Posts Tagged ‘publication’

Famous Authors Who Self-Published

I think it’s instructive to realize that self-publishing isn’t really a new and different approach. Instead, it’s the way that many authors chose to get their words to market. Some of those authors sank, and some swam. Here are a few you’ll probably recognize.

William Blake
Ken Blanchard
Robert Bly
Lord Byron
Willa Cather
Pat Conroy
Stephen Crane
e.e. cummings
W.E.B. DuBois
Alexander Dumas
T.S. Eliot
Benjamin Franklin
Zane Grey
Thomas Hardy
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Ernest Hemingway
Robinson Jeffers
Stephen King
Rudyard Kipling
Louis L’Amour
D.H. Lawrence
Rod McKuen
John Muir
Anais Nin
Thomas Paine
Tom Peters
Edgar Allen Poe
Alexander Pope
Beatrix Potter
Ezra Pound
Marcel Proust
Irma Rombauer
Carl Sandburg
George Bernard Shaw
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Upton Sinclair
Gertrude Stein
William Strunk
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Henry David Thoreau
Leo Tolstoy
Mark Twain
Walt Whitman
Virginia Woolf

Do you have an addition? Add it in the comments below, and I’ll edit the post to make the list more complete. If possible, please cite a reliable source for your information.

Just Do Something: How to Escape the Slush Pile

Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoungI’ve been reading Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will or How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing In the Sky, Etc. by Kevin DeYoung. I picked it up at a recent conference, not because I have trouble with decision-making, but because I’m a sucker for a catchy title (there’s a lesson there for publishers).

It’s a solid little book that takes a serious look at the harm done by indecision, waffling, inconsistency, and the unwillingness to just put a hand to the proverbial plow and get moving. Spiritualizing indecision and inaction may make it more socially acceptable, but it doesn’t make it a more effective life strategy. Just Do Something is more than just a title, it’s a strategy that works.

How does this book relate to writing and escaping the slush pile? Take a minute to read Stephanie Blake‘s inspiring blog post, “How I (Finally) Got a Book Plucked From the Slush Pile,” to get a good look at exactly what “just do something” looks like in the writing world. Stephanie chronicles a year by year saga of her long road to publication heaven, and the thing that stands out is that she simply kept doing something.

Like many unpublished writers, she learned through the process–through slammed doors, frustrating rejections, and tantalizing “almosts.” She went to conferences, worked with agents, did revisions, and did it all again and again. She didn’t wait for the stars to align, for approval from others, or for anything else before she started sending out her work. She sent and sent and sent. She revised. She sent some more. Finally the miracle happened, and The Marble Queen was plucked from the slush pile and accepted.

If she hadn’t written this blog post, there would have been unpublished writers who commented enviously about luck and overnight success and people who get all the breaks (I know, I’ve heard all that– many times, and if you’ve been through Lucky Freelancer coaching with me, you’ll know exactly how to turn those excuses upside down). There’ll probably still be writers who say things like that, but that’s because they’re not out there doing something. They’re just a little too busy–way too busy–to do all that sending and revising and resending, but one day, just watch, they’ll get the call too. Or not.

The fact is that  just do something is the key to almost everything. The book is good too. I’ll be sharing it, so don’t be offended if I send it your way. Just do something!

To Publish or Self-Publish? An Unexpected Quandary

I’ve been working on a book proposal, and as it takes shape I find myself in an unexpected quandary. It’s a good book (in my completely unbiased opinion;-)) on a popular topic, and it’s built on many years of practical experience. Although I have a publisher who specifically requested this proposal, I’m hesitating over the question of whether or not I want to go through traditional publishing channels or self-publish.*

You see, I’ve done both, and I know how to self-publish properly– doing everything that a regular publisher would do, including using my company’s own ISBN and hiring experienced specialists for editing, copyediting, indexing, cover design, proofreading and all the other details. I have access to a high-quality pool of experts in NAIWE, the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors, and I’m not worried about the mechanics of the process. Because I have a reasonably well-established online presence and a solid platform as a writer, speaker, coach, and director of NAIWE, I’m not worried about the marketing.

The reason I’m wavering is twofold: First, I know the vast difference in profit margin between the two methods, and second, I highly value the speed, flexibility, and control of the self-publishing process. For a non-fiction book that is carefully targeted to a specific audience, a competent self-publisher with a high-quality book can easily reap a profit of at least 50% of the sale price per book, and often quite a bit more. If the same book were traditionally published, the author would be extremely lucky to receive royalties of 10% of the wholesale price.

With traditional publishing, authors also lose flexibility. There’s no way to easily update information or release a new edition; the publisher usually keeps the rights to publish the book in alternative formats; and authors must purchase books at the wholesale price rather than cost if they want copies for marketing. Worst of all, if the publisher lets the book go out of print, all ongoing potential income is lost unless the author regains the rights (which is something I’d be sure to specify in any contract I signed). The traditional publishing process can take well over a year, while the length of time between manuscript and book-in-hand for a self-publisher–even one who outsources many steps– is usually a matter of a few months at most.

So if self-publishing is more profitable, faster, and more flexible, why is there even a question of going the traditional route? First, there’s the lure of handing it over and having an editor take charge and direct the editing and publication process. Like most writers, I’m busy. I always have other writing projects going, plus work with the association, so sharing responsibility with someone else is alluring. I know that authors still end up doing a lot of work, but it’s reassuring to have an expert at the helm.

Second, traditional publishing has more street cred. People still regard it as the holy grail for writers, and I respect that. Self-publishers, even those whose books match traditionally-published books in quality, are treated like pre-transformation Cinderellas. There’s a certain cachet in being one of the chosen, but from a practical standpoint it’s the equivalent of marrying for social position. Very few people argue for marriages of status anymore, and publishing for status may be destined to become equally archaic. Right now, though, traditional publishing still holds many of the credibility cards, and depending on what the author wants to accomplish with the book, that added credibility can be important.

What to do? I’ll decide in the next few days. I still believe in traditional publishing for fiction, but for non-fiction, it’s a quandary: money and control vs. time and credibility in the traditional publishing world. Hmmmm…

*The term “self-publishing” is being co-opted by some vanity presses, which are using incorrectly using it to describe what they offer. An author who pays a fee to have his or her book “published” under the ISBN of a “publishing company,” is simply paying to have the book printed by a vanity press. This is not self-publishing, and to call it self-publishing is misleading and inaccurate.