Thursday, January 6, 2011

Self-publishing Study: Defining the Task

As I reported in my last blog post, I'm embarking on a study of self-publishing, to see if that is an acceptable and attractive alternative to traditional publishing (i.e. with a print based, royalty publisher). The last couple of days I've been trying to define the problem. It is complicated in that now, as compared to say ten years ago, self-publishing has become more complicated. Now there is e-book self-publishing in addition to print.

Print self-publishing hasn't changed all that much. You plunk down a chunk of money, give the e-publisher your manuscript, and they make a book out of it. You buy some number of books required by the publisher, and you sell you books yourself with no help from the publisher.

Changes have happened in print self-publishing. Print-on-demand machines have brought down the up-front costs, as well as reduced the amount of inventory the writer needs to carry. Of course, the cost for this is the higher cost per book printed. It used to be that self-published books were of dubious quality, both the writing and the printing. Paper quality was low; binding quality was low; cover art quality was low.

The publisher did nothing in terms of line editing and copy editing. So if the writer couldn't do that, or didn't pay a freelance editor to do that, the quality of the finished writing was poor. And, let’s face it. The gatekeepers in the publishing industry (acquisitions editors and agents), filtered out most of the poor material, the writing that was just plain bad. Lots of these manuscripts became self-published books. That part of the print self-publishing industry doesn't seem to have changed.

Now comes e-book self-publishing. E-books have been around for a few years, and sales have been soaring while sales of hardback books and paperbacks are pretty flat. Recent changes in pricing structure and royalty share from Amazon and some other sellers, as well as improved platforms to allow authors easier production, have made this much more attractive route to self-publishing. Cheaper too.

But this has spawned a whole new language, it seems. And a whole new list of things to learn. I've been reading back posts on Joe Konrath's blog, and following links from there to other e-self-published writers or related services. Looks as if I'll have to learn what Smashwords is and how it related to e-self-published. And PubIt. And learn how to work with the Kindle and Nook formats. And the iPad.

This research is going to be harder than I thought. Stay tuned.

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