Everyone has a book in them. Christopher Hutchins said that. Whether it’s a family history, an autobiography, or the great American novel, we all have a story to tell. But Mr. Hutchin’s quote doesn’t end there, he continues: …and in most cases, that is where it should stay.
I have a feeling Mr. Hutchins was well acquainted with self-published books.
You’ve probably heard about self-publishing – even in print, the sneer comes through loud and clear. Having walked this dark side of publishing for five years – three novels and a cookbook – I have learned quite a bit about this rapidly growing industry. It can be humiliating or exhilarating, and the difference between one or the other lies in the details. In this post and my following two, I am going to share with you what I have learned about self-publishing. This first part will concentrate on an overview of the self-publishing industry – where it came from and how it has evolved into a two billion dollar industry today. Part 2 will be the on the failings of self-publishing – an explanation of why it has such a bad reputation, and what to watch for when you decide to publish your own book. Part 3 will be the advantages of self-publishing and my own journey.
You may wonder: Do self-published authors make any money? And the answer is some do, some don’t. It is a fact that more than half of all self-published books make less than $500 for their authors. The reason for most of this lies in one major failure on the part of authors – marketing – which I will discuss in part three.
However, there have been some authors who have found self-publishing to be their personal road to riches. The college freshman English classic, “The Element’s of Style” by Strunk and White, What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles, The Christmas Box by Rick Evans, The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, The One Minute Manager by Blanchard and Johnson, and The Shack by William P. Young are examples of best-selling books that were originally self-published, then later picked up by traditional publishers.
Sometimes authors self-publish first, hoping that their book will catch the attention of a traditional publisher. But others, like author Deb Sanders have no intention of going with a traditional publisher. She has already found self-publishing a lucrative path and sees no need to share her wealth with a traditional publisher.
Self publishing has enjoyed phenomenal growth because the industry saw the untapped market of everyday people who write a book but because of the subject or quality of the piece, it will never be chosen for publication by traditional publishers. This demographic has been a goldmine to self publishers because self-publishing companies are not interested in the quality of your work. They are interested in the fee they will charge you to produce the book you want.
The biggest problem with self publishing is anyone can do it. Self publishing has been around forever as Vanity Presses. Before the advent of the internet to make your information accessible to millions, you had to resort to a hard copy book. And if you wished to publish a book and had the money, you could find a publisher who would take your work and turn it into a hardbound volume. Unfortunately, they saw the transaction as more of a printing contract than a publishing. The writing was poor because few authors can turn in a pristine manuscript -- it takes editors to craft a work into a saleable volume – and they simply took your manuscript and produced it. There is virtually no quality control of your work. Today the market is glutted with poorly written, unedited works which make people assume poor quality is the standard of all self-published books.
Though the three terms – vanity, self, indie – are often used interchangeably, they are not equal. Vanity Presses are the least professional of self-publishers. Self-publishing and indie publishing are terms used interchangeably and they are many levels above a vanity press. Self and Indie publishers are serious writers who are willing to apply stringent criteria to the production of their book. They understand that whatever they write is not in publishable quality, what they produce is effectively a first draft even if it’s been reworked dozens of times. It now needs professionals to take the manuscript and turn it into a professional publication.
It is more usual for a self-publisher to be the author of one book published under their name, whereas an Indie publisher has formed a business and is publishing several works, even if all by the same author. I am an Indie publisher and all of my books are published under Brynwood Publishing LLC.
No matter how many die-hards lament the electronic age of publishing, it is here to stay. The most important thing for any person looking to publish a book to remember is to make sure they do not settle for anything less than the highest professional standards. Refusing to settle means we will be taken more seriously.