The Shifting Sands of Publishing

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about recently, as the recessionDepression widens.

There’s a fairly well-known stigma to self-publishing. Self-publishing isn’t “real” publishing — it’s the domain of people who couldn’t get published traditionally, etc. etc.

The ground beneath our feet is shifting. My own experience in the growing electronic publishing segment of the games industry has afforded me a front-row seat to the growth of the long tail model, the so-called democratization of distribution, etc. — Musicians, including big names like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, are self-publishing content and selling direct to consumers.

The publishing industry is in disarray: Houghton Mifflin has put a freeze on new acquisitons, and has this week announced layoffs. Random House is restructuring. Simon & Schuster are cutting jobs, too. Smaller houses are taking a hit, as well.

All of this swirls around my head — tied into the thoughts that I have sometimes about how the past decade I’ve spent in the games industry sometimes feels like wasted time, time spent not doing the sort of writing that I want to do.

I’m struck by a troubling thought. What if, by the time I finally get something together that I think is good enough to submit for publication, the publishing industry has gotten itself to the point where a far better option would be self-publication and distribution via Amazon, etc.?

In other words — the sort of thing that I could have already been doing for the past 4 years or so?

It would be just my luck to have avoided doing something out of a sense of stigma for years, only to have the model shift while I labored, to the point where it not only makes sense to do, but makes it obvious that I should have been doing it all along (e.g. My attitude regarding PDF games publishing, 1997 to 2003).

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