Thursday, August 20, 2009

Self -Publishing As a Viable Alternative

After struggling with thoughts of discontinuing or trimming down my blog, I decided instead to take a totally different outlook and veer the whole blog in a new direction. Self-Publishing.

Times, they are a-changing and the digital revolution is here. It's making a strong showing in publishing and I couldn't be happier. After experiences in traditional publishing that left me dazed, confused and totally unsatisfied, I looked at and embraced self-publishing. With the advent of POD....Print on Demand, I was able to free myself from contract shackles and publisher injustices. It's a fantastic feeling.

There are as many pros and cons to self-publishing as there are to seeking traditional publishing. My hope with this new post is to touch briefly on those issues that might affect self-publishers. At the top of my list is that more and more tiny, one-man or two-man (or woman) publishing houses are popping up that are using POD for their publishing method. They are basically anyone who can set up an account with Lightning Source.....a POD printer and distributor.....take on a name and begin calling for submissions. Many authors contract their books with small POD publishers and end up giving up their rights and getting a pittance in royalty with little to no promotion or marketing. Also, since many of the micro POD publishers often have no money for top notch editors, they often shift some of their own authors to do the editing on other books. In some instances, authors who have gotten only their first or second books are doing the editing on many of the publisher's other books.

YOU can do the same thing for yourself. Why give up your rights and your earnings? YOU can open an account with Lightning Source. YOU can become your own publisher. There are also other POD printers who charge you no money to start up your own imprint. Sure, you will have to learn how to do the page layout the first time out, but using a template provided for you, it will be easy once you do it once. Most of the POD printer services also offer easy to do covers. You can also find a cover artist for a reasonable cost to do a bang up cover for you (Hint: I'm cheap and need the work. LOL). It can be very satisfying to do all the work yourself. And you reap all the rewards. You can list your book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble online and all the other online book services. Some of the online POD printers will charge a bit extra to get distributed and listed online, but well worth it. Don't have the money to hire an editor? Get other author friends to read your book and do the edits or get involved in a writing group where you can utilize the services of a beta-reader. Most of this will cost you nothing. Again, many of the current crop of micro POD publishers are doing the same thing. Their authors are their editors. You say you don't like to market or promote? Most small presses do very little to no marketing or promoting. They depend heavily on their authors. Why wouldn't you want to keep all your rights and profits and do the same thing for yourself? It is your creation. With self-publishing, you can guide your creation through all the steps and enjoy the fruits of your labor without giving up earnings or rights to someone else.

The drawbacks? Well, if you absolutely are flat broke and cannot save up the little money that it would take you to self-publish, you might want to just try and place your book with a publisher. If you are a beginning author with little to no contacts or a solid fan base of readers, then self-publishing might not work. But again, it all depends on what you want from your writing. First, let me make this clear....If your goal is to spend years attempting to woo an agent for a try at one of the Big New York publishers, then self-publishing or even seeking a small press isn't even an option. However, if you plan on publishing with a small press, keep in mind that you will not get wealthy or even be able to leave your day job with your earnings. And if you go with a micro POD press, your earnings become even more invisible. And you will be expected to work hard to promote your book. Would a new writer be any less successful by self-publishing instead of going with a micro POD publisher? I believe if you work hard, you can be as successful publishing yourself. Another thing to remember is that even within self-publishing, there are many avenues you can take. The old way of self-publishing is not using POD at all but paying a printer to print a run (of whatever size you choose) of your books. The cost is generally high and you will be in charge of storing all your books. If you don't have a large house with an extra room just for your books or a storage space to store them, this option is not for you. With the advent of POD, that old method of self-publishing has lost some favor. For those who have a Green streak, it is environmentally friendly to use POD and print only a small amount of books initially or print them as they are purchased. Why waste so many trees and paper for your books to sit in storage? There is also the option of going with one of the many online publishing packagers. These are iUniverse, Outskirts Press, Xlibris and dozens of others. They offer you select packages that go from basic packages with no editing and basic covers, to the high cost packages that could run you into hundreds or thousands of dollars. But they do everything for you. At a cost. For those with money to spend and without the desire to do all the set-up and work, these are ideal. Again, research before you decide the road to take in self-publishing. A big drawback that some detractors of self-publishing insistently point to is that the major bookstores are not going to stock your self-published books. What many authors don't realize is that even if you sign with a publisher that is using POD to print their books, your books still won't be in the bookstores. So you are losing your rights and a big chunk of your royalties for no bookstore exposure. Zilch.

In the end, my recommendation is to educate yourself before making any decisions on your publishing future. It is an exciting time to be an author. The digital revolution is here and the freedom it brings to authors is extraordinary. Self-publishing can allow you to explore not just print books but also e-books. The next wave of authors might be totally digital, offering their works online or as e-books, completely bypassing print publishers. Freedom is the key word. The freedom to keep your rights. The freedom to be stress-free from publisher restraints that might hamper your creativity. The freedom to grow your creation, your book, from infancy to fruition in your own hands and in your own time. You won't have to wait two years to have your book available.

I'll be featuring authors who are self-published here at The Henderson Files. I know there are many fine non-fiction works, but I'll be concentrating on mostly original genre fiction that has been self-published. If someone wants to do reviews, I will host them here. Hopefully, I can cover news that will affect self-publishing. If you're a fiction author who writes sf, fantasy, mystery, horror or any other combination of such, please email me and I will set up a guest author spot for you. But I want open discussion of self-publishing, not just a blurb on your book. Tell the readers why you did it your way and your results and feelings. I have several authors already lined up that will be talking about their experiences with self-publishing their own works, so please keep checking back often.

I'm excited. I hope you will be too and check back often.


Bett said...

I found this article very interesting. I just edited (!) and published my partner's memoir through Advantages: no startup cost at all. Disadvantage: her book is listed only on

Patty G. Henderson said...

Hi Bett,

CreateSpace is hooked into Did you check out before deciding on CreateSpace? I know it's too late now, but is also 100% free with basically the same non-exclusive rights clauses as CreateSpace. The only difference is that Lulu books are available at Amazon and BN and anywhere else Ingram distributes to.

Then again, many authors are quite happy to be listed exclusively at Amazon. I mean, in reality, how many choose B&N over Amazon? Unless you have a beef with or are boycotting Amazon for whatever your personal reasons, the hard fact is that most online book shoppers head right on over to Amazon first thing. So, while a slim disadvantage, not one to lose sleep over.

Bett, I wish much success with the memoir. If you'd like to chat about your experiences with CreateSpace, feel free to come on over, pull up a chair and blog.