My dissertation director Mack Hassler turned me onto this New York Times story by Strawberry Saroyan on the recent publishing successes of Amanda Hocking. Following numerous rejections from major publishers and a retooling of her writing for self-publishing on Amazon and Smashwords, she began to see her sales climb exponentially with her brand of romance and fantasy. Now, one of her series has a movie option, and she is signed with St. Martin’s Press for her next books. She leveraged her self-publishing success for a publishing deal with her sights set on the mega-seller big leagues. I can’t say that I have read any of her work, but I am fascinated by her path to success. I believe that we will see more successes with self-publishing in a new model that eschews the digital, open culture paradigm promoted by Cory Doctorow. With the advent of many digital readers and multiple digital bookstores, it seems that we are on the verge of a publishing boom that might eclipse what has come before. As long as self-published authors can price their own work without being forced into pricing schemes by the digital bookstore gatekeepers, I think that self-publishing may be a boon for Internet savvy authors who create a quality or perhaps even semi-quality product. Social media will obviously be an important aspect of growing a following and generating sales, but I believe it will also be necessary to get your books coverage on top-down sites like boingboing.net and book review sites. The trouble with this potential explosion of self-publishing will be sorting the wheat from the chaff. As Alexis Madrigal reports in The Atlantic, spammers are flooding the Kindle store with advertising disguised as content. I am not sure how Amazon or any other digital book marketplace can police these kinds of distractions and irritations without placing undue burdens on ebook authors (e.g., high buy-in investments as in self-publishing of old). I hope that doesn’t happen, and I hope that Amazon, Apple, and others can resolve this problem of content over-saturation before it makes it all but impossible to find anything fresh, new, and un-signed to a brick-and-mortar publisher.
Published by Jason W Ellis
I am an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications. View all posts by Jason W Ellis