For writers—especially nonfiction writers—a well-lit publishing-path through the murky wood of pundits, doomsdayers, and bestseller advice is micro-publishing.
Micro-publishing is not new, but when I use the term, I am referring to both the size of my publishing “house” and the length of my publications. In other words, micro-published books are short, tight, and swift. Experienced authors can deliver them in a steady flow, which can be less demanding and taxing than what it takes to create full-length books.
Micro-pubs vary widely in genre, format, and price point. (And fiction writers might consider serialization to be a better description of their micro-publishing landscape.) Micro-pubs with enough demand can become physical books eventually, usually when there is existing readership or demand for physical copies.
A meaningful discussion of micro-publishing has been pushed aside during the ongoing tug-of-war between traditional publishing and independent publishing (self-publishing). But we are well beyond “everyone is a writer” at this point. We have progressed into “everyone is a publisher,” if they wish to be—and we have been living in this realm for some time already.
Fortunately, micro-publishing benefits the industry as a whole by bringing some much-needed simplicity and directness into a publishing equation that is often weighted down by its own complexity and contracts. And it also benefits you, the writer. Here’s how.
1. Writers need to write. The changes in publishing have made contracts increasingly harder to come by, and advance rates lower, even when contracts do come. Micro-publishing allows you to keep writing and publishing no matter what the economy or the industry decide to do next.
2. Writers need to earn. Micro-publishing provides you with opportunities to earn passive income—and with less money flowing from publishers to writers, you’ll want to develop multiple alternative sources of income.
3. Writers need more ways to channel their ideas. Not every idea you have will be suitable for a traditionally published book. (Most aren’t.) But micro-publishing allows you to string together your better ideas and publish them in ways that benefit your readers. So micro-publishing gives you access to a series of smaller successes, rather than always investing the most energy in fewer, larger projects.
4. Writers often want to diversify. There is a lot of pressure on writers not to diversify—to keep delivering the same type of work to a ready audience. But some writers can handle diversification and would like to attempt it more often. Micro-publishing allows you to diversify on a smaller scale with less risk involved.
5. Writers who dive deeper into their niches can achieve increased readership loyalty. Readers don’t always like to wait a one or two years for the next book. And writers sometimes need relief from the pressure of too many publishing deadlines in a row. Micro-publishing can serve readers’ needs sooner and more swiftly than traditional publishing.
6. Writers grow skills from increased ownership. I got published in the first place because I produced my own career success. But once I started self-publishing some of my shorter works, that’s when I understood on a whole new level how much work publishers actually do. Can I do everything for myself that a traditional publisher can do for me? No. But I can learn valuable skills from increasing my career ownership and then take those increased skills back to the negotiating table with publishers down the road.
With all the editorial talent now available for hire, experienced authors can micro-publish more easily and more professionally than ever before. But it also offers a worthwhile option for writers who have never published because it’s a closer target and easier to hit.
But even writers who micro-publish won’t likely stop working with traditional publishers all together. Each form of publishing has a time, place, and benefit associated with it. More and more writers will take their careers into their own hands, rather than waiting to see what publishing decides to do next.
After all, when we talk about “publishing” today, we are no longer talking about a specific industry with gatekeepers. We are talking about a process that is accessible to all.