Friday, August 27, 2010

Experiments in Self-Publishing

There is a general belief held by The Public that self-publishing only happens because the author's work wasn't "good enough" to get a book deal (or "be published for real"). It's like when a college student and a professor hook up: it's not against the rules, but it is frowned upon (plus, sometimes, super hot). This same Public, on the other hand, praises indie rock bands and gets super pissed when their favorite underground band does, after many years, get a record deal, lambasting them for "selling out".

"Do I get an A, professor?"
Well, friends, the reality of the publishing industry is that it is a business; their bottom line trumps all else. While many a good book is published every year, there are thousands that aren't so much "good" as they are "marketable." The ridiculous hoops an author must push their work through just to get someone of any level of influence to read passed the blurb on their query letter is daunting, exhausting, and discouraging. Unless, of course, you have "networking skills," which basically means schmoozing your way into collecting names and numbers of the people who can help you out. Only the strongest survive in the cut-throat world of publishing - and, friends, strongest does not always mean "best," but rather "most persistent."

But there is hope! And that hope takes the form of technology. E-readers and internet publishing, along with print-on-demand publishing, are not only greener alternatives to traditional publishing but also take some of the power away from the publisher to decide what is "good" and puts it back into the hands of the authors and the consumers. Because a publisher's cost to put out an ebook is drastically lower than a bazillion hardbound copies that are on an indirect journey to the local landfill or recycling plant anyway, the cost to the consumer is also drastically lowered. Lower fiscal risk to the publisher means they will take more chances on unknown authors or unconventional work, and the consumer, paying now ten or fewer dollars as opposed to twenty or more dollars to try something new, will take more chances on these same books. Print-on-demand publishing offers the same benefits.

p.s. don't actually watch this movie, it is terrible
One advantage traditional publishing (or having a literary agent) does give the author is a paycheck. But most authors worth their weight in words (even those you suspect are being paid quite highly per manuscript) have a "day job", usually teaching or in a similar field, and certainly don't expect to make a living off their passion (though, wouldn't it be nice?). It's more about getting the work out there, finding a readership, and sharing the love. Which, I admit, traditional publishing, once again by means of shelling out the greenbacks, can help the work reach more readers than if the author does all the marketing themselves. But if it's a choice between letting your manuscript collect whatever the microchip equivalent of dust is sitting on your hard drive, or putting it out there to possibly connect with even one reader who doesn't know you or owe you anything who might just like it, then I choose the former.

All of this to say, I'm experimenting with self-publishing through Amazon's print-on-demand imprint, CreateSpace.  In the next few weeks, I am going to be publishing my novel Sleep Like This, which I would tell you more about but, man, I wrote a lot of stuff here already. So I leave you with the cover image of the book, provided by the awesome and generous Louise ORourke, and a promise to tell you more about it as the release date nears.


  1. Hi Dayna! Great post on self-publishing. It's true that not all self-publishing is desparation-based. I, like many, self-published by choice. I decided to follow in the tradition of those indie rockers and film makers you mentioned even though the indie path is not as of yet getting much recognition in the literary arena.

    You used to need a publisher (preferrably a big one) for printing, distribution, and publicity, but imo the publishing industry has outlived its usefulness in all three areas.

    You mentioned that the industry can still be useful in the publicity arena and for some genres, that's true. But at the moment, the limited print run distribution model is crippling literary authors when it comes to publicity.

    For me, going indie was a business decision, one which I'm very proud of.

    Good luck with your novel and keep us posted on your progress.

  2. Love the cover photo. But your name and the title should be a little bit bigger, don't you think?

  3. Hey, Wanda, thanks for your comment and support. What is your book about? I hope your experience with self-publishing has been going well/continues to go well!

    Erin, I want my name and title to be kind of small, but I think the image makes it appear smaller than it actually is.