If you’re still feeling squeamish about self-publishing, consider this: the Bowker book data company recently reported that the number of self-published books in the U.S. reached 391,000 in 2012. While it may not sound like a lot, this statistic marked a 59% increase over 2011 and, in a more dramatic turn, exceeded the number of traditionally published hard copy books for that same year (only 301,642).
While the numbers speak loud and clear about a cultural shift in book publishing and buying, it does not necessarily sound a death knell for big publishers – it simply means writers are faced with more options regarding how to go about getting their work out to readers. By the same toll, readers are now faced with the same choice, from the other side of the lens. Will they take self-published books as seriously as those published the customary way?
In a March 2014 issue of The Beacon, I was asked to comment on this topic for their cover article “A New Era for Self Publishing” (which cited the statistics above). The article explores the self-publishing movement especially as it relates to older writers, who are quickly catching onto the new trend and enjoying the departure from traditional publishing houses, thanks in part to the fact that the cost to self-publish has dropped significantly in the past decade.
The article also included comments from two Columbia-area writers, psychologist and poet Pamela Armstrong and mystery novelist Peter Pollak, as well as two of my clients, novelist Patty Sroka (who writes romantic suspense under the pen name P.J. O’Dwyer) and Jeanne Ketley, who recently put out a homeowners’ guide to homeowner’s associations. All of these writers have made the decision, some after varying degrees of success with traditional publishers, to independently publish their work.
The upside to putting your own book out is, as the article points out, that writers can collect 80 to 90 percent of their sales revenue, a stark comparison to the 10 percent publishing houses typically offer. The downside is that you’ll also have to independently take care of your own marketing, PR, book design, editing – all of which a publishing house will manage for you, in the event that they read your book proposal, accept it, and agree to publish the work, a process that means waiting in the hands of gatekeepers whose job it is to decide your fate.
Allowing writers the satisfaction of publishing on their own terms in their twilight years gives them the power to get their words out there when many have already been through what Sroka called (and many others have echoed) the “emotional” process of traditional publishing. But you certainly don’t have to be a veteran of the publishing battle to take advantage of the opportunity to be the gatekeeper of your own work.
The Beacon Newspapers is “a family-owned business dedicated to providing well-written, useful information of interest to people 50 and over and their families. The company was founded in 1989 by publisher Stuart Rosenthal and his wife, Judy, the associate publisher.”
Free monthly print editions of The Beacon cover the Greater Washington (D.C.) area, the Greater Baltimore (Maryland) area and Howard County (Maryland).
Many thanks to Robert Friedman for inviting me to interview and to the folks at The Beacon for their great work.
Check here for more of my posts on self-publishing!