Does self-publishing represent a threat to traditional publishers, or perhaps an opportunity? A number of people in the publishing industry seem dismissive of self-publishing writers or their numbers. But Philip Jones of FutureBook thinks that this is a mistake. He notes that readers who buy cheap self-published books will be spending time reading them that they might otherwise have spent reading more expensive works from traditional publishers.

What strikes me most about indie writers, however, is not what they write, but how they publish it. Konrath may be a ‘downmarket’ writer for some, but he is a first-rate publisher for many, as was Hocking: they wrote regularly, priced to the market, and promoted like hell. Heinze and Wilkinson may be looking for publishing deals: they just can’t be bothered waiting for traditional publishers to "discover them".

Traditional publishers need to learn from these successes, if they are to throw off the irritating "legacy" tag some self-published writers hang around their necks.

He suggests publishers should be trying models similar to that floated by Macmillan New Writing (which is unfortunately closed for new submissions right now when it should be scooping up all the fresh “indie” talent it can). They should be building communities and courting the more successful self-published authors (as with Amanda Hocking).

All that makes sense, but the article’s close in which Jones suggests that badly-edited and poorly-presented self-published e-books will put readers off over time, and traditional publishers could improve their appearance, is actually rather amusing. I find myself wondering just where Jones has been over the last few years if he thinks that “professional” e-books are uniformly well-edited or presented. I’ve seen plenty of self-published works that were better than some pro-published for typos.