I struggle with describing myself as a writer, a published author, or indeed a publisher. All three descriptions feel remote, aloof and unobtainable. But nowadays they are not. Anyone can write and anyone can publish. In a sense I have been writing and publishing on my blog for 13 years! Nowadays I could even self publish ‘real’ books—either ebooks or via print on demand.
What is this thing called publishing then? Is it the applied skills of writers, editors, copywriters, designers and printers? Or, if we can increasingly achieve those various ends ourselves, is it mostly a question of marketing budgets? Maybe it is not even that.
I only realised after having my book published that publishers select writers partly on their potential to sell their own books—something that came as a surprise to me. I also discovered that all publishers are not equal. When a friend was whisked away on a book signing tour round the USA I asked, with barely hidden jealousy, how he had managed it. "Ah," he said with a knowing look, "I have an American publisher."
If conventional publishing is not about technical practicalities or marketing heft then, is self-publishing the way to go? Sadly too many of the self-published books that I have bought—indeed most—have been awful. The absence of a gatekeeper in the form of a publisher, combined with the increasing fallibility of the Amazon review system, leaves us open to risk in our purchases.
Roles and expectations are shifting. As I toy with the idea of another book, I look on these shifting sands and have to make a choice. Self-publish or approach a real publisher? Or one of the increasing number of in-between choices? Given that I already enjoy the conferred status of having a ‘proper’ book published I am tempted to try some form of DIY approach, but I don't underestimate the challenges involved. Maybe one day, and hopefully soon, all will become clear.
Euan Semple is the author of Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do: A Manager’s Guide to the Social Web, published by
John Wiley. Visit his website at euansemple.com and follow him on Twitter @euan.