On Tuesday night we attended another successful and interesting Tech Tuesday – run by London Book Fair – event at the delightful Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch. The focus of the event was self-publishing and how it compares and contrasts with traditional publishing. The panel consisted of Orna Ross, both self- and traditionally published author, and founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, David Shelley, Publisher at Little, Brown, and Brenda Van Camp, CMO Blurb and Andrew Crofts, Author and Ghostwriter joined the Director of The London Book Fair, Jacks Thomas, for a debate on the Rise and Rise of Self-Publishing.
The evening saw the panel debate the positives and negatives of both self-publishing and traditional publishing. The discussion kicked off with Andrew Crofts explaining that in the first instance there were storytellers, then publishers who had the money to spread the stories and somewhere along the way it became more about the money being made and pleasing the publisher than about telling your story. Crofts explained that this advent of self-publishing is handing more power back to the storytellers and getting the stories out to the people who want to read them. This was one debate of many which divided opinions about traditional publishers and self publishers…. and one of many that led to the conclusion that however you publish, the reader must be your focus.
This direct to consumer trend was one that flowed throughout the evening and as we’re into Social Media Week, the role that social media plays in publishing (self or otherwise) was a hot topic. Social Media allows authors to interact with the readers without the channel of the publisher or agent which is a fantastic recipe for self publishing. However we can’t forget that it also allows consumers to communicate back directly to the author or brand creating a true bond between reader and the source of the story. It’s not just a “Direct to Consumer” market, it’s also “Consumer Direct to Brand” one. This doesn’t need to stop with self publishers though and traditional publishers can take away from this a key message: that engaging with the readership will make a very powerful product proposition.
In general, self publishing can be seen as a liberating and wonderful process in its own right but it can also be viewed as a challenge to the traditional publishers, encouraging them to step up their game. Self publishing breaks down several boundaries: how to market a product, what is “publish-able” content and even what makes a “book”. Publishers can’t be complacent. We must all be better at what we do and whatever we do, make sure that we don’t lose sight of our raison d’etre – bringing stories to readers.