The Author’s Future in the Publishing World
In the early days an author’s job consisted of writing a manuscript and hoping that a big name publishing house would pick it up. Now, the author can be involved in all processes of their book being made and can skip the publishing house if they wish too. Self- publishing is no longer a method used by the author who has more pocket change; self-publishing has now become an alternative option to using a publisher due to the changes the publishing world has witnessed. Changes include digital print on demand, high costs associated with getting a book published, and of course the biggest change and advance of all: technology. These factors have caused authors to re-evaluate the way they get their books to the public. The question I will answer at my best ability is: ‘Is self-publishing the right route for author’s in this present day and the future?’. I will look at the reasons why one should choose to self-publish or not and an alternative to traditional publishing houses. Also, the opinions of some author’s that have gone that route, their strategies, and what they were wanting to achieve.
Self-publishing used to be called “Vanity Publishing”; it was an expensive method where the author would put up a lot of money to have their manuscript made into a book. Binding and printing were expensive to do unless you wanted to make numerous copies. So according to society, only the vain would do this (course website/ Coffey & Milliot, 2010). In the late 90’s digital printing evolved which allowed for a book to be produced cheaply (course website). This was useful in printing less books and single books ‘on demand’ when someone ordered them; this has sent self-publishing on the rise. Digital printing is one advantage to self-publishing and is cost efficient for the author no matter if they are a new author or already established. POD, or ‘print on demand’ is cost saving, and also does more good for the environment than bad (Donaldson, 2009). Going with self-publishing means that the author doesn’t have to negotiate with the publisher on how many books get printed. This could mean a loss in the end for the author if their book does not sell well. By self-publishing and using print on demand, authors do not have to publish a minimum number of books (Donaldson, 2009). This cuts the associated costs because the author only pays for the copies that they print and ship (Donaldson, 2009). The author has control over when and where the book is distributed and there is no time spent waiting for a book deal to get a higher profit (Donaldson, 2009). This is one of the motivations of self-publishing, being in total control of your book from the minute you write it to the minute it reaches the readers’ hands (Orey, 2005). Authors are becoming more knowledgeable about the publishing process and are demanding more services from their vendors (Deahl, 2008). They refuse to compromise with their works and are realizing their potential in taking a manuscript to shelves on their own terms (Orey, 2005).
One interesting alternative that I came across and found to be the medium between publishing and self-publishing is Richard Nash’s Cursor. As stated on Nash’s blog, “Cursor… represents a new, “social” approach to publishing” ( Nash, 2009). Nash wants to enforce online membership communities where the authors connect with the readers. Still keeping within a traditional publishing house, no more “life” contracts, instead, three year ones (Nash, 2010). He is not, ‘saving publishing’ as he writes but merely gives the services that the internet enables (Nash, 2009). Nash is giving the author the means to connect with the readers, as well as more flexible contracts and is adapting to where publishing has taken a turn towards. He is the medium between the two modes of publishing and is keeping up with the times by connecting to the popularity of social media. The internet has become a great force in publishing and even more so in self-publishing.
Ebooks sales “have doubled or more than doubled every year since 2007”, this is something we do know as told by Mark Shatzkin on his blog (Shatzkin, 2011). Knowing this fact, it is no wonder that authors are seriously considering putting their books online or sending them straight to an ebook format. There are several self-publishing companies out there now that offer numerous services to the self-publisher. When an author publishes their book through one of those companies however, the company then owns the book ( Donaldson, 2009). Companies such as Blurb.com, Lulu.com, and CafePress.com all have printing options, ebook options, as well as marketing packages and distribution packages (Lulu.com). Self-publishing companies are responding by widening their marketing and distribution options, offering books in the digital form, and treating authors as business partners (Coffey & Milliot, 2010). These companies really aid in the authors desire to self-publish their works and make it seem possible.
The stand out star of the publishing world in the last several years has been the ebook, and a more specific star would be Amazon. Amazon has been a huge retailing giant since the late 1990’s and has nailed the customer profile information. Search Inside the Book is an online book store that allows you to find and purchase books. It started in 2003 and in 2007 Amazon came up with the Kindle Reader, enabling people to read ebooks that you purchase on a digital device (course website). As the largest book retailer, they decided to venture into other areas of the book world, self-publishing. Along with publishing, they offer printing and distribution and who knows where they will expand to next. Amazon’s online self-publishing service is called CreateSpace and in 2007 Books On Demand was launched as part of Amazon’s CreateSpace division (Milliot, 2007). Books on Demand charges a minimum of $3.15 per unit and the company takes 20% of the list price if it is only on CreateSpace, but if it is also listed on Amazon.com Amazon takes 30% (Milliot, 2007). For example, if a book has a cover price of $25.00 the author would receive $14.85 if sold through CreateSpace, and the company would earn $10.15 (Milliot, 2007). BookSurge is a printing service Amazon offers if the author wants to print only a few copies of the book, as well as for authors whose desires are more commercial (Milliot, 2007). Ebooks are a cheaper way for the self-publisher to go, and going through companies like Amazon gives you services like the option to print. Working with the author benefits everyone. Amazon’s services are aimed at drawing in established authors to publish with them, although the majority are new authors are looking to publish a book as a commercial enterprise (Coffey & Milliot, 2010). Ebooks are a strong area for self-publishers (Coffey & Milliot, 2010), they cut additional costs of binding, printing, type setting, high paper costs, and distribution. There are many social networks and personal profiles that allow the author to connect with their readers when using online services or ebooks as a means of promoting or marketing their book. Six out of one hundred authors on the Kindle Best Sellers list were self-published authors ( Coffey & Milliot, 2010). There are even specific job postings on Quill & Quire that ask for qualified people to work for Kobo Inc, to make Kobo the perfect place for authors to directly promote and sell content in the ebook format (Quill & Quire, 2011). They too are trying to facilitate the self-publishing author. Self-publishing seems to be a route worth considering and in the next portion of this paper I will be looking at success stories from several self-publishers.
