May 29

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Experiments in Self Publishing…

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"Go it alone?  Or have a big publisher cover your back?"

(And pray they don't shoot you…)

Self publishing with e-books, or Print On Demand (POD) is all the rage now.  And there are even stranger experiments in self-publishing, like this one:  The Book | Cory Doctorow – With a Little Help.  So, what's a writer with a finished book on his hands to do?

Well, that all depends on what you want.  What's important to you?  Having creative control of your work, or being branded as a "published" author.

You see, even though digital books are selling in higher numbers than that of their paper counterparts, there is still a stigma attached to publishing your own "e-Book."  It's still seen as an independent ("indy"), and less reputable method of sharing your prose.  Even though the major publishing houses do the exact same thing, somehow it's only considered "acceptable" and "reputable" if they are the ones doing it.

You see, now that anyone at all can publish a book, the control publishers had as "gate keepers" is no longer absolute.  And they've been very careful to ensure sure that the stereotype that they are the only source of "respectable, well written, and professional" books continues to perpetuate through literary circles.

Are there crappy self published e-books?


But aren't there also crappy books on the shelves of Barnes & Noble (the only major book store that is still financially viable).

In my mind, the major difference between self publishing, and New York publishing is a matter of ends.  While most writers wouldn't mind making millions of dollars, very few successful writers actually manage to do it.  We're known as "starving authors" for a reason.

New York publishers send books to press to make a profit.  That's the bottom line.  They don't care about art, or literature.  When a book makes a big impact on the market, they tell all their slush pile readers to look for a similar book so they can cash in on it.  There's a reason you see so many of the same kind of Vampire, Werewolf, Zombie, Urban Magician with Faire Blood on the shelves.

If someone writes a book about say…dinosaurs living on an island in our modern era, and it sells millions of copies…you can bet in less than a month, there will be a dozen more dinosaur books.

That's why the publishing industry is in trouble.  They have boxed themselves into genre prisons of their own creation.  They won't publish a book that's different because it's risky and people might not like it.  But the state of affaires we are in is all their fault in the first place.  When someone is only allowed to eat vanilla ice cream…how do you predict whether they'll like another flavor?

Writers need to walk away.  Publishers can no longer point to printing costs, remainders, and transportation and storage costs to pad their profits.  A writer writes a book.  Creates the words.  The e-reader displays them.  Other than creating a cover, editing, and formatting it for e-publishing, they don't really do anything else to justify charging $20 a book, and giving the writer $3 to $4.

The writer now can put the book together on his own.  Hire someone to make a cover and format their text, hire an editor (or find some readers online) and put the book out themselves…for $3 to $4.  They get the same from each book sale…and with a much lower price point, have the potential to reach more new readers.

However, more expensive e-books seem to do better.  Why?  As customers, readers have been trained that a book should cost $7-$10 for a paperback, and much more for a hard cover.  Just because it has a higher price point, people assume that it must be a better book.

But what about selling your book for free?  Could that actually work?  It has for a few authors (like Cory Doctorow and Paulo Coelho).


Watch this video, and see if you still feel the same way.


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Permanent link to this article: http://peterusagi.com/2011/05/29/experiments-in-self-publishing/

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