Self-publishing may be the new slush pile. In the past, the slush pile has been the pile of unsolicited manuscripts sent by aspiring authors in hopes of being picked up by a publisher. Now, some publishers are looking to pick up books that have already proven to be successful. They offer authors bigger advances and they take on less risk in doing so.
One example is best-selling author Jennifer L. Armentrout, whose successful self-published book Wait for You, got her a six-figure, three-book with HarperCollins. Armentrout said she couldn’t even get an agent until after her first book was out.
This approach makes publishers similar to venture capitalists. By picking self-published books, they are nurturing author growth instead of helping develop an author.
But not every author wants to typical deal that goes with traditional publishing. Author Hugh Howey turned down many offers from publishers who wanted both the print and e-book rights. He opted to go with Simon & Schuster once they offered him a print only deal.
Print books still matter, especially when it comes to big bestsellers. Having physical displays in multiple bookstores, supermarkets, specialty stores, and even airports and train stations can really help boost reach and sales. Having the print book available all over also gives it a constant presence, which people may notice more than if it just lived online. Offering print books also makes impulse buying easier.
It will be interesting to see the publishing landscape a couple years from now. By having self-publishing as the new slush pile, we’ll probably see more and more hybrid authors, who both self-publish and have books traditionally published. And it will be up to the publishers to continue to show the value they add to authors.