Saturday, November 11, 2006

DIY Publishing

An article in Thursday's NY Daily News covered "Do-it-Yourself Publishing." Some interesting statistics.

In 2005, the 4 largest POD (print on demand) companies -- which according to the paper are iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, and, which all btw, have different reputations, AuthorHouse being the one I've heard the worst about and the best -- printed 17,000 which is a 31 per cent increase from 2001. Bowker's Books in Print database is cited as the source of the info.

The usual frustrations are given for reasons: Agents don't take on books or even respond to queries, agents can't place books with publishers after years of trying, authors can't place books after years of trying. But at least, the pitfalls are realistically discussed.

Mark Gompertz of Simon & Schuster says:
"If you believe in your work, it may be possible that we're all wrong." Self-publishing gives authors "the opportunity to prove it."
But, "'Build it and they will come' does not work in publishing," according to Diane Gedymin, editorial director at iUniverse, which is refreshingly realistic given all the furor over self-publishing by POD services. She says, "You have to hustle." Well, d'uh, but not all, or very few self-published authors get that this is still hard work.

iUniverse stats show first-year sales of their books average 125-150 copies, hardly worth boasting about. The figures show that barely covering the printing costs. And, the article notes,
"A wide range in quality means self-published books still carry stigma, and most reviewers won't review them. Bookstores also shy away from stocking them because they typically can't return unsold copies as they can with a traditional publisher."
This quote from Bowker consultant Andrew Grabois is both pertinent and another d'uh statement:
"The reality is, there's a difference between being published and being sold."
But the quote that really caught my attention, because in an era of YouTube and other consumer created content, it might indicate a future for publishing that really does end up breaking with tradition, though I doubt it will happen on a large scale for quite a while. The quote is from Michael Stadther who put up $3 million (would we all have that kind of money to spend) to self-publish a book, then start a POD service called Everyone Gets Published.
"You're letting the buyer determine the quality of the material rather than some intermediary. There are huge groups of people out there that deserve to get published."
Well, yeah, maybe. But that intermediary is better trained than most people, including authors and their family and friends who are enamored of their words to discern what really is publishable. Sure, they can be wrong, but probably are less wrong than the average newbie writer.

And let's face it, as is mentioned in the article, a pro book deal coming from a self-published book is the ideal, the holy grail. We all like to think we're good enough, not just to be published but to earn enough readers to keep putting out books. We'd like affirmation of our skills, be it from reviews or sales or simply an agent or editor saying, "Wow, this is great." We bypass the latter by self-publishing and need to work extra hard to get the former, requiring our time, money, and energy.

I've been of mixed feelings on this topic for a long time. Sure, I print up my little spy stories, written with a couple of friends, but the most readers we've had at our peak is 35-40. That's not even enough to be a blip on the radar. And I certainly don't have time to really promote a novel. I understand having so much faith in your writing that you'll put time and money into getting it to readers, but which is the better option: Doing it yourself or selling it to a publisher who will do a lot of that other work for you? Will they promote your first or even second book as it deserves? If it's good, either can work. If it's not good, nothing is likely to work.

It always comes down to quality, quality as perceived by the many, not the few.


  1. Your Blogs are very interesting. I will come back soon.
    Cheers, Chris.

  2. Hi Shelly
    I've been trying to figure out... WHY blog?? Yours is the first one I've come across that makes sense.
    I like it

  3. You're welcome, Lorrie. And thank you for the comment, and for visiting. :)

  4. Have you read the Well-Fed Self-Publisher? It's aimed more at NF than fiction authors, but it does provide a very down-to-earth analysis of how and whether you might be able to get somewhere with self-publishing.

  5. I haven't read that book, but I'm not looking to self-publish, at least not for the next decade or so. Right now, my goal is to finish my ms and then exhaust the pro route to publication.