Pardon me as I take a break from my writing to write. I’m writing a lot. I’m not alone. The number of writers is increasing. The barriers to publishing are falling. I haven’t found a way to invest in this trend except to participate. I haven’t found a stock to buy, but I can spend my time and possibly generate a profitable return. Power to the people – and in this case, opportunities to the authors!
As a individual stock investor I watch trends. Trend spotting is an imperfect art. Some trends I’ve caught nicely: coffee via Starbucks (SBUX), digital animation via Pixar (was PIXR now DIS), online communities via America Online (AMER then AOL). Other trends I missed or found too late, or thought I found too late and subsequently avoided but could’ve profited from: online book sales via amazon (AMZN), DVDs in the mail via Netflix (NFLX), the resurgence of the Mac via Apple of course (AAPL – and I owned it before Steve Jobs was kicked out, and sold in protest). Some trends seem systemic but I can’t find a way to invest in them. How do I invest in Stephen Colbert?
And then some trends happen so close to home, are such a part of my life, that it takes me a while to recognize them even as they occupy much of my day. I am a writer and an author. I’ve written and self-published more than five books, and have produced five more. After I’d written and self-published the first three I taught a class in self-publishing. Very few folks attended. In the mid-2000’s there was a stigma against self-publishing because to some it was proof that a writer wasn’t good enough to be picked by a publisher. I started self-publishing because I took encouragement from the positive rejection letters. My goal was to connect with readers, and a few hundred dollars gave me that opportunity. Now my classes tend to fill and are happening every month instead of only every year.
I also know that people have found my writing to be informative, entertaining, inspiring, and engaging. Positive rejection letters are nice, but compliments from people who’ve actually read the entire book are better. Knowing that I inspired someone is amazing. Knowing that I can write was a pleasant surprise.
I’m not the only one learning that I can write. As I point out in my class and book, both called Modern Self-Publishing:
“More titles were printed by Print-On-Demand than by traditional publishers. (2008)”
Digital technology is creating a revolution in the publishing industry similar to the digital revolutions in movies (Hollywood challenged by indie films) and music (record labels challenged by garage bands).
I’m lucky enough to benefit from the changes by publishing my books and by teaching my classes. Society is benefiting because more information and perspectives are being shared without being constrained by the industry’s gatekeepers. Many of our old ideas and conventions do not serve us well in our current environment. New ideas and perspectives will solve some of our problems. We need them. To paraphrase Sandra Rodman from her class in Right Brain Writing, “There is a great desire and need for creativity in large established organizations.”
The consumer, patron, reader is the only definitive judge of a creative work’s usefulness. Many people have been inspired by Shakespeare and Star Trek, both of which were entertainments, but both have influenced our culture and even our technology.
I’d like to invest in the business side of self-publishing, but I’ve yet to find a company with a compelling business model – except for the combination of amazon + kindle + e-books. Send me a note if you know of a pure-play, a publicly traded company that does nothing except self-publish. I can, however, invest in the trend by investing in myself because this is a trend based on self-empowerment.
Besides my classes, the simple and direct way I am participating is by continuing to write. My walk across Scotland could be turned into a travelogue, but the book will equally be about the internal mental journey. I witnessed how much of my life is driven by shoulds and how easy and elusive it is to live it by joys. Stay tuned. Draft two is complete with at least three more drafts to go. Others are writing for similar reasons, though with different tales.
The main benefit from self-publishing isn’t whether my books sell or my classes remain full (though I celebrate sales and full classes). The main benefit is the unleashing of creativity. Traditional publishing does a good job of guarding the literary standards, and hopefully making a profit for the publishing company. Self-publishing may not meet the same standards, but its goal is different. Most of the self-published authors I know are more interested in spreading the word than making money, and each gets to define what they think the word should be while possibly making a profit too. The main benefit will be the results of positive improvements in our society – messages relayed by people and individuals instead of institutions and corporations.
Last Saturday an article popped up, “Why Every Entrepreneur Should Self-Publish a Book” by James Altucher. He is an author who is prolific, traditionally published, and self-published. I recommend the article, and I also recommend thinking beyond entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs can profit from becoming an author. Advocates can spread their words beyond family, friends, and immediate community. And people who have something bottled up that needs an avenue and a release now have an outlet that is within their control. Some may even publish and not tell anyone, just to get the words out there. Investing In Self has always been one of the more profitable investments.
I profit by investing in stocks (though that takes some convincing some days). I benefit by recognizing trends. But I am also enthused by the personal empowerment of crowds of individuals, expressing themselves. Imagine the benefits from the sustainable, renewable resource that is empowered people.
PS And if you want a bit of help stepping into the world of writing you know you can send me a note, but don’t forget groups like Whidbey Island Writers Association and their Conference the first weekend in March.