Ah, the times they are a'changin, just like Bob Dylan said they would. What was shameful not so long ago has come out into the open, standing tall and proud. And I'm not talking about homosexuality.
Until recently, reviewers and booksellers looked down on self-published authors the way Anna Wintour scorns Dress Barn. Now new writers and established authors alike are increasingly taking publishing into their own hands, and the publishing establishment is paying attention.
According to a recent Bowker report, the market for “nontraditional books” in the United States grew by more than 750,000 new titles in 2009—a 181 percent increase over 2008. Five of the top 100 bestsellers in the Kindle store—which now produces more sales than Amazon’s hardcover list—are currently self-published.
Which shows that my soul is behind the times, because when I think "self-publishing" POD comes to mind (with print on demand, books are printed...surprise!...on demand, one at a time; this makes publishing much easier to accomplish on a minimal budget).
Yet the rise of e-books means there's another way other than POD for a writer to self-publish his or her book. Back in the old days, 2004, when my book about the Greek philosopher Plotinus was published in a print on demand fashion, e-books were just a speck on the publishing radar.
However someone self-publishes a book, it's all good. As the Newsweek article says, "in the DIY [do it yourself] era, putting out your own book is no longer an act of vanity."
Well, I don't think it ever was.
But that was the bad rap self-publishing had back when my first book was published in 1996, and it persisted until recently. Irrationally, because a painter wouldn't be considered vain if she sold her work by some means other than exhibiting it in a major gallery.
Are all the creative types who set up booths at art fairs engaging in "acts of vanity" because they choose to distribute their work themselves, rather than trying to get stores to buy their stuff at wholesale and sell it at retail?
This is a big advantage of self-publishing: cutting out the middleman to a large extent. I used to only get $1.25 or so from the sale of a "Return to the One" copy. Now I get $5.26. And I have the satisfaction of being my own publishing house, Adrasteia Publishing.
I came up with that name (adrasteia means "inescapable" in Greek) when my first POD publishing service thought we needed to disguise the self-published nature of my book. At that time most reviewers wouldn't look at a "vanity" title. And most bookstores wouldn't stock it.
Again, that's ridiculous.
My wife is an avid earring connoisseur. She doesn't care where she finds an attractive pair of dichroic glass earrings. If it's a rickety table at an art fair, great; if it's a fancy display case in a department store, also great.
So what difference does it make if a well-written book is distributed by the author, or printed and marketed by a publishing house? Sure, a lot of self-published books are crappy. Yet a lot of books published through traditional channels also are crappy.
There's nothing like seeing your book in print. Holding the first copy in your hands makes all the work put into it seem more than worthwhile. Viewing a nicely formatted e-book undoubtedly brings its own satisfaction, albeit less physical/sensual.
If you've got a book idea in mind, this is a great time to make it a reality. With the rise of blogs and other means of Internet self-expression, self-publishing increasingly is viewed as just another way of expressing one's creativity.
Once in a while I get emails from people who want to know if I'd recommend Create Space as a self-publishing option. I tell them, absolutely. I like Create Space a lot. But there are other POD and e-book services to consider, such as Lulu.
Just do it. (Living in Oregon, I've got Nike on my mind.)
If seeing your book in print is a dream for you, make it a reality. For $500 or less, it can happen. Write what you want, then publish how you want. There's a whole new world of books now. Become a part of it.