Self-publishing can be a lot of work but many authors choose to take this route as they can be rewarded by retaining a higher portion of their sales (Anonymous, 2005). For example, the following three individuals have had success in self-publishing. Each author came from a different background but they all had a story to tell and on their own terms. Jeffery is a freelancer and wrote a book about a NFL player whom he knew, prior to this he had written three other books including another self-published title (Orey, 2005). His goal of self-publishing was to generate enough buzz to get big publishers interested (Orey, 2005). One of the hardest parts of self-publishing perhaps is how to get the book out to the public and let people know it exits. Jeffery did speaking engagements, interviews and a books-to-school program supported by sponsors (Orey, 2005). This may have been simpler for Jeffery because of his three previous books and his already established connections. He had no marketing or advertising budget and most of his sales were made on his website. Although three books store in Baltimore carried the book it was really word of mouth that got the book selling (Orey, 2005). Dale is a father and worked in marketing for nearly twenty years, he wrote a book about his journey through fatherhood. His goal was to show that he could write a marketable book. His outreach to his readers was through a promotional campaign designed by a publicist (Orey, 2005). Dale spoke of his self-publishing experience, “the business side of the industry is very competitive and crowded, but you can be successful if you create a practical marketing strategy” (Orey, 2005). The final author was Larry was a former realtor now a minister, he has published three books prior to this book on relationships (Orey, 2005). His goal for self-publishing was that he wanted to be able to control the entire publishing process, achieving enough success that he could actively look for a publisher (Orey, 2005). Larry started his own publishing company in 1992, and promoted his book through radio, TV shows, websites, and seminars where 30-45% of his books were sold. Once again Larry had several connections in the field and in the areas of promotion (Orey, 2005). Larry said in the article that, “you cannot be shy as an author and expect your book to sell…PROMOTE! PROMOTE! PROMOTE!” (Orey, 2005).
All three of these authors books were successful for the most part because of their abilities to reach their audiences and promote their book. One of the biggest struggles for self-publishers is the ability to reach their audience. The biggest obstacle facing self-publishing is visibility and access to a market. Signing on with companies like Amazon could help with this problem because of their market force. A marketing strategy must be in place because without the promotion of a book the chances of it doing well are very slim. As of now Amazon’s Book on Demand sector does not provide design or any marketing services to support the book, but another branch of Amazon called BookSurge does offer different services which could be utilized (Milliot, 2007). Utilizing social networks and profiles would benefit the marketing of one’s book and word of mouth may help generate enough interest. Another downside to self-publishing is that there is not a publisher who is footing the bill to get distribution to major chains. Although making the book may be cheaper, the costs for distribution and activities such as marketing have to come out of the author’s pocket (Donaldson, 2009).
Self-publishing is growing and being utilized by more established and newer authors. The associated costs are reduced and the reward of seeing your book start to finish is enough motivation for some. Although there are some drawbacks, the biggest being visibility and some external costs, the pros weigh out the cons. People are creating new markets for this type of publishing and even alternative publishing methods are being established. Overall I think self-publishing is a lot of work but in the end it can be more beneficial for the author. The freedom authors have with their own work and the ability to use many different resources can allow self-publishing to be a very successful process.
Anonymous. (2005). My experience in self-publishing.44 (6),6. CBCA Reference and Current Events. Retrieved form JStor.
Deahl, R. (2008). Big houses benefit from savvy self-publishers. Publishers Weekly, 255(28), 9. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Donaldson, S. A. (2009). Publish, not perish. Black Enterprise, 40(3), 42. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
John Maxwell, Course Website. 2011. Publishing 401. Print on demand and self-publishing.
Milliot, J. (2007). Amazon tries self-publishing. Publishers Weekly, 254(36), 8. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Milliot, J., & Coffey, M. (2010). Self Publishing Comes of Age. Publishers Weekly, 257(50), 1-2. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Orey, C. (2005). Self-publishing: success stories. 6 authors tell how they did it—you can do it, too. Writer, 118(2), 34-38. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Nash, R. (2010). Richard nash a new business model for publishing. Literary Platform.
Nash, R. (2009, July 27). My start-up: Cursor. http://rnash.com/article/my-start-up-cursor/
Shatzkin, M. (2011). Four years into the ebook revolution: things we know and things we don’t know. Blog: The Skatzkin Files, The Idea Logical Company. Retrieved from http://www.idealog.com/blog/four-years-into-the-ebook-revolution-things-we-know-and
Ouill & Quire. (2011). Director, self-publishing and author relations. Job Board. Retrieved form http://www.quillandquire.com/job_board/jobpost.cfm?posting_id=1774