Is Pottermore Really Self-Publishing? – Day 294

Unsurprisingly, the Internet is all a-twitter about the upcoming Pottermore. I mentioned it here the other day, and remarked how I believe this will be seen as a watershed moment in self-publishing. I also asked somewhat tongue-in-cheek if you could actually call it self-publishing.

Except there is some real debate on that topic, it seems. The strongest voice against it is Catherine Ryan Howard. No stranger to self-publishing herself (Catherine wrote a book on the subject), she states in this blog post/rant that in fact Pottermore has nothing to do with self-publishing. And although I debated the subject with her today, I’ll have to admit she may have a point.

In the first few news reports I read, I was under the impression that there would be new material on the site, as well as the first ebook editions of the books. Now, I agree that simply by-passing Amazon et al. to sell your ebooks is not necessarily self-publishing. Howard correctly points out that these books have already been published. I’m not sure of the details, but I’d be surprised if her UK publisher isn’t involved in the ebook sales in some way.

However, the grey area for me is the “new material” portion of this website. My initial impression was that there would be new stories — not a continuation of the series, but some of the “DVD extras” of the stuff that didn’t make it into the book. And that’s true, except when I went back to read about it today, it seems that the new material is more intertwined than I first thought.

Of course, all details about Pottermore are sketchy at the moment. This much seems to be true: all the new material is Rowling’s, as has been stated. But the material is not so much “new” as “leftover” from the actual books. She has also stated that she is pretty sure she is “done on the novel front” — though even that isn’t clear if she means Potter books in particular, or any novel. Can’t fathom how a writer would just stop writing though…

So, let’s assume that her books are done, and this “new” material is strictly to help flesh out the Pottermore experience. Is this publishing, adding it to an interactive website? And is it self-publishing, either strictly speaking or in the loosest sense of the word?

Now suppose Rowling does write another novel, Potter or not, and sells that on this or another website. Is that self-publishing?

My feeling is this: it is definitely publishing of some sort, even if it’s on a website. For example, WordPress has deliberately used the word “Publish” on the button that launches this post to the world. You put content out for public consumption, and it is by definition publishing as far as I’m concerned.

Whether it is self-publishing or not is a much murkier question. Certainly, as I have already stated, Rowling launching Pottermore is not the same as the new novelist putting out a book that can’t otherwise find a home. Or even, for that matter, the first-time novelist who chooses self-publishing as an option over finding a publisher.

But in Rowling’s case, I guess at the heart of this is the question about how involved her publishers are in this venture. If they are totally involved and making the decisions, then no. If involved but on the sidelines, then maybe. If not at all, except that they published the first books, then… maybe.

Welcome to the new age of publishing, I guess!

I don’t know — what do you think? Is Rowling self-publishing at all? Do interactive website adventures count as publishing in the novel sense? Drop me a comment, let me know.

Got some work done tonight on my own novel, but not enough. Clear skies tomorrow though. Need to push through what is proving to be a difficult scene. I need to plan a few hours I think and just git ‘er done.

Until then,

~Graham

Novel Writing Hours

Today: 0.5
Total: 140.75

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