What Is Self-Publishing, Exactly?

What Is Self PublishingWhat Is Self-Publishing?

Understanding what business you are in is not always easy to define.

One well-known story goes that US railroad companies failed because they were of the firm belief that they were in the railroad business.

They transported people, freight, mail and livestock, yet when the motor vehicle started to have an adverse effect on their businesses, they were so set in their thinking and ways that they could not come to the logical conclusion that they were in fact in the transportation business.

Today, newspapers are having a very difficult time, as the Internet has adversely affected their circulation and profitability.

Of course, newspaper publishers blame the delivery of news for free by the Internet as the reason for the decrease in circulation and income. But news never ever had any value.

Newspapers have always made their money from selling advertising space and classified ads, and not from selling news.

Newspaper publishers are in the advertising business, yet except for a rare few, who have adapted to the Internet and business reality, most newspapers are still holding firm to their belief that they are in the business of selling news.

For those of us who call ourselves self-publishers, perhaps we should take a moment to think about what it is that we do. Yes, we publish, and we add the suffix self, so we do it ourselves. But what is self-publishing, exactly?

publish |ˈpʌblɪʃ|

verb [ with obj. ]

1 prepare and issue (a book, journal, or piece of music) for public sale: we publish practical reference books | [ no obj. ] : the pressures on researchers to publish.

• print (something) in a book or journal so as to make it generally known: we pay £5 for every letter we publish.

• (usu. as adj.published) prepare and issue the works of (a particular writer): a published author.

• formally announce or read (an edict or marriage banns).

2 Law communicate (a libel) to a third party.

DERIVATIVES

publishable adjective

ORIGIN Middle English (in the sense ‘make generally known’): from the stem of Old French puplier, from Latin publicare ‘make public’, from publicus (see public).

For me, the most important part of the definition of publishing is, to make public, which does not restrict the definition of a self-publisher to merely that of an author who writes and then publishes a book of fiction and tries to sell it on Amazon Kindle.

The words you are reading here are now public, and as I wrote them and published them myself on my blog for you to read, this article must also be self-published.

While this is only an opinion piece and not news, at least I am one step ahead of some newspapers, which also write mountains of opinion pieces, as I fully understand the zero income value of my words – hence the need for me to carry some advertising space on my blog to pay for my hosting costs and means of distribution.

The ability to self-publish began with the advent of weblogs, which quickly became contracted to the word blogs.

They serve as the modern vehicle for those who want to make public, their views, ideas, or to entertain, and as a vehicle to earn an income.

Soon after blogs became popular, the invention of the ebook gave writers another public platform, but in essence, they are exactly the same. Blogs and ebooks are simply very small data files that can be sent out for (almost) free into the public domain in microseconds.

However, these very small data files can also be protected and sold, or made available for free, or be free but supported by advertising income.

As a self-publisher, you have the choice and the means to make your writing public in a number of ways, and to create either a small business or a passive income stream from your work.

But perhaps it would be wise to keep in mind what business you are in. Are you an author, a book publisher, a blogger or a writer?

Are you in the bookselling business or the advertising business? I would say none of these are truly accurate. They are only parts of the whole that has many facets.

Self-publishing is an information and entertainment business.

This sounds like a very good business to be in. Are you exploring and keeping abreast of all the self-publishing avenues and possibilities that are available to increase the income potential from your writing, apart from publishing an ebook on Kindle and hoping it will sell?

Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

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