Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Is Micro-publishing The Game Changer?

From the wandering mind of Tamela Buhrke.

“Having worked with several micro-publishers this past year, I have noticed that personal empowerment earned via micro-publishing is powerful. It’s like a gateway drug to authorhood.” Christina Katz

It’s like she read my mind... but wrote it better.

Last week I wrote about the changes in the publishing industry and how those changes have given authors more control over their lives. I suggested that these new options provide authors with the power to choose their own publishing route. Then yesterday, Christina Katz (the woman who literally wrote the book on author platforms) wrote a blog post about that very thing.

In fact, she suggests that we no longer look at independent publishers and traditional publishers as an “Us vs. Them,” but as a spectrum of opportunity. Opportunity that comes from getting our hands dirty in the world of publishing and marketing books.

In the post Stop, Drop, and Micro-publish, Katz writes: “Doesn’t it make a lot more sense to try and do everything publishing-wise you can in your lifetime?”

Instead of sending queries and waiting for someone else to decide our fate, this new publishing era has provided us with an unprecedented opportunity to grow and experiment. We can decide the best publishing model for our current book project. Then we might use a very different model on our next project.

Now isn’t that better than just waiting for someone else to hand you your author career?

Katz even suggests that we ditch calling it indie publishing, and switch to micro-publishing. That’s because “indie” suggests that they are different or apart from traditional publishers. In truth, most are doing nearly everything that the big publishing houses do, just on a smaller scale. Calling them micro-publishers acknowledges that a self-published author actually has a greater understanding of the entire publishing process.

Micro-publishers learn fast that they are selling a product. It's an artistic product, but still a product. It needs to be a good product—also known as good writing. But it also has to be a sellable product. That means it needs to find a market. And for those that worry this will stifle creativity, think again. Creative micro-publishers are learning how to find the niche that will buy their type of writing; usually in markets that have been under represented by traditional publishing.

All of this leads to authors who are more confident. They aren’t lined up against the gymnasium wall, terrified that they won’t get picked for the team. They are out there, creating their own game. Finding their own niche and building themselves an author business.

So are micros done with traditional publishing? Heck no! Time and again, we see micro-publishers getting contracts with publishing houses. Some of them are small houses and some large. But savvy micros are choosing them.

Choosing them!

How’s that for a game changer?

Micro-publishers actively create their own publishing options. They build an author platform. Find their markets and build their brand. Then when their books reach a point where further distribution is necessary, they approach publishing houses with all the pieces in place. They go into negotiations with an understanding of how the industry works, where they are in the process, and what they need from a publisher.

Even better, the publisher benefits from this arrangement. They no longer have to take a risk on an author that isn’t tested by the market. They get an author who understands the industry from the inside out. Plus, they can easily build a successful campaign because the author has already laid the marketing groundwork.

And for those who’s micro-publishing ventures didn’t succeed?

They still come out of it with a greater understanding of the market and the publishing process. They see the author experience a lot more clearly. They understand the difficulties and the rewards. Then most of them roll up their sleeves, take what they’ve learned and apply it to their next book publishing adventure.

So what about you? Are you ready to go micro in 2012?


Christina Katz said...

Hi Tamela,
We share some of the same thinking about micro-publishing. But the last thing I want to see is that now we are going to create a third category: not traditional publishing, not indie publishing, but...
I think, in order to understand where I'm coming from with micro-publishing, it helps to read my new book, The Writer's Workout. Because it's not going to be us and them (long form publishers vs. short form publishers), everyone has to do everything. At least the most successful writers will be the most flexible. That's the only aspect that I wanted to clarify about my position on what I was I was saying, otherwise, I think we are in agreement.

Tamela Buhrke said...

Hi Christina,
We are in complete agreement! This post is just one on a series about ALL the publishing options available to authors.

I really liked your take on micro-publishing and how it empowers writers so I wanted to include it in the options.

Next week my focus will be on Small Press publishing.

j. a. kazimer said...

Great post Tam. I love the chance to take control over my own career.

Nathan Lowell said...

Thanks, Tamela. Right on the mark.

I've been a micro-publisher for a long time now and it's certainly an effort that's paid off handsomely for me. It's not for everybody but there's nothing quite like the satisfaction of seeing the success of your own efforts in telling -- and selling -- stories direct to readers.

Karen Duvall said...

I really like the label "micro-publishing." Kind of like micro-brewery. It has that independent yet professional flavor to it and it's a real business.

In some ways traditional publishing (as in the Big 6) might be looked at as investors in your book who pay for the product before it's created and manufactured. They invest in your idea, but obviously take a significant part of the profits once it's on the market. Just one more way to look at things.

Anonymous said...

I loved the standing against the gym wall image. One balancing act I've heard about is that of successfully hitting your market to the point of saturation - turns publishers off, I hear. As does poor sales. Damned if you do. Damned if you don't. This is a new world for the brave. Thanks for the post, Tamela. Karen Lin

Tamela Buhrke said...

Hi Nathan - I'm always so happy to see your comments on these posts. You've done so much right with your micro-publishing career and now with your shift to small press. I actually point to you as a role model for many of my students.

Karen D - I like the micro-brewery connection too! The "indie" label always had a artsy feel. It felt temporary like as if it was something we'd outgrow.
The idea of publishing companies being like angel investors is intriguing. It would make sense that the new model might be that authors build part of their business and then go to these "angels" (cough) to expand the business.

Karen L - I haven't heard about the saturation problem before. Heh. I think that's a problem I'd like to have. You'd have to sell a lot of books. At 70%, I don't think I'd be too worried about getting a publisher. We can dream.

Anonymous said...

K-Lin: "Saturation"? What does that term MEAN anymore? Look at the world! Anyone can sell ANYTHING...just have to have the intent and put out some frigging effort. All kinds of crappy stuff sells, from books to movies to blenders.

Sorry, but can't help but feel it's sour grapes, v. hops....

Nancy said...

I'm a micropublisher based in Canada (Michael Grass House). I learned from experience how little it costs to publish a book. By targeting just Amazon, Kindle, and the like, and preventing bookstore sales, I can keep costs rock-bottom while placing books where they'll sell.

Old-fashioned publishing is expensive and cumbersome. But the truth is it's very, very cheap to publish a book and get it selling. As the old-style publishing houses crumble, it's great that there are lean alternatives.

Joe said...

I'm a novice to this whole micropublishing world so please pardon me for my basic questions. How exactly does someone find or read your publication? Do they search for it on a Kindle or on an iPad? I assume it's all digital (i.e. micropublishing is not about physical books). What tools do you use to get your publication laid out and produced? Is the end product a .pdf or something more sophisticated?

Again, sorry for my ignorance.

Drew Bourke said...

We just started using for online publishing of eBooks, birth announcements, business communications and more. WordPress is great once you've got it all set up and optimized, but sometimes communications need their own space, and delivered with impact. Am I nuts, or do we need some alternatives to Blogger and WordPress when a single page is all we need?