Saturday, March 15, 2014

Self-Publishing Leads to Big Traditional Publishing Deal

There's a nice piece in the New York Times about cartoonist Randall Munroe:

Tech's Favorite Cartoonist Enters Mainstream Publishing

This seems to me to be the perfect end game for self-publishers.  You build a small audience, put out your own books on-line, and eventually a big publisher comes around and offers "as much money as I could to just throw at him."  At that point, the writer/creator can work as a team with a big company that has the resources to grow his/her audience even larger.

Some of the most vocal advocates of self publishing… cough… J. A. Konrath… seem to think that not only is print dying, but that's a great thing for self-publishing.  He compares books to VCR's and fax machines and tape cassettes.  I think a better comparison is radio, which isn't going away anytime soon.  Radio was predicted to die once television came around, and it didn't.  Printed books, of course, were predicted to die when radio came around and then again when movies, television and now the internet arrived.  If printed books do disappear, it's not likely to happen for at least another hundred years.

That doesn't mean that digital won't continue to grow and even dominate publishing.  Serious readers might mostly read digital books.  But the joys of owning some paper and flipping through it aren't likely to lose their appeal.  Often people buy books in the same way they buy nick nacks and decorations.  They look pretty and they're fun to touch.  And you can read them.

So rather than see traditional print publishing as the enemy, I think it's better to view it as an additional market to be explored once the time is right.  It seems like Randal Munroe handled everything exactly the right way.  He created without a gatekeeper, but when a lucrative offer came to help him expand his audience, he took it without fear of losing control or trying to maintain the "purity" of digital.

I look forward to flipping through his new book the next time I wander through airport bookstore, and maybe I'll even buy one.

No comments:

Post a Comment