In case you were hiding under a rock today (or if you’re just not a fan), the Harry Potter ebooks were released today and with a twist: they can’t be purchased anywhere other than J K Rowling’s Pottermore website. That’s right, Rowling is self-publishing and without Amazon’s help. Is she blazing a trail?
Self-publishing is notable for one thing: it cuts out middlemen. Self-publishers cut out the publishers and go straight to the distributors. Now Rowling is cutting even them out of the picture. So is this the next step?
After all, it doesn’t take much to set up your own personal online shop. Services like PayPal can handle the fiddly money bits. You just need a website to host the thing and services like WordPress take the hassle out of even that. So why isn’t everyone doing the same dance as Rowling?
Rowling, of course, is the exception to nearly every rule. The runaway first-book-success story, film deals and eye-watering advances. And in this, too, she’s an exception: she already has a massive platform.
You’ve probably heard of an author platform. It’s a term for the author’s reach and for how many people care when the author talks. A lot of people care when Rowling talks. She and Harry Potter are powerful brands. But why does this matter?
Because the buzzword of self-publishing right now is discoverability. The biggest challenge to self-publishers is being found in the first place. Amazon’s recommendations can help readers find new books as well as provide (hopefully) glowing reviews to persuade them to purchase. Readers are also more likely to buy from a trusted source than your little website.
But will that change?
Computer literacy grows daily and people are beginning to understand what to look for when they shop online. Using a trusted service like PayPal removes any concerns in that area. And the stigma of selling your book on your own website will be pretty much eradicated by the self-publishing revolution. So it really comes down to discoverability. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t find books on Amazon. I find them through friends and social media.
So is Rowling showing us the way into the future? Will self-publishers one day think to themselves: who needs Amazon?