Sunday, June 8, 2014

Writing Fiction: An Adventure in Self- and Indie Publishing

New gadgets and devices for reading, promised a whole new publishing revolution for online books and print-on-demand; but, these promises have been broken.
E-books, Kindle books, i-Pads, and e-readers are now as common as i-pods; but, they were once a frontier to be tamed and, alas, there have been many casualties. Will such companies take responsibility for authors who have suffered from online publishing scams, or will they simply call it a cost for gaining independence?

An author can now publish his or her own book, afterall; and, an author can become an independent
publisher, providing a label name for self, friends, and acquaintances who have books to be published. Those
are things to be grateful for, considering the long list of publishers who won’t even look at an author’s book without an agent, and agent’s won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts.

The question posed often, and sometimes loudly, in recent years, “Doesn’t anybody read anymore?!” seems only to have been about publishers and agents themselves. Because within the general public, the answer has been a resounding ‘Yes! People do read, and with the popularity of readers and smart phone apps, they are reading even more. Subways, buses, airplanes, and dental offices, and not just magazines, either, these new devices suggest… books! This is good news for authors, but there is some bad news. Self and independent publishing has its drawbacks and it just might be the drawbacks are insurmountable.

Print-On-Demand Isn’t the Same as Books in the Warehouse

First, a self or independently published book – called print on demand by most book selling sites - can be sold by, B&, and even, but the titles are often buried in code that sometimes does not work anymore. Looking up names of print-on-demand authors (meaning the book is printed two at a time according to purchase) by way of site provided search might have to contain every letter of the author’s name, even precise middle, and exact spelling in order to ‘find’ the book among the site’s proverbial ‘stacks’ or web pages.

Not many book buyers who peruse book web sites go hunting quite that specifically. In subject searches, print-on-demand books might come up seventeenth in a search done with the word ‘vampires’ for example, and might not come up at all with just ‘vampire’ typed in at searches. This can be disheartening for an author who has written a book about vampires. It just might be as entertaining as Twilight, itself, but if it can’t be found on the book selling website, it just might be a worse fate than a bookstores back stack. It can’t even collect ‘dust’ on an e-bookstore’s shelf.  One reason: warehouse space, is why book sites who typically sell warehouse books  - but also sell print-on-demand books - give top search billing to the inventoried books which taking up space in their warehouses.  This warehouse floor space costs money and those books need to be moved.  That doesn't mean sites like Amazon and B&N dislike print-on-demand or ebooks - probably quite the opposite.  If they can sell books without the cost of warehouse space - and in the case of ebooks without the cost of shipping - there's nothing to lose being one of their authors but the stigma of being self-published.

Print-On-Demand Promises Shattered

In the past, before e-book was part of a reader’s vocabulary, self-publishers often spent thousands of dollars having scads of books printed, then went about selling them to bookstores, book dealers, and libraries. This was so hit and miss that the self-publishing industry got a bad rap for being a bad deal, or a sham. “They only want your money,” was the first bit of advice anyone, even authors at readings, gave out about the self-publishing business.
So, has it changed, as was promised? Yes, definitely. It has changed because of the words print-on-demand and ebook. “Just about anybody can write a book and have it published, now” is the new quote spilling off lips of advisors; but, who wants to read a book written by the likes of what mothers would call (with one side of their lips pulled up) ‘just about anybody’?

Again, slightly shady and somehow less likable, self- and independent publishers have been tossed together as Cinderellas of the publishing business. Maybe when self-published authors get their chores done, they’ll find a place at the publisher’s ball. Picked up by the Big 5 who might appear like the Prince asking who wrote this stunning book as though fitting the glass slipper onto the poor house-cleaner's foot.  Not likely, right?

Like Charlie and his Grand-dad, Random House offers two self-published authors, each year, a trip through real publishing like a golden ticket in a stack of chocolate bars. Penguin has an annual contest with's self- and Indie published authors, awarding at least two book deals at the end of its promotional event.  As far as making it onto the New York Time’s Best Seller’s List as once planned from the print-on-demand business model, well, the invitation for a self-published author might be as lost in the mail as the code from the search engine. Dang!!

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