When I began writing on a serious basis in the mid-eighties, self-publishing was known as subsidy publishing. A writer paid a subsidy press a certain amount to publish his or her book. That fee often ran into the tens of thousands of dollars. In return, the publisher agreed to print and market the author’s book. I never went that route so I can’t say for sure, but I’d be very surprised if that fee included any content or line editing. What would be the point? The odds anyone would actually read it (beyond the writer’s friends and family) were pretty slim. I would imagine the same went for the marketing promise. A few brochures and bookmarks sent out to bookstores, most of which were likely tossed directly into the trash. Subsidy publishing was the kiss of death.
My how times have changed. Today’s writers who opt to self-publish do so via local or internet printers, and the price is much less that you might think. (I will get into the specifics of that cost in an upcoming post.) The point I want to make today is that the stigma surrounding self-publishing is evaporating at a rapid pace. While there will always be writers who turn up their noses at the idea of publishing their own book, for the most part, they are the same writers who will never see their work in print. As Julia and I have discussed numerous times here on our blog, the odds of selling your book to a major publisher are astronomical. Even if you have previously published books, the odds are still weighed heavily against you placing your next book unless your previous one made oodles of money for the publisher. Selling to a small publisher is a whole other story, and that too is a post for another day.
E-books and Kindle, etc. remain options for any writer, but if Julia and my experiences count for anything, most readers do not consider electronic works “real” books. I can understand that line of thinking to a point. Given the relatively low cost involved in having a book printed today (as long as you can design your own cover and turn in a formatted PDF), readers might ask, if your book is any good why aren’t you willing to spend the money to get some copies printed?
There’s another advantage to a physical book: it provides writers with a better tool for promotion. Imagine how many e-books are submitted to newspapers and magazines for review. If the intended recipient opts to delete the e-book, it takes only a click on the keyboard. If that reviewer gets an actual book in his or her hands, however, I’m betting they will, at the very least, page through it before tossing into the trash. And who knows? Maybe they will actually read a chapter or two, like it, and post a review.
Perhaps the most important advantage is that people will be impressed when you hand them one of your books. If you happen to mention you had it published yourself, they are likely to shrug and say, so what? It’s a real book. They can hold it in their hands, stick in their book bag, share it with a friend. And, they met the author who kindly signed their copy! All in all, a win-win experience.
I still believe E-books are the wave of the future, but that future seems to be rolling toward shore a lot more slowly than most of us thought. And maybe that’s a good thing.