Self-published used to be entirely about vanity press,
At the risk of making myself (even more) unpopular, I think that for many folk, it still is.
The dynamic is certainly different, in that the internet allows people to self-publish and self-market and occasionally even make a bit - or even rather a lot - of money.
But let's face it. Aspiring writers generally want to be published writers. The enjoyment and the fulfilment comes from the act of writing, not from the act of marketing or the act of plugging. I'd argue that most go down the self publishing route not because they have made a cold business decision about turnover, profit and misc, but rather because they want to get their work out there but cannot (or worry that they cannot) secure a traditional deal.
If my theory is correct, one would expect self-published works to generally
be of a significantly lower quality than traditionally published works. And they are. Overwhelmingly.
This is hardly surprising. As I mentioned in a thread the other week, one well respected agent has come out and said that about 95% of the stuff on the slush pile is absolute rubbish - badly written, badly executed, poor stories, poor character, hackneyed plot lines or a mix of all of it. The ability to spell, write, plot and develop theme, character and story immediately puts you in the top 5%. You've still got a devil of a job to get accepted, but the chances are far less bad than one might think.
Some exceptionally well written stuff will never get published. It might be overlooked, wrong for the market or whatever. Authors who self publish that work - and there are a fair few of them - are doing us all a favour. But the vast majority of self published work is not in that category - much of the 95% is going to end up somewhere.....
Does it matter? Arguably not. One has written a book and one might as well stick it up there. At least you have a chance of a few sales.
But these folk are not really writers. They are folk who have written something - which no more makes them a proper writer than me hacking Dave Ten Pints' leg off with the chopsaw makes me a surgeon.
matter? Arguably not. But the person who goes down that route and who loftily calls themselves an author is certainly guilty of vanity.
However, if you really do have a strong manuscript, and feel you can successfully market itself, then as a business decision self-publishing for Kindle makes more sense.
Perhaps. I suspect you italicised "business decision" for a very good reason. For the genuinely talented author who has written something which the industry doesn't think the market wants, or the genuinely talented author with an established fan base who wishes to take control of their career, all well and good. But if one is in need of money, one has to be business minded, which involves embracing the joys of publicity, marketing, law, accounting, tax and all the rest of it. And, of course, any successful business must have good product.....
I firmly believe what we're looking at with epublishing is a massive revolution
Whether it will actually increase the number of people who read fiction is perhaps a different question. But if it does, surely Bertelmann, Hachette and the rest of them will exploit the medium to best advantage.
So if a publisher is not able to put your books on book shop shelves, and only gives you a small percentage of sales income from internet sales, then surely - with a solid marketing plan - it makes more sense to sell directly yourself?
a) You can do it better than Hachette et al - or, at least, you can spin more money from it through having fewer middlemen
b) You know yourself to be a very good writer
c) If you are unsure as to whether you are a good writer, you don't care that you might be selling the literary equivalent of a t**d on a string.