Some time ago I wrote a post on self-publishing, and why I’m not planning to go that route. I was at the Ontario Writer’s Conference on the weekend, and sitting in a session on pitching work to agents and publishers, the inevitable question came up. “Why not self-publish.” The session’s facilitator was Hilary McMahon, of Westwood Creative Artists (a Toronto agency). She did a good job of explaining the value that publishers add in the value chain. It’s increasingly difficult in a cluttered marketplace to make your work stand out, especially if it’s one of thousands of self-published novels. The publishers’ network of reps, distribution deals, and cross media relationships will help lift your book above the crowd. Which is not an insubstantial advantage. However, here’s a couple of other reasons she didn’t mention (and which I didn’t mention in my first post):
1) If you self-publish, you can’t apply for grants. Living in Toronto, I can apply for grants from the Toronto Arts Council, The Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts, but only if I’m going the traditional publishing route. They will not fund self-published projects.
2) If you’re hoping to win the Giller (or any other major award) you can forget it if you self-publish. The major prizes are not awarded to self-published novels, no matter how good there are. True, there are a few prizes for self-published novels (and I think we can expect more in the future) but none of them come close to the traditional prizes for credibility (and, frankly, cold hard cash).
Will this all change in the next decade? Probably. Will this lead to greater diversity, and make it easier for authors to succeed by non-traditional routes? I very much doubt it. It’s much more likely to result in a less diverse market, where choice collapses to the major author ‘brands’. I really hope I’m wrong about that, but the economics of the business points that way.