Once upon a time, writers who chose to publish their own work were thought simply as “not good enough” to make it as an author. Today self-publishing is rapidly becoming, not only a viable alternative to the snail-paced publishing process, but also allows authors to keep more of their money that once went to agents and publishers.
As one might expect, the talents of the writer play the most valuable role in getting a book from concept to publication. However, in mainstream publishing, there is also a fair amount of luck and back-door politics involved in an author’s success or failure. Generally unknown to the general public, or to beginning writers, traditional publishing is one of the most subjective processes in business.
In traditional publishing, often referred to as “royalty-based publishing,” getting a book to the shelves is a very long, disheartening endeavor. Once a manuscript is completed, the author must spend a great deal of time researching agents and publishers then send queries to each, hoping for a positive response or at least some feedback.
This is done over again many times – sometimes for years – until either the author gives up or they get an offer from an agent or publisher to move forward. If the manuscript is finally picked up by a publisher, it can take as long as two years to get it to market. In the meantime, the author will receive some kind of advanced payment against potential sales of the book.
The author also loses a great deal of control over the manuscript. Drastic changes can occur in editing, cover art or even the story itself, all of which are necessary evils in the business of publishing – if the author wants to be a commercial success and write for a living.
Even though many people have never heard of self-publishing, the concept has been around for hundreds of years. Over the last century, business professionals and corporations often self-published books and other literature designed to demonstrate expertise in a particular business, product or industry. Authoring a book generates a certain level of public credibility, in turn, building the potential for greater earning power.
Originally referred to as “vanity publishing,” self-publishing provides authors with a faster route to getting their work out to the public while also giving them complete control over the product.
Writers who choose the self-publishing method have some major challenges to accept above and beyond completing a polished manuscript. The first challenge they face is the editing process. A lack of good editing is a major mistake made by many self-publishers, particularly those who are unwilling to allow anyone else to review or critique their work; which is one reason some writers choose this way to publication in the first place.
Critical editing is vital to gaining credibility once the book is marketed. If it looks amateurish, the author will not be taken seriously. If that is done well, then the author must choose a printing method, either online or using a brick-and-mortar press house. Printing the book is one of the greater expenses, averaging around $2,000 for about 100 copies of a typical paperback.
Next comes the ‘business’ end of publishing, an area where most writers have little experience. Self-publishing also means self-marketing and promotion. The author will have to become the person who actually sells the book. It will be his or her task to develop a marketing plan and promote the book through advertising and public relations activities.
If all of that comes together, the author might be able to grow a grass-roots following at the local level and start selling their book. Many self-published authors are now getting the attention of large publishing houses and major book deals. Supporting local authors by purchasing their books can help the economy and encourage literacy in the community.
As independent writers gain credibility and build a following, they also generate millions of dollars in revenue for themselves and on-demand publishers doing short print runs. So this holiday season, buy local and read local.