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Alternatives to Traditional Publishing – Self-Publishing; is it a Dirty Word?

We're not in Kansas anymore!

We’re not in Kansas anymore!

As discussed before, traditional publishing is starting to take a back seat to new alternatives. The old stigma of never paying for publication and the often negative association with the terms “vanity press” causes many authors to avoid these options altogether. But, today is a new day, Things are changing in the world of writing and publishing, in some cases quite rapidly. As new technology grows, changes in attitudes toward these new options are growing as well. Authors now have more opportunities to get their work in the hands of readers. This is truly good news.

Independent and self-publishing platforms are rapidly becoming the new norm for today’s authors. I read an article just last week about a main-stream author who has been writing in excess of 20 years. This person has written numerous books that were published by traditional presses. Even with “success” in the traditional publishing realm, this author felt there were greater opportunities to be had by switching to independent publishing; which this person has done with success.

Going the independent route for authors offers a sense of control over the project. Depending on the company and the package of services the author acquires, the levels of control may vary. Still, authors have a say in most every step of the process. If you have strong opinions on a cover design, how the book should be formatted, or even as to which color the ink should be, these are options where the author is in charge. The book size, the paper used for printing and word length can be chosen by an author. Another area of control is the timetable. How quickly an author wants to release a book can be tweaked, depending on the author’s schedule, and other factors. Pricing is another area of input. Some companies leave it entirely to the author what to charge; others “suggest” a price and others give a minimum price which reflects costs and the author can determine how much mark-up is needed.

For those independent spirits out there, this path seems like an ideal approach to get one’s work in the hands of the public. However, for all the positives, there can be negatives. These can be minimized or avoided if the author does the homework and considers all potential variables that will affect how successful the results are. The costs involved are not just financial, but personal as well. Writers who choke and stammer with fear at the thought of speaking to a literary group or book club must realize they will have to do things outside their comfort zones. If you’d rather cower in a corner with green gills and streams of sweat running down your temples than hand out book marks at a writer’s convention and tell others about your work, you may have trouble getting significant sales with this method of publishing. Those with marketing savvy most likely will find the sales pitch a bit easier to swallow. But, even for those with marketing backgrounds, the process can be daunting. Let’s face it, we authors are much more comfortable sitting in front of a laptop screen than standing before a crowd of strangers telling them why they should read our books.

Some of the bigger independent publishing companies have figured this out. They’ve capitalized on the demand for help in marketing and put together various packages to help authors promote and sell their work. This can be a great way to go for some authors, but not all. Not every one of us has thousands of dollars to spend on marketing and we must make our money count!

Authors are creative and this evidence shows in some of the ways they devise to attract attention to their books. Anything from email “signatures” with links to their book, to social media campaigns that offer something unusual in exchange for a review or other promotional considerations; the sky really is the only limit.

Finding success with independent publishing requires commitment, determination and a “failure is not an option” mentality. We have to come out of our comfort zones, shove those bookmarks in readers’ faces, “brag” about our work and never be afraid to tell others that we’re an author, a published author! Yes, I include myself in that demographic! I’m the one over there, huddled in a corner, a nice shade of green creeping up my throat and sweat running down my temples as I hear my name being announced as the next speaker at a literary event. How bad do you want it? That’s the question. As for me, I carry extra bottles of TUMS in my pocket. After all I’ve shoveled down my throat, I think I should buy some stock in the company, but I’m not giving up. Neither should you! In this new world of publishing I think Dorothy said it best, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!”

Next time I’ll discuss some of the companies offering publishing packages and give my two cents worth on what an author should look for when considering these options.

2 thoughts on “Alternatives to Traditional Publishing – Self-Publishing; is it a Dirty Word?

  1. You’ve basically listed every reason why I am turning away from traditional publishing. As for the negatives, from my research, most traditional publishers don’t help much with marketing (unless you are one of their A-list authors). So, really, it is highly likely an author will have to do his/her own marketing anyway. As tough as it may be, it’s a social media driven world nowadays, and we all have to overcome our introverted natures if we want to get noticed!

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