My last blog spotlighted 2016 predictions from some of the publishing industry’s top thought leaders. That round-up of experts featured Joel Friedlander, Dana Lynn Smith, David Leonhardt, David Bricker, Ricardo Fayet, Joanna Penn, Chris Well, Alexander Greenwood and Mark Coker. Their insights and prognostications are illuminating for both novice and veteran writers.
As a follow-up, over the next several months, I will be covering some of the innovations and industry enhancements they forecasted, in an effort to drill down on topics of consequence for self-publishers in the coming year.
An ‘Artisanal’ By Any Other Name?
Author Alexander Greenwood pointed to the emergence of the ‘artisanal author’ as a differentiator in distinguishing the self-publishers of the past from those who are at the forefront of the movement in 2016:
“I think we will see the beginning of dominance in the indie market by artisanal authors. By artisanal, I mean serious authors who write good books employing professional editors and cover designers, marketed in a more professional way. I think better quality eBooks and POD offerings will start to crowd out the schlocky, obviously thrown-together stuff. Consumers have had enough of junk, and the market will reflect that,” predicts Greenwood.
"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" is a frequently referenced quote from William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. Uttered by Juliet, her intent was to underscore that Romeo’s worth should not be assessed by his name, even though he was a member of the Capulet’s rival's house of Montague. This reference is often used to imply that a name does not affect what something really is.
In the case of the word “artisanal” there is a distinction that can be made between it and the term self-publisher – specifically by those who invested in vanity presses at the turn of the century. These were folks who were more concerned about getting their name into print than honing their craft and elevating their work with an attention to detail.
The term "vanity press" itself kind of says it all. By today’s standards, it is a pejorative term used to imply an emphasis on ego versus professionalism. With vanity publishing the author secures a third party to simply print a book as-is, without any type of a screening process.
Today’s artisanal authors want to present themselves in the best possible light, not only so they can compete with the works of traditional publishers, but also so they can raise the bar for the self-publishing field at large.
Artisanal is derived from the Medieval term “artisan” which applies to any product made by hand. From a marketing and advertising perspective, it can apply to everything from cuisine to home-brewed beers –when one’s craft is raised to the level of artistry.
The Kawasaki Method
For early self-publishers, Guy Kawasaki’s APE: Author- Publisher – Entrepreneur – How to Publish (co-written with Shawn Welch) quickly became the seminal resource book for any DIY (do-it-yourself) writer.
Similar to Greenwood’s description, “artisanal publishing” for Guy is a comprehensive process for producing and distributing books. It goes far beyond a brain-dump experience of simply getting the printed word to the digital page. The artisanal author is one who goes the extra nine yards to score in all aspects of the book’s creative development.
Kawasaki’s method for artisanal publishing encourages writers who truly love their craft to control every aspect of the process from start to finish.
Down through the centuries, the imprint of a legacy publisher was the gold standard, the Good Housekeeping seal of approval and the quality control for books all rolled into one. If your work was accepted by one of the Top Five publishers, you passed the test and were content to rest on your laurels, while the publishing house designed, edited, promoted and distributed your work
New technology however shifted that paradigm in the 21st Century. Now, according to Forbes‘ contributor Kathy Caprino, “the proxy of quality is how your books fare in terms of reviews and ratings” on iBook, Kindle, Smashwords and other self-publishing platforms.” In essence, the artisanal writer is the ruler of his or her own destiny. But also, the onus of all the work now falls squarely on his or her shoulders.
Kawasaki notes that when readers contemplate buying your eBook today, they pay less attention to the publisher. They look instead at the ratings and reviews received from the audience. Why? Because now your critiques are consumer-generated. Your new stamp of approval comes from the end-user, no longer from an intermediary.
Over the course of the last decade, Kawasaki’s foresight has proven to be invaluable: “Artisanal publishing features writers who love their craft, and who control every aspect of the process from beginning to end. In this new approach, writers are no longer at the mercy of large, traditional publishers, and readers will have more books to read.”
Are you an Artisanal Publisher?
Or are you just a self-publisher? Do you care enough to take every precaution to present your book in the best light? Or are you satisfied just to have your name attached to the work? Yes, there are additional costs involved when you take the artisanal route, because you will need to seek out a professional editor, book-designer and or marketing team to get it to that next level — particularly if you lack those inherent skills. If you’re working with a smaller budget, you need to start learning as much as you can about writing, producing and marketing your book. This way you will be able to understand what to expect from the professionals you hire to help you.
So why not take advantage of this golden opportunity? If today’s self-publishing opportunity is the best thing that’s happened to writers in quite a while, don’t we owe it to ourselves to stop calling ourselves simply self-publishers, and instead start proudly distinguishing ourselves as artisanal publishers?
Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks.com as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear bi-weekly on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month.
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