Perspective on Self-Publishing

I really like Linda Austin’s comment on Victoria Strauss’ blog (recommended by Janni Simner in a reply to an earlier post of mine) so I’m including it here.

Linda Austin said… Good comments on both sides, here. I’m a member of a publishing assoc that works mostly with those wanting to self-publish and our last meeting was filled with new people! We push the importance of good editing and design to give self-publishing a better reputation. Most members end up starting their own publishing company.

Being traditionally published is nice, not a sure way to riches either as many new books end up as remainders after a few months and that’s the end of them. Trad publishing also does not ensure quality or diversity – these are big businesses that want what sells to the masses. Celebrities, the notorious, the disgraced are welcome. If Marley sells, how many other dog and cat books can we come up with quickly.

My big gripe is the fighting and snootiness between trad and self-publishers. There are pros and cons to both, there is a place for both! Writers determine what path will make them happy. Personally I chose indie publishing for my book and don’t regret it at all. I have learned so much and a whole new world has opened up. My little memoir does have a type of dist thru LSI/Ingram which has helped it sell (without much help from me lately) over the 200 needed to announce “indie success,” but the biggest success is the fun I’m having and the thrill of having strangers seek me out to say how they loved the book. We each have our own definition of success and riches. If I had spent years trying to find an agent and a big publishing house with no guarantee of “success,” I would have missed out on a lot! That said, I encourage newbies to try for small publishers who seem willing to take more risks – most newbies aren’t ready for the business end of the stick.

7 Comments

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7 responses to “Perspective on Self-Publishing

  1. scribesink

    Hi Frankie,
    I agree with your comments regarding the traditionally published books. There is a place for the self published book and those authors have in many cases been intimidated to such an extent by the trad. publishers that they often give up and take up knitting.
    I have many older authors who just wish to see their work in print and not become the next JK Rowlings.

    cheers,
    Pete Loveday

    • Thanks, Pete!

      I prefer to see the author spend as little as possible to achieve her goals, but it is her money and her goals after all. As long as she’s not duped, and goes in with her eyes open, why should anyone else care how she gets published?

      • This is an excellent point. Much of the industry is literally spinning on the internal and bogus notion that anyone but the elitist and literati crowd gives a rat’s patoot how someone got published. Does the crowd at the Olympics become aghast when they find out the newest Nadia-like sensation was not trained by the great Bella but by some new progressive one-man-coaching-show out of Michigan? They don’t care. (some new fangled progressive coach? Really? Bravo! they’ll say). If our Dear Reader is happily spellbound in a book that is a POD, or downloaded to their iPad after publicatoin by the author’s own company, why would they care about the how?

        I find it fascinating that the average reader the world over has no idea what genres are bought most, how many books are purchased overall, how much money the industry takes in, who publishes which books, what imprint belongs to which house, etc. etc. Why should customers care how something was built, developed or produced as long as it met all their needs, was convenient, relatively green in its production… hmmm… well the more they know about print books in that case could prove a problem since killing trees is not exactly green, particularly with the 40% average print returns. Recycling helps, but it can never make up for the damage to the air quality, soil or the loss of trees.

        The end user (our reader) does not care who published their latest keeper, any more than they care how the basket holding their juicy strawberries was manufactured. They just know that both products are heavenly and delicious. And a happy customer is what all product success is based upon.

        Our Readers are the ones with all the power and all the money. Somehow even us authors forget this on a regular basis. Our bad. 🙂

      • A note on the green-ness of publishing. It probably won’t be too many more years until the majority of popular books are released in electronic format. But until then, I don’t feel bad buying books in hard copy because paper is made from farmed trees, not old-growth trees, and they filter CO2 from the air while they’re growing. Now the process of making paper, that’s not so green.

  2. Yes, the making of the paper pulp, chemicals and processing adds to the list of fossil fuel output, environmental issues and overall energy consumption, so I agree that’s one less green aspect of producing books. I would also note that the old-growth trees, after they are cut down, are not replaced immediately. The soil that they have grown in is now depleted for a time, and that area will stand vacant without CO2-producing compatriots for a number of years before reseeding can occur in that patch of soil, and meanwhile it can’t grow rotational crops or other trees, (though I might be mistaken about this — the land may be getting a greener use post-harvest that I’m just unaware of?)

    The logging process that’s used to harvest the old-growth trees uses fossil fuel, too, so not all of the pre-production portions are what I would consider completely green — but then not much really is, unless you are a solar panel…and even those require burning of fossil fuel to create, though improvements in cutting have reduced this significantly for many companies that manufacture them)… Paper processing is much improved from what we had just a few years ago though, so it’s a great start. It’s just not the greenest ending we are holding out for…it will take us a little longer to get there.

  3. Hi, Franki! I think this is the discussion you asked me to comment on. There have been a lot of good thoughts expressed, and as a writer who has been published by the big NY houses–Roc and Del Rey–and has also selfl-published, I have to tell you, if I could have gotten my self-published book picked up by a professional house, I would have. Self-publishing is MAJOR work, and expensive. I had a book my agent had sent out 18 times without even a nibble, and I just couldn’t stand the thought of it languishing in a drawer forever, so I treated myself and spent the bucks to publish it myself. The idea was to make it available to familay and friends, and if anyone else bought it, that was gravy. Okay, I *did* pick an imprint I thought wouldn’t scream “self-published,” because there will always be a bias–anyone can self-publish, which means a lot of people do who shouldn’t. There’s some really bad stuff out there. But I had my eyes wide open, and I wasn’t expecting much in sales, so I wasn’t disappointed. (Total sold to date outside what I have to family and friends: two.)

    No matter if you sell to the majors or publish yourself, you have to SELF-PROMOTE if you expect any kind of sales, something I am very, very bad at. How do most people decide what book to buy? They find out what their friends are reading. Maybe they look at the displays in the bookstore (which publishers pay for, in case you didn’t know). Or they look for a name they recognize. If you don’t shove your book under people’s noses, chances are it won’t get bought.

    Yes, there are all kinds of places on the Web that will “promote” your book for you. Most of them are designed to have you do most of the work while they collect the money, and most of them still rely on having readers stumble across your book. So if you think you’re going to self-publish and show those big houses what quality really is–don’t expect to ever recover your investment.

    But if, like me, you just want your friends to have a book in their hands (because they won’t read it off a screen), and you’re willing to pay for the privilege, they by all means, join me!

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Catherine!

      A friend of mine, Kris Tualla is publishing three novels this fall through CreateSpace, Amazon’s self-publishing arm. From what she’s told me, she’ll be doing it with a minimal cash outlay up front and a not exorbitant per copy charge. She designed her own cover and interior to save money. I’m watching with an eagle eye to see how it goes for her, while still looking for that traditional sale.

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