is the size of their audience. Publishing with Amazon means putting your work in front of an enormous amount of people, ostensibly translating to sales.
As with any business venture, however, there are negative aspects. While Amazon likes to advertise a 70% takeaway of profits on the part of the author, there are decidedly undermentioned caveats. First and foremost, if a sale is made outside of the United States or a specific collection of countries, the author gets 35% of the profits, due to the cost of trading in foreign currency. The same reduction is applicable if the work in question is published anywhere but on Amazon, or if it fails to meet minimum or maximum price guidelines (https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A30F3VI2TH1FR8#1-2_why_35 ). Obviously I understand that a business has to make fiscally responsible decisions, but I do wish some of these points were more clearly laid out in the advertisements, rather than hidden in the fine print. Even with those restrictions, I think Amazon offers an amazing service that should be celebrated.
Perhaps the most incredible thing that can be said about KDP is that it removes entry barriers, and de-stigmatizes self-publication to a high degree. Hugh Howey, author of the Wool series has stated that “Most of my months are six-figure months” (http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/07/tech/mobile/kindle-direct-publish/ ). Many authors like Howey have found financial and critical success in self-publication, success that might have eluded them completely had they stuck with traditional publication. By removing basically any restrictions on what can or cannot be published, Amazon, and businesses like them, have opened the floodgates. The resulting deluge of work can (fairly) be criticized as being typically bad, but it can also be recognized for enticing and developing some truly great writers. The great benefit of these communities is that they offer autonomy, as well as judgment-free support from a huge range of authors and readers, professional and amateur, in polishing authors.
I think that self-publication will not only grow at an extraordinary rate in the future, but that it will contribute to the creation of a new generation of great writers. Somewhere right now there are authors taking root, men and women who are obsessively honing their craft and growing under the tutelage and financial support of a broad community of literature-lovers. With the right environment, and enough people supporting them, they will surely bloom into something wonderful. What, dear reader, do you think of that?