These are just a few examples of great articles on the how-to’s and importance of the author platform, and I will definitely continually refer to them as try to build up my own platform. But as I read these and so many other articles like them, it makes me wonder if publishers and agents are slowly putting themselves out of business with the increasing emphasis that they place on authors creating their own audience and promoting themselves. It’s obvious that the days are long gone when an author could sit in seclusion, cranking out new books and then passing them off to their agent or publisher to market and sell. But if more and more of the marketing and promotion responsibility falls to the author, what role does that leave for the publisher and agent?
I have long been an advocate of going the traditional publishing route versus the self-publishing route. One of the main reasons for that has been that I’m not an expert in book distribution, promotion and sales. While I enjoy speaking at conferences and doing school visits, I want to be a full time author, not a full time marketer. But if traditional publishing continues down its current path, that might be exactly what I need to do to be a successful author.
Of course, another important role for the traditional publisher and agent is to be the gatekeeper, to make sure only the highest quality books make it to market. But with the exponential rise of epublishing, are they really needed as gatekeepers anymore? Word of mouth and social interchanges of discerning readers have the ability to determine which books are worth reading or not. In many ways, traditional publishers and agents are being seen by many authors as road blocks to publication rather than vehicles to publication.
It reminds me of an interchange I had with an author friend about a year ago, in which I was suggesting that she steer clear of the self-publishing route and go with a traditional publisher. She basically said, “Been there, done that. It was a financial fiasco.” She then told me that due to the publisher’s standard royalty rate that she didn’t make nearly as much money as she thought she could. Inwardly I thought, well that’s just the way it is; the publisher gets their cut, the distributor gets their cut, and retail gets their cut. That’s life. But then she told me about her author platform of more than 30,000 dedicated followers who would instantly buy her new book whether or not it came from a traditional publisher. She built up her author platform so well that she really didn’t need any more of what the publisher had to offer her.
Along similar lines, an article two days ago in the New York Times talks about how Amazon’s vision of end-to-end publishing services has publishers running scared because it leaves them completely out of the publishing loop. For authors that have built up a popular marketing platform, Amazon offers a compelling and more profitable option than the traditional route.
Although, I’m still an avid proponent of the role that traditional publishers and agents can play in regard to author success, as the ebook industry evolves and as publishers and agents shift more and more of what used to be their responsibility to the author I have to wonder what role they will leave for themselves, if any.
What are your thoughts about the growing emphasis on the author platform and self-promotion?
How do you see that increased emphasis affecting the role of publishers and agents?