Though self-publishing online has been a viable standard for aspiring authors for at least the last 10 years, self-published authors have been second-class citizens in the publishing world and are still somewhat looked down on by traditional publishers.
With the emergence of e-reader devices such as the iPad, Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, etc., and the gentle unraveling of the publishing industry, this is all about to change. As these trends begin to play out, self-published authors will have direct access to larger and larger audiences and more and more receptive audiences.
As more and more self-published authors see success over time, they will certainly look with either pity or bewilderment upon their 'published' brethren who will be saddled with their agent's fees, paltry advances, miserably small royalties, and tied helplessly to the anchor of a traditional publisher who is becoming less and less relevant and less and less effective in marketing their book. Self-publishing companies such as selfpublishingmadeeasynow.com are there to help novice authors to publish and sell their books online.
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What to do? The self-publishing model, while on the rise, is certainly no cure-all or quick-fix. In fact, it is hard work. And it is work that does not tend to come naturally to most authors it really comes down to marketing. Marketing yourself can be daunting to many authors, but the rewards are well worth it, and the same trends that are slowly displacing traditional publishing are making it easier and cheaper to market yourself effectively online.
It is a very, very exciting time to be launching into self-publishing. As e-books and the self-publishing model grow and displace traditional models, many of the old barriers will lower and prejudices will go away (and even reverse!). If you write a good book and most importantly market it well over the next couple of years, you'll be very, very glad about the work you did.