One of the fiercest debates among authors, aspiring authors, and the communities in which they operate in recent times has been over the relative merits and demerits of traditional publishing and desktop publishing. Where once only a lucky or gifted few (remove them based on your preferences or biases) were able to make the giant leap from mere aspiring to best-selling author, now anyone who is able to follow a few fairly simple instructions can publish and sell. his works to a potential market of millions.
The word “potential” is of course crucial here, as the downside of releasing one’s work through the relatively new medium of desktop publishing is that the writer is entirely responsible for making his or her work known to those who might buy it. . . Whereas a traditional publisher, having fired a sometimes considerable advance payment in exchange for the author’s soul, would be driven by his own interest in recouping his losses and then making a profit, there is no such other interest in the work when the lone author publishes via a DIY platform. From day one, the self-publisher by necessity becomes a self-marketer. With more than a million books already on the virtual shelf and counting, the task is not easy.
It goes without saying that the first thing on which the success or not of a work will depend is its quality. A silk purse cannot be made from the ear of a proverbial sow, and neither can a tome full of typographical errors be reasonably marketed as a literary masterpiece. In the world of traditional publishing, professionals modify and tone imperfect manuscripts until they become perfect manuscripts. This is not the case when they are sent directly to a retailer using an unmanned formatting program. Get it wrong and it will continue wrong.
On the opposite side of the coin, although the same standard does not hold. To use an obvious truism, an invisible work of art will remain invisible as long as no one sees it, and there is no automatic correlation between its quality as a work and the exposure it receives. Once an article is published, no matter how good it is, the imperative shifts from production to distribution.
Thus, in desktop publishing, the responsibility falls on the writer, who is also the publisher, to also become a marketer. Usually, the author’s family and friends will be the first to show their support by purchasing copies. Then social media needs to be fully exploited, before articles and links from specialized forums, guest posts on relevant blogs, and reviews achieved by fair or not-so-fair means finally come into play. If all goes according to plan, once these channels have been depleted, a side wave of word-of-mouth interest will have been generated, so the anticipated process will eventually, albeit rather slowly, get under way.
Is desktop publishing worth it? For those who are unlikely to find a traditional editor, no doubt. For those who can possibly do it, such as the time saved and the more generous royalties certainly need to be taken into consideration as well. But it’s not a walk in the park, and for some, writing the book is actually the easy part.