Avid book readers and literature fans (mainstream or self-published) will probably be unaware of the silent revolution taking place behind-the-scenes whereby specialist companies offer aspiring, hopeful, talented and mediocre writers the opportunity for do-it-yourself publishing.
A few years ago people used to spit at the very mention of ‘vanity publishing’, with the exception of those souls so desperate to see themselves in print that they forked out wads of cash for pretty shabby covers, uncertain print quality (essentially high grade copying) and so-called marketing services.
Real publishers wouldn’t be seen dead sharing a drink with these people at book fairs and official gatherings nor would they deign to look at self-published work. Bookstores with their established suppliers (mainly sale or return) would never stock a title from one of these companies. They did provide ISBN numbers which kind of made them THE publisher, certainly of that edition.
But things are changing.
Author Solutions is a group that owns what were formerly independent publishing services operations: iuniverse, Trafford, Author House, Xlibris, Booktango and others. I confess I have not trawled through these services in any depth in order to discover their differences, similarities or costs.
There still remain other established operations such as Lulu and Bootlocker but Author Solutions seems to have grown and now has achieved the notable position of being bought by Pearson, the publishing conglomerate, and positioned firmly in the Penguin camp.
What has surprised me is the rival publisher Simon & Schuster has also concluded a deal to work in partnership with Author House irrespective of the Penguin connection.
What does all this mean?
On the one hand it makes realistic business sense as a way of siphoning some of the profit from the self-publishing boom and directing less worthy projects down what they may still regard as a second division publishing route.
What does it mean for writers? I’m not sure I know yet. It will probably be just as difficult to get good books published as they battle against the dross mountain. But will it offer opportunities for Penguin and S&S to cherry pick titles for ‘real’ publication and some reasonable marketing push?
Time will tell as always but it does seem to be another turn of the screw in a publishing industry swamped by manuscripts (mine among them, dear readers) and a growing recognition of a change in the publishing, distribution and customer preference chain.
If anyone has any lucid thoughts on this let me know.