Monday, June 27, 2011

JK's Self-publishing?

Happy Monday, everyone!

I'm not sure if it's just because I haven't had a chance to scour the internet, but I haven't seen much discussion over JK Rowling's announcement that she'll be releasing the eBook versions of her Harry Potter books on her own website Pottermore.

What do you all think?

As I read through an article on (that, incidentally compared Rowling to Radiohead, the best band in the world), two thoughts came to my mind. First, I wondered how she had the foresight so many years ago to keep the digital rights for her books. Was that just a bit of luck? Second, I thought how fortunate she is that she gets to "self-publish" in such a majestic way. One of the things--probably the only thing I regret about self-publishing so far--is the fact that I would have liked to have a matte cover for the book. I wish I had the ability to make the print version exactly how I would have wanted it if I had more money and more popularity. It's so cool that Rowling has the resources to produce a wonderful interactive website and probably format the books beautifully. She has the publishing control that I would have liked myself.

The more I think about the choice to self-publish versus publishing through a small press or a big press, the more I see it personally as a choice between control and visibility. I have really liked the opportunity to design my own cover for Wild Grass. I've liked the choice of which stories to include in the book and in which order. I haven't liked trying to get the book into the public eye. Having to talk about it always makes me feel a bit phony, even when I'm not being phony. What I think is wonderful about Rowling and several other writers is that they have people coming to them, asking for their work. I think being in that position gives you a lot more artistic freedom.

Note added later: I see now that Rowling is getting help on the eBooks, so it's not exactly self-publishing.


  1. It's one of the advantages of having written such a successful series.

    Also, when she started out in the mid 90s, digital publishing wasn't at the front many people's minds and would have been unlikely to be included in the contract.

  2. Martin, your second point makes Rowling seem so very lucky. I am always sort a bit discouraged to see that luck plays such a big role, but it does.

  3. Nathan Bransford outlined Pottermore in a post over the weekend. Long story short, her publisher has skin in the game, so you're right, it isn't really self-publishing.

    Personally, I think the whole point is moot. It's like looking at the Queen's travel itinerary and asking "What does this mean for family vacations?" (Except Rowling is wealthier than the queen, so even that analogy is understated).

  4. Rick, Thanks for the Bransford information. I don't think the point is moot in the sense that one could argue the only difference between Rowling and another writer is a matter of scale. If a writer was trying to sell, say, 1000 books instead of however many hundreds of millions Rowling sold, that writer can still see how viable this model is, relatively speaking.

  5. Hmm... I definitely think it is a personality thing. Still, I am leaning to traditional publishing. Simply because I'll need help with getting visible in the U.S.

    On the other hand, the market might be significantly changed by the time I'm ready to get my book out there. I'm watching the market changes before I decide.


  6. Radiohead! Also, I like John Vanderslice, who does the DIY indie musician thing pretty well, if on a much smaller scale than Radiohead.

    I might be inclined to agree with Rick, that what the Richest Woman On Earth has her Army of Minions do with ebooks of Harry Potter probably doesn't have much to do with me as a writer. Also, I was hoping that Pottermore would be something really cool, which it really isn't. Have I told you that I'm going to register the domain name pottermoreorless and it will be a website about all the fictional characters with the surname of Potter? Because there are a lot of them. I like to think they're all related.

  7. 'First, I wondered how she had the foresight so many years ago to keep the digital rights for her books.'

    An intriguing point. Reminds me of Lucas keeping merchandising rights prior to releasing 'Star Wars' in the late '70s. That sort of prescience is difficult to underestimate.

    I did read Nathan's post but it seems you know about that, now.

    Also, I agree with your comment that it is a matter of scale. The thing I cherish most about the self-publishing, e-book revolution under way is that it takes artists out from under the staggering thumb of traditional publishing monopolies.

    Great post, Domey.

  8. Yes, I wouldn't consider Rowling as truly self-publishing. Nor is she in any league that we can even compare ourselves to. Unfortunately, I'll bet that happens more than is good for anybody - the assumption that since Rowling can do it that it makes self-publishing the answer to everything. Sigh. Totally not true. All of this industry stuff is really getting to me because so many sweeping generalizations are made with something that should be extremely personal and individualized. I think that's one of the biggest problems I've seen lately.

  9. I don't think it's healthy to compare ourselves with any writer in the sense of hoping to be like that writer, when it comes right down to it. I don't even do that with Tolstoy as much these days! But I see stories like this as presenting different options to me. I think in that sense it's valuable.

  10. For me, having others - editors, publishers, agents, readers - ask for something specific would be a sure sign I've made it.

    Perhaps when JK was setting up contracts for the books initially the digital rights thing wasn't an issue that was too well thought out.

    I like your cover art Domey. I haven't seen covers to any of the e-books I've bought (not on the Kindle). They don't appear. I miss the covers.

    On a side note, I bought your book last night and am hoping to sit and read it in the next day or two so I can finish up out interview and send it to you.

    Have a good day Guys.



    Sorry, scott...someone had beaten you to the punch.

  12. Donna, thanks for buying my book. I do hope you like it! And, there's no rush for the interview. I'll be here whenever you like. :)

    TJN, you may have just crushed Scott's dreams. I imagine he spent hours upon hours planning this.

  13. My idea was so much better. I was going to have family trees and stuff. It would've been cool. Now I must sit alone and sulk, with my eyes closed and my hands balled into fists.

  14. I think Scott's dreams are made of sturdier stuff than that!

  15. I'm with you on this one. I totally despise trying to get noticed. It's like trying to shout into a gale - it feels foolish and is relatively pointless. Few will hear your voice in the tumult.

    I'm happy to self-publish. I just wish that the marketing part wasn't quite so vital...


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