Posts Tagged ‘self-publish’

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.

Good for You, Seth Godin

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable by Seth GodinIn his current blog post, Moving On, author Seth Godin announced that Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? will be the last book he publishes in a traditional way.

Good for him. He’s experienced success in the traditional world and he understands what’s possible. He states, “…my mission is to figure out who the audience is, and take them where they want and need to go, in whatever format works, even if it’s not a traditionally published book.”

I’ve long believed that people who have something important to say and a defined audience to speak to are best served by maintaining control of their intellectual property and choosing the most effective means of distribution. For many authors, there remains the longing for a traditional stamp of approval, but the fact is, readers buy content and the Internet has leveled the playing field in a way that allows authors to reach a target audience as never before.

The twenty-first century stamp of approval is the consumer’s dollar, rather than a publishing house’s approval. This is a power shift that leaves authors in a far better place as long as they’re willing to adapt to the new reality and learn what they need to know. As I’ve written in previous musings on the subject, I believe it’s easier for non-traditionally-published non-fiction to find an audience than for fiction, but even that is changing.

When someone as pivotal as Seth Godin steps away from traditional publishing, it’s clear that the market has spoken.

And now, I’m going to read Linchpin.

If You Think You Want To Be Published, What Should You Do?

Want to be published? Learn about the industry!So, what do you do when you think you want to get something published?

Here are a few tips for where to start when you have something to say and want to see it in print.

Know your goals. Sometimes self-publishing is a better option than pursuing traditional publishing (if you’re writing a book that you want to give to prospective clients, for example, or if you’re writing the history of your family). Self-publishing done right can be cheaper, quicker, and easier– as long as it fits your goals. You can read a few more thoughts on deciding between traditional publishing and self-publishing at an earlier post.

If you’re serious about getting published, join a writers’ critique group and get feedback at a local level before submitting. Other writers can see things you’ve missed, ask questions that help you clarify what you’ve written, and just offer good advice for the journey. You don’t have to take all the advice you receive, but you’ll find your work strengthened by the exposure to feedback from other writers.

If you’re not absolutely confident that your grammar, punctuation, and word usage are extremely good, hire an experienced copyeditor to clean up your manuscript before you submit or self-publish. Traditional publishers want to see material that is close to publication-ready. Editing is time-consuming, so don’t expect to get a good job free (unless you’ve married an editor;-)).

If you want to be published traditionally, learn about the industry. Read writing magazines; read a lot of good work in your genre; get Writer’s Market and learn about the submission process; and go to writer’s conferences and workshops. In any field, it’s necessary to learn and practice the basics before you can expect to succeed. You probably wouldn’t expect to be hired as a symphony violinist if you’ve taken only six weeks of lessons, so it’s reasonable to assume that there’s a learning curve for the writing and publishing process as well.

Accept the fact that there are standard procedures and timetables in the publishing industry, and you can’t change them. Stephen King or J.K .Rowling may be able to get special treatment, but novice writers needn’t expect anything special. It pays to learn to learn about the industry so that you won’t accidentally sabotage yourself through impatience or lack of knowledge.

Get involved with the writing/editing/publishing industry. Join a writer’s association such as NAIWE, the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors, where you’ll learn a lot more about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing your work.

Finally, enjoy the process. It can be challenging and frustrating at times, but writing is worth it.

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.