Electronic publishing has upset the equilibrium enjoyed by the publishing industry for the last half-century. While some celebrate the overthrow of the gate-keeping elite and the democratization of publishing, others lament the end of literary culture.
Beneath the enthusiasm and the angst, a new market has opened as commercial publishers abandon mid-list books in favor of blockbusters. Thanks to online markets where books never go out of print, it is now possible for authors to earn a living writing and selling books they and their readers love.
This guide explores artisan publishing, a new approach to creating and releasing books where the focus is on quality and the integrity of the author's editorial vision. The path of the artisan isn't a short-cut to fame and fortune, but it is the best way to create something you'll be proud of and in which your readers will find lasting value.
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Deren Hansen undersells the breadth and power of his book Artisan Publishing: Why to Choose the Road Less Traveled, claiming it's a "why-to" rather than a "how-to" book. The truth is that the book fills both roles, and more besides. At the core of this very interesting meditation is a single realization. The current revolution in publishing opens up not only the high-volume, hard-sell, pulpy avenue that is clogged with so many (bad) self-published novels, but also a "road less traveled": carefully crafted, likely small- or medium-audience, books. Hansen calls such publishing "artisan," and the bulk of the book distinguishes artisan publishing from both trade (or "traditional") publishing as well as other kinds of self-publishing, with reflection on why artisan publishing can be attractive to a writer-publisher. Along the way, Hansen also dispenses lots of strategic, tactical, and business advice. He also offers comfort, mostly in the form of candid, bracing observations. Artisan Publishing strikes a chord with me. At a 2013 Salt Lake Coic Con panel on self-publishing, depressed by the other panelists' (probably accurate) suggestions that quality of writing had no connection with sales figures, I closed by urging the audience to write unique books, weird books, books that no one else could write, even if there was no realistic audience to read those books. I didn't articulate it as well as Hansen does, but artisan publishing was what I had in mind: a deliberate decision to tell stories that are unusual, maybe uncommercial, and that can only pay off over a long thin tail. I'm grateful to Hansen for writing Artisan Publishing; next time the subject of self-publishing comes up in front of an audience of aspiring authors, I have a book to recommend.