Monday, March 19, 2007

Some Thoughts on Self-publishing

Some Thoughts on Self-publishing
by Bob Sanchez

For years, the idea of self-publishing was anathema to me, all tangled up in my mind with vanity publishing. Serious Writers Don’t Go There. So my marketing efforts for my first five novels netted me three reputable agents who in turn found my work a total of zero publishers.The owner of Fjord Press liked one novel enough to say he wanted to publish it, but he and his wife decided to go out of business instead. Then he called me one day and said he still wanted to publish it if I was willing to invest some money. It wasn’t a matter of money or trust, but I declined because it sounded too much like self-publishing, I said.

Yet when my latest novel, When Pigs Fly, neared completion and I’d gone through the wasted motions of querying a few agents, a simple question entered my brain: Why go through all this? Members of my extended family are known for dying young, so why should I fritter away my precious days waiting for some anonymous editor at a traditional publishing house to bestow a blessing on my work and thus legitimize it?

So having concluded that “legitimate” publishers no longer held any sway over me, I made WPF my test case for self-publishing. Granted, some outfits in the business may give off a bad odor, but the same is true of the Internet as a whole. My top criteria were credibility and price, in that order. PublishAmerica may be a fine company, but far too many people were raising questions about it, so I decided to let others sort out the answers. BookSurge, associated with Amazon, looked professional and reputable but expensive. iUniverse (Barnes & Noble) looked equally reputable but less expensive, $1100 for their Premier Plus program (see for details).

For the most part, iUniverse has done well by me. They have an orderly and businesslike publication process requiring input from the author; in fact, they leave most decisions to the author, the biggest exception being the pricing. For my 300+ page book they selected $18.95. That’s high for a paperback, but not for one printed with print-on-demand (POD) technology, which I’ll get into in a separate post.

Is the $18.95 a gating factor for buyers? I think so, but some people are buying it at full price. For a while, Amazon offered it at a 30% discount, but not anymore. iUniverse sells it at full price and always has. I keep a stock in the back of my car for readings I do in the Las Cruces area, and those copies generally go for $15, a price that leaves me a little margin. My goal is not to maximize income, but to maximize readership while recouping the bulk of my expenses.

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