Saturday, June 28, 2008

Busting through Self-Publishing Myths-Part 2

Here are 6.5 Self-Publishing Myths that Need Busting:
(Read Myths 1-3 here. )

4. Self-published books look unprofessional and have many errors. This can easily be avoided by becoming knowledgeable about the publishing process, working with a professional editor and book designer on your own, or by working with a reputable POD provider who supplies these services. Many of today's self-published books are indistinguishable from those published by the big publishing houses.
5. A self-published book will help you get a traditional publisher. Although many self-publishers have experienced this success, don't self-publish for this reason alone. Many publishers won't publish previously published material. And many agents advise writers not to even mention self-published works in their query letters unless thousands of copies have sold.
6. Self-published books don't sell. Self-published books that are marketed properly sell as well as traditional books that are marketed properly. Do you know that most first-time authors published by a traditional company don't make back their advances? Or that most titles by new authors don't sell 5,000 copies, despite their New York publishing house labels? Having a traditional publisher is no guarantee of sales. And, if your book doesn't sell enough copies to cover your advance, what do you think your chances of garnering another publishing contract will be?
6.5. You can't make money self-publishing. In general, most authors, self-published or traditionally published, don't support themselves on book sales alone. Unless your book is an Oprah Book Club selection (or picked for the Richard & Judy Book Club if you're in the UK) or you have a long list of bestsellers like Steven King or JK Rowling, you will have to supplement your income from book sales. Many authors use their books as a stepping stone to consulting and speaking or sell rights to their work to be produced as movies or TV programs. Self-published authors have as much of a chance to these sources of income as traditionally published authors and many earn thousands of dollars each year from their self-published works.

Publishing is a business, and like any business, there's no one right way to do it. When you keep an open mind to all possibilities, you will find the right answer for you.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Self-Publishing in the 21st Century

"No army can stop an idea whose time has come." --Victor Hugo

Despite naysayers and criticism from those entrenched in traditional publishing bureaucracy, self-publishing is here to stay as a viable publishing option. The technology is here, the desire is fueling the revolution and this industry is experiencing a wake-up call in a big way. Last year, 400,000 books were published (up from 300,000 in 2006). The industry saw approximately 195,000 new titles and between 8,000 and 11,000 new publishers, mostly self-publishers. Does this sound like a passing fancy to you?

My husband saw the same resistance in his photography business when digital technology started replacing film. Some photographers he knew dug in their heels and refused to learn about the new equipment. Most of them are out of business now, of course. I don't understand why people are so resistant to change.

For those of us who write, the digital print-on-demand (POD) technology is like a birthday present. Don't refuse the gift before you've had a chance to try it on for size. The beauty of POD printing is that you can economically print one book at a time, so now people who just want to publish a cookbook as a fundraiser for their organizations or a memoir for their families can do so and still have money left to donate to charity or leave to the grandkids.

On a larger scale, POD technology provides an opportunity for millions of people who feel they have an important message they want to share with the world to do it without waiting the two to four years it typically takes an author to move through idea to published book via traditional methods. This doesn't mean self-publishers should run roughshod over all rules and practices that traditional publishing has forged in the process or--as the saying goes--throw the baby out with the bath water.

Success in any business requires an education. To help you learn more about your options, I'm going to be focusing on self-publishing and POD technology in upcoming weeks. I began last week with an article written to dispel some of the popular misconceptions about self-publishing. My next post will contain Part 2 of busting through the myths.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Busting through Self-Publishing Myths-Part 1

If you're considering self-publishing, you are probably confused by the conflicting information that's available to writers on the Internet, in newsletters, blogs, magazines and the general "word of mouth" that gets spread around at writers groups. There is no simple, right-or-wrong answer to the question, "Should I self-publish? " However, the answer to your question lies in getting getting the facts straight before you make a decision.

Here are 6.5 Self-Publishing Myths that Need Busting:

1. You should self-publish if you keep getting rejections from agents and publishers. I have to say this the worst reason to self-publish and the best reason not to. This is advice is commonly seen on the websites of the less-scrupulous POD (print on demand) publishers who only want you to pay them to publish your work. The other place I see this reasoning is on the blogs of writers who act like 7th-graders with a substitute. (Yay, the teacher's not here. Let's do whatever we want!) Do not give up if you have received only a handful of rejections; every writer receives these. However, if you've been sending out the same manuscript to no avail for over a year, or have racked up over 100 rejections, it's time to rethink the work. Bring it to a writer's group or hire an editor to get some feedback. Take writing classes and attend conferences to find out how to improve your writing and package your work professionally in your submissions. After you have reviewed and improved the manuscript, then self-publish if you wish.

2. Self-publishing is vanity press. This is commonly espoused by smug literary snobs and people who haven't paid attention to the technology boom of the past 10 years. In the past, "vanity press" was the term used to describe the subsidy publishers who would print anything anyone brought in. Despite the high price, the quality of the work and the book was typically poor, and unwitting authors would end up with a garage or storage room full of books that couldn't be sold, not even to their mothers. With the advent of POD technology and more widely available publishing how-to information, however, self-publishing has become a more cost-effective and timely option for writers. The publishing industry is light-years behind other creative fields, such as film and music where indie performers are encouraged, praised and even revered. There are many reasons why an author might legitimately decide to self-publish that have everything to with talent and nothing to do with vanity.

3. You have to market yourself if you self-publish. Actually this is true. It's the presumption that if you have a traditional publisher, you don't have to market yourself that is the myth. People who give this as a reason not to self-publish have not read anything written by industry professionals or attended a writers' conference in the last 20 years. Every agent, editor and publisher in the business advises writers to build a platform and be prepared to be actively involved in their own book promotion. The Hollywood-enhanced notion of the author spending long days writing, evenings drinking and editors cleaning up their work while publicists scrambled to arrange book tours died decades ago. Today's successful authors treat their writing careers as a business that combines many talents and skills. And when did marketing become a four-letter word, anyway? Isn't the point of writing to communicate with your audience? There's no better way to do that than to talk about your book. So get into it, and spread your message!

Part 2 of this article busts through myths 4 through 6.5 and reveals the real information you need to know about self-publishing.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Should I self-publish my book?

I regularly receive many questions about self-publishing, but the question posed to the publishing panel in my June 5 Wordy Woman Publishing Success newsletter article seemed to ignite a rash of responses.

I can't say I'm surprised. I read three daily online publishing ezines, two weekly writer's ezines, daily blogs and three monthly writers' magazines and most of what is written about self-publishing is often wrong or, at best, misleading. No wonder writers are confused about what to do.

Your questions (and confusion) have prompted me to take action. In upcoming weeks, I will be focusing on self-publishing on this blog and in my newsletter. If you have specific questions you'd like to see addressed, please email me or leave a comment here. I will post a Q&A for everyone's benefit.. .

Much of the information I see touted as "truth" is based on myth. Now I am a big fan of ancient mythology as far as literature, but I like my nonfiction based on reality. Before you move forward based on widely held opinions spouted on the Internet, think about the fate of the great ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, which were rooted in mythology.

If you prefer a happy ending for your hard work, stay tuned. Upcoming posts will be about exposing some of the most commonly held myths about self-publishing.