Perhaps I am just by nature a contrarian, though, because I found myself suppressing the urge to caution writers about hopping too eagerly on the self-publishing bandwagon, to examine the process and its claims more critically, lest self-empowerment turn too quickly to self-delusion or disillusionment. Very few workshop leaders discussed the downsides of self-publishing. Milan noted that not everyone has the skills to self-publish, the organizational mind-set or the desire for control. Hart discussed the need to hold off on self-publishing until you have at least three to five books ready to launch, and told audience members to be prepared to offer something new (novel, novella, or short story) at least every month to sixty days, otherwise one's rankings on the all-important amazon.com sales charts would quickly sink. No one mentioned whether a book written and published in a month could match the quality of one over which a writer worked and polished for many months (or even, possibly a year!). Will self-publishing push readers even further into accepting quantity instead of quality?
The new closer relationship readers expect from authors—posting on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites not just about their books, but about their daily lives—is even more vital for the selfpublished author. With no publisher to rely on to get a book into stores, or into the hands of reviewers, self-published authors need to cultivate readers directly. As agent Steve Axelrod noted in an interview for the Popular Romance Project, such cultivation requires a completely different skill set than the one required for writing compelling prose.
The personal sharing social media demands may also give many writers pause. Do your children, your parents, your significant other really want the world at large to know about their hobbies, their likes and dislikes, their foibles? And how much time are you willing to spend cultivating those readers, as opposed to actually writing your stories?
Are you willing to be a "brand" rather than a writer? For I heard the word "brand" far more often than the word "book."
Money, as well as privacy, may be a stumbling block, especially for previously unpublished writers. The initial start-up costs required to produce a professional-quality book might seem small for authors already making a living from their writing, but how many writers will shell out several thousand dollars, hiring editors, copyeditors, cover designers, and promotional experts, only to find that their returns do not come close to recouping the initial expense?
As a reader and a reviewer, I also wonder who will serve as the gatekeepers if and when traditional publishers disappear? If my tastes do not match those of the "average" reader, will I be able to find other sources besides popularity charts to guide my way through the deluge of self-published works likely to flood the market in the coming months and years?
So, am I being too much of a Negative Nellie here? What do you think are the potential up-sides of self-publishing, for romance authors? For their readers? What pitfalls do you see?
Publisher cartoon: David Sipress, The New Yorker
Self-publishing time chart: Ryan Gielen, AppNewser