Self-publishing – the changing face of publishing

Traditionally, getting a book published was a long and difficult (as well as expensive) process. You may have needed to enlist the skills of an agent, and try to sell yourself and your writing. You may have had to submit a manuscript to a publishing company. They would read it, and you might be lucky, or get rejected. Not only this, some publishers won’t even bother to reject you, as one website states; “If we do not contact you within three months of submission, please assume that we have decided not to pursue your manuscript. No further correspondence will be entered into.” Ouch.

kindle-381242_1280However, with the evolution of eBooks, the publishing game has changed. Writers can now easily self-publish, and let the readers decide whether their book is worthy of attention. Self-publishing also gives writers more control over the design and content of their book, as well as the speed of publishing.

Not only can writers create digital copies, there is also now the ability to easily create print copies. This system is known as Print on Demand (POD) – this means a print run can be as small as one copy, eliminating wasted money and books. Of course, there are still fees and commissions to be wary of with print or online books, as well as ownership of copyright – so always make sure to read the fine print.

The process itself is actually incredibly simple. For example, writers can just “[g]o to CreateSpace (owned by Amazon), check the box that you want to be both paperback and Kindle, pick a cover, upload your manuscript, and in a few days you will be published on Amazon and people can start buying your book.” (as explained by James Altucher on his blog). Amazing! There are many other platforms to explore as well, such as Lightning Source for POD services, or Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program. Sophie Marozeau, a French journalist and the founder of Emue Books, also suggests Smashwords, BookBaby and Book.ish. Leveraging Facebook and social media for promotion and to connect directly with fans is also an important part of the process.

There are a lot of resources on the internet to guide writers on their self-publishing journeys. One great article to get started is by CNET, explaining ‘25 things you need to know‘ about self-publishing. Also check out The Creative Penn blog.

A great success story in self-publishing is author H.M. Ward, whose self-published book Damaged became a best seller, sold millions of copies and led to a tidy sum of money too (see Maverick Women Writers are Upending the Book Industry and Selling Millions in the Process). And of course E.L. James with her self-published 50 Shades of Grey trilogy.

While not everyone will become rich and famous from the sales of a self-published book, it could always create leads, media coverage or introductions to get a writing career off the ground. Authors may even be able to win the newly launched Kindle Storyteller Prize for self-published eBooks – with a cash award of £20,000 from Amazon!

And of course, Libraries are keen to “provide a true reflection” of their country’s culture by acquiring self-published books. As the National Library of Australia states; “With improvements in digital publishing and printing technologies, self-published books make up a large portion of the nation’s published output, so we are keen to ensure they are held in the collection.” State and local libraries may also collect self-published books of significant local interest.

Does your library hold any self-published books in the collection? Have you ever tried self-publishing? Comment on the post, or share your ideas on Twitter or Facebook using #interlibnet.

Michelle De Aizpurua, ILN Content Officer.

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  1. What a great summary of all the places to self-publish! Thanks, I can’t wait to get started. Except the haunting white blank screen, formerly the white page, still has to be overcome. By writing. By letting the self-conscious slip into the sub-conscious. By writing. Trying to write a novel is like running a marathon and many attempts fail as we can’t keep pacing ourselves to the end. That’s why I applaud all writers who make it to the end and publish. My favourite novel, The Stranger, by a 25 year old Albert Camus, is barely more than 100 pages, yet such a beautiful novel. A novel is meant to be a new idea, something new and radical. Camus was living in Algiers and experienced World War Two. A critical time in history. Yet he was able to publish his novel that has astounded the world ever since. So all you Camusesque writers, go to it and multiply. And don’t worry that self publishing used to be called vanity publishing. Self publishing is the way to go.

  2. Hi Michelle, this is a great summary, thank you! We are also seeing this in the academic publishing world, with the traditional ways of getting a book (research or text book etc) published being challenged by models that blur the boundaries and create faster-to-market opportunities. A bit like the e-version was a disruptive force in the journal publishing industry years ago, researchers, authors, (some) publishers and libraries are constantly looking for new ways to get the information out there in a speedy and reliable way. Many interesting times still to come I think!

  3. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. It is really so exciting that the opportunity to be an author has opened up to so many more people. Hopefully this will be the start of some unheard voices being able to find a means to get their stories out to the world.

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