Fourth in a series.
How It Works 4: Independent or Self-Publishing
Self-publishing is not a dirty word. It could be said that Bill Henderson started self-publishing in the U.S. when he wrote and self-published The Publish It Yourself Handbook in 1973 and then sold it himself. Today’s self-publishing isn’t the old do-it-yourself vanity publishing many remember from years ago. That kind of vanity publishing had little if any editorial criteria; the vanity press was a printer who’d print just about anything for a price. Then they shipped your 5,000 copies, which you had to store in the spare bedroom and hope you had a few friends who wanted to read your opus. Most were not sold but given away.
The Internet, and in particular Amazon, changed all that. The big difference was threefold: One, now books got professional editing; two, a handsome cover, and three, there was a marketing channel. Your book now could look as professional as one from a “New York” publisher, and you could create interest in many different ways on Google, websites, blogsites, Facebook, and more. After comparing a few self-publishing choices for his novel, Wild Blue Yonder, partner Jack chose CreateSpace. Now owned by Amazon, the synergy between CreateSpace and Amazon paved the way to a smooth transition to promoting both the print and Kindle editions of his novel.
Over the past few years, self-publishing has been working at changing its name to independent publishing, and it’s really a more appropriate term. There are many types of independent publishing to choose from, ranging from small presses to selective independent publishers to non-discriminatory publishers. Nearly every self-published book is now printed on demand (POD) by the same printing plant.
Small Presses are independent operations which almost always specialize in a particular subject or market segment. Many do not require an agent, but please pay particular attention to their submission requirements. Most want a formal book proposal. Dustbooks publishes an annual directory listing of small presses. University presses could also be considered small press.
Independent Publishers are a smaller, more personal type of “New York” publisher. While many are selective, they are generalists and most publish both fiction and non-fiction. You don’t need an agent, but again, you need to familiarize yourself with their interests and submission requirements. Mark Levine has written a great guidebook for authors seeking independent self-publishing options called The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, now in its fourth edition. We highly recommend you buy a copy. Mark offers book purchasers a free 30-minute consultation.
Non-discriminatory publishers don’t care what you write about, so long as it isn’t porn or blatantly libelous our offensive, and will provide you with complete, high-quality publishing services. Some offer stepped services, ranging from a basic publishing service through add-ons and marketing. The price ranges from around $750 to $15,000.
Bear in mind almost all self-publishing focuses on the trade paperback – that’s a paperback the same trim size as a hardcover but in softcover. While you may be able to request hardcover, most people who buy print books prefer paperback for its lower price.
We believe we’re about to see a shakeout in self-publishing – the bubble bursting. There are a great many trying to hawk a buck out of naïve and inexperienced individuals who want to see their book in print and have no criteria for choosing the services or publishing entity to go with. There’s an interesting, in-depth blogpost on this at the Self-Publishing Review.
Self-publishing is great, but there’s a lot to learn. We realize this post barely scratches the surface. We also know many prospective authors are interested in this option, as proven when Jack taught an adult education in his hometown: It was instantly oversubscribed. If you have questions, please drop him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org