Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Prejudices, Choices, and Opportunities: In Defense of Self-publishing, Part I

I am quite aware that my use of self- and print-on-demand publishing for all of my books makes them suspect. In my former academic mileau, authors got no respect unless their books were published and promoted by big-name publishing companies. There seemed to be a belief that published authors received huge cash advances and made tons of money. I suspect that those attitudes are still fairly common.

For some famous authors and celebrities (think Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Barbara Walters, etc.) all that is true. But for the lesser-known, the picture is quite different. I've heard and read sad tales of multi-year, sometimes multi-decade struggles to find agents and/or publishers. I applaud eventual success, but it doesn't seem to happen very often. More often, the struggling author just relegates his or her manuscript(s) to a file cabinet or trash bin and gives up.

You may say that failure to find an agent or publisher means that the writer and/or the book is no good. That's certainly true of some, but I've read and reviewed enough virtually unknown books to realize that some self-published books are wonderful. It's mostly about money. Agents and publishers may love a book, but if it lacks commercial potential, they won't touch it.

As a true believer in the non-monetary rewards of writing (not that I'd mind selling a few more books), I welcome the opportunities brought by computers and the expanding self-publishing industry. Today, anyone with computer skills or the means to hire someone who has them can produce and publish a book quickly and inexpensively. The choices are many, and the costs vary widely.

I'll present more details later, but in the meantime, try to rethink your prejudices about self-publishing. For the record, I never tried to find an agent or a publisher for my books. I am a practical and realistic person. To quote fellow Chicago-area author Helen Gallagher in her book Release Your Writing, “Attract a publisher if you can, but if not, don’t wait your life away . . . Self-publishing is not settling for second best. It’s the right choice if your book won’t likely capture the attention of a large publisher and you don’t want to spend years waiting to see your book in print.”

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne
Photo: Cover design and publishing by Infinity

10 comments:

Pat's Place said...

Great comments on self publishing! If you don't mind, I will refer to your blog on my blog.

Barbara J. Kirby Davis said...

Thanks a million for your thoughts on self-publishing. I look forward to hearing more! I just finished your book "Reinventing Myself" and will do a book review on my blog either today or tomorrow. Loved it!

seniorwriter said...

Thanks, Pat. Feel free to use my comments; they are based mostly on personal experience.

seniorwriter said...

Barbara: I'll look forward to your review! If you have an Amazon sign-on, please post it on Amazon.com as well.

Barbara J. Kirby Davis said...

I will add it to the "bookshelf" on my blog, which links to Amazon and I'll do what I can to give it the exposure it deserves.

seniorwriter said...

Thanks for the kind words and the help, Barbara!

Barbara J. Kirby Davis said...

I have just completed the book review for "Reinventing Myself". I hope I have given it the honor it deserves. Barbara

seniorwriter said...

Thanks for the great review, Barbara. I'll include a quote or two on both of my blogs.

Rita said...

I think it's great, and a wise choice, not to put your dreams on hold,and to get on out there and follow your star!

Lydia said...

I for one am glad that you self-published your memoirs!