[Paris Book Fair] Is Book Publishing Set for Sweeping Change?

By March 26, 2013
Jean-Claude Dunyach

Self-publishing is a process whereby an author takes on the entire job of editing, publishing and distributing his/her own work. Is this a viable model in the long term? At the present time, a writer cannot make a living from self-publishing alone.

L’Atelier met up with Jean-Claude Dunyach at the 33rd Paris Book Fair which took place on 20-25 March. Dunyach was one of the first writers in France to get interested in self-publishing.

L'Atelier: Is self-publishing the way to go for publishing houses?

J.C. Dunyach: Having worked as a book editor, I know that some works that get submitted require a huge amount of editing, and the major disadvantage of self-publishing lies in the fact that just about anyone can publish practically anything: extracts from blogs, correspondence, whatever. Everything can potentially be published. However, my own experience differs from the traditional notion of self- publishing. Given my background in computers, I used computer technology not to edit newly-written books, but to re-publish titles that had gone out of print. Moreover, it was partly a sense of curiosity that prompted me to get involved. New approaches, such as when Amazon started to work with e- booksellers, had finally appeared, but no-one in France had really tried them out. In fact I’ve created and
posted on my website a tutorial for other writers who would like to try out self-publishing. I thought it was important to document my experience.

L'Atelier: Do you think that the self-publishing approach could eventually take the place of
traditional publishing?

 Yes and no. It seems obvious to me that the role of the book manufacturer will diminish. We need to distinguish, as they do in the English-speaking world, between the concepts of editing and publishing. The editing side will persist, as that’s something which writers really need. However, the role of publishing – i.e. printing and distributing books – is very likely to change. For many people, self-publishing is more affordable because they can do it from home. But let’s not forget that for the moment, though there have been some titles that have sold very well, a writer can’t expect to make a living from self-publishing. But one of the major advantages which, as I just mentioned, led me down this road is that you’ll never find your works have become unavailable. “Out of stock” is a term that doesn’t exist in the self-publishing world.

L'Atelier: So much for the advantages. What then are the disadvantages of self-publishing?

As I said, the main disadvantage lies in the fact that just about anyone can self-publish. There was already a huge stock of books available and now the number is multiplying fast due to self-publishing. However the reader has no way of knowing what is readable and what isn’t if a work hasn’t been through the standard editorial process. The general public looking to buy a book doesn’t know where to choose from among the enormous number on offer. This is the real problem.

A publisher’s viewpoint: Maud Simonnot, Chief Editor at renowned French publisher Gallimard

As far as I’m concerned, self-publishing gives thousands of people an opportunity to print their writings
– family memoirs, poems, and so on – which they might want to send around to their family and friends.
On the other hand there’s sometimes a fraudulent side to this trend when people who promote self-
publishing make budding writers believe that this approach will enable them to have a real book out there on the market, just as if they’d had it published by a traditional publishing house. Once his or her work is printed the writer will have no help whatsoever with marketing and distribution, and s/he’ll usually find that sales turn out very low. This is why I don’t believe self-publishing represents any real danger for traditional publishing. It will remain a marginal phenomenon. But we do need some kind of regulation to help people who don’t really know what’s it’s all about from falling into the clutches of the cheats, scammers and fraudsters out there on the Internet.

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