The Good News is really terrific and seems to work out on all fronts.
1) First things first: You the writer. Or for the purpose of this post, let's tone that down a bit to Us. As writers we can and should resist any derogatory reference to our e-books as "self-published". First off, the term suggests poor quality--while at least as much hardcover crap hits the stores as first-rate writing goes online. Second, one of the hallmarks of self-publishing has been the fact that writers have paid vanity publishers to print, but not really distribute, their work. As a result, self-published writers who went on to score--such as E. Lynn Harris--.had to pack their vans with books and drive around the country. E-book publishing is so new and different that it deserves a different name. After all, we don't pay to get published and the books are available to anyone willing to part with $.99 or a couple of bucks. Plus, I understand, royalties are higher than most publishers pay...and they're paid promptly several times a year.
b) The term I propose is: Direct Publishing. Most of us know this scene well: we're moving along on a project we love...we're really smoking, on all eights...when the whispers begin to go off in our ears: Our agent will never approve of this scene...Our editor will red pencil this page in a blink--or, worse, she';ll pass on the next-book option clause...Or: readers don't want this kind of book from me. Meanwhile, our hearts pound with excitement and love for the weird wonder that we're working on...and, God help us, we can't stop ourselves. I do not advocate not listening to our agents. I do not advise anyone, in today's market, to flip off their editors. I do say: Now we have a choice for books we cannot help but write: we can take the Clint Eastwood approach of Two or three for our fans/agents/editors...and one, now and then, for ourselves: Direct Publishing gives us the freedom to gamble on our guts.
2) Agents also reap from what we sow Directly. And several agents are on record, on line, as scouting out new talent through writers' online work. Their existing clients will be happier and better behaved when 'noncommercial' projects aren't doomed to rot in drawers. And these DP labors of love will keep their clients' names alive and help to build their audience.
3) Publishers are only beginning to discover how to hustle their writers through clever DP. A recent story in USA Today spoke of cult mystery favorite, George Pelicanos--whose new book was introduced as a $.99 Kindle book, price soon to be raised to $4.99, while it's also released as a trade paperback and hardcover. Time for word of mouth to build and help prevent those speedy store returns.
Things are about to get more and more interesting. For now, enjoy the Good News: We are not self-publishing--but empowering ourselves through DP.