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Self-publishing has changed the world for writers

21 November 2016

So what can we say that's positive about the big changes in the situation for authors over the last few years? It's really a matter of the way writers now have the opportunity to get out there and shape their own destiny.

There's very much more focus on writers, with an opening-up of ways to develop and then publish their own work. This starts with the mass of opportunities there are to improve your writing, through attending creative writing courses, which have mushroomed in numbers in both the US and the UK, and are becoming more available elsewhere. There's also been a huge growth in writers' groups, with many writers working together to read and critique each other's work, and a rapidly-developing scene of writers linking together to work on promotion, perhaps for a specific genre.

Amazon has been an important agent of positive change, offering an international market to publishers and, through its Kindle, opening up all the possibilities of reading ebooks on an easy-to-use device which is, of course, linked directly to Amazon's book sales pages. Createspace has integrated self-publishing, sales and distribution in a way that suits many self-publishers, even though others find their discounts crippling.

Other large organisations, such as Ingram, have entered the fray, offering self-publishing services directly to authors, and there are many start-ups directed at the writer as customer.

Many of these rely on self-publishing and this is booming, in terms of the number of titles, if not the sales volumes. The rise of indie authors has literally transformed the way writers can find and interact with their readers, providing an alternative to traditional publishing, which has only become more difficult for authors to access, with most publishers closing their slush-pile and looking only at submissions from agents. Perhaps the rise in the power of agents as brokers is a good thing from the author's point of view, although many feel excluded by the difficulty of finding an agent to take them on in the first place.

The biggest positive has been in the growth of the Internet, which can deliver access to an international market, not just for self-publishing authors, but to any author who can use its possibilities to build up a readership and sell their books. Not every author wants to devote a lot of their time to social media and running a website, but for those who do there is now the opportunity to promote themselves online.

It's probably an advantage for authors that publishers have been forced on the offensive and have been made to adopt ebooks, which have proved remarkably successful for them, even though currently slightly on the decline. The standard 25% royalty may not reflect the split many authors and agents think they should get, but it is still better than any standard hardback or paperback royalties ever were.

There is much more public interest in writers, with them often featuring as news in newspapers and online media. The ‘unpublished author becomes a bestseller' story features repeatedly, with all the publicity angles it offers for the writer in question.

Taken all together, there are a lot of reasons why writers have more opportunities than they had in the past - and much to celebrate.