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Is Self Publishing Worth the Price?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the dilemmas-for-budding-authors dept.

Businesses 69

vonFinkelstien asks: "I have written an adolescent novel and am having trouble getting it published. I have recently started looking at self-publishing, print-on-demand firms like Trafford or the many listed at pdfcreator. Trafford looks legitimate and offers a discount for those who do the layout themselves (I would use LaTeX). But the 'Bestseller Package' (which offers some promotional support) still costs $1399 when you create the layout yourself. Are such services worth the high initial cost ($500-$2000)? If any of you could give your experiences with or advice about these companies, I and other aspiring authors would be grateful."

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iUniverse (4, Informative)

Infinite93 (664963) | more than 10 years ago | (#7836541)

Have you looked into Iuniverse? Last time I looked through their material it was under $200 for a basic package with no Marketing support. http://www.iuniverse.com

One question (3, Insightful)

Mr. Darl McBride (704524) | more than 10 years ago | (#7836551)

How the hell do you plan to reach distributors?

Major publishers wine and dine the distributors, pushing hard to get their titles pushed out to the bookstores. The distributors won't listen to some nobody press without a large promotional package or a hot and controversial title.

Without distributors' backing, do you honestly plan to sit down and call all the stores yourself? Are you okay with just selling a couple dozen copies on the web and in Amazon marketplace outside the main book searches and such?

Re:One question (2, Informative)

gregwbrooks (512319) | more than 10 years ago | (#7836749)

True... but not in all instances. If you're writing a book with a strong local flavor that would be distributed regionally, the big-box booksellers will talk to you without a distributor.

On the other hand, if you're talking about national distribution, you're not going to get into the biggest channels unless you're working with a major publishing house.

LaTeX? (4, Funny)

GuyMannDude (574364) | more than 10 years ago | (#7836611)

I have written an adolescent novel and am having trouble getting it published.

Trafford looks legitimate and offers a discount for those who do the layout themselves (I would use LaTeX).

How many equations are you planning on putting in this 'adolescent novel' anyhow? And you're wondering why you're 'having trouble getting it published'?

"I'm not so sure we should be doing this. We'd better turn back!" Molly exclaimed.

Sarah curled her lip in her characteristic unconscious show of displeasure. "I can't believe our one weekend away from our parents and you want to stop now! If you want to chicken out then go right ahead! But I'm going to \partial \rho \over \partial t + \nabla \dot u = 0 and that's all there is to it!"

GMD

hehe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7836675)

It's funny because it's true.

Re:LaTeX? (2, Informative)

Asgard (60200) | more than 10 years ago | (#7836825)

LaTeX is not only for math textbooks, it has macros for quite a few structures you'd want in a book; chapters, headings, Title page, etc. \documentstyle{book} gets you quite far. It also doesn't choke at all on large documents and lets you get on with writing the book instead of spending a lot of time getting Word to be consistent with tabs and whatnot. The output looks very professional, and can be easily converted into PDF.

Oddly, the linked Trafford page uses Javascript to disable right-clicking. I can't imagine why they bother with that.

Re:LaTeX? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7837136)

dude, wtf is your obsession with chicks and math [slashdot.org] ?

Re:LaTeX? (1)

Andy Smith (55346) | more than 10 years ago | (#7839713)

"I'm not so sure we should be doing this. We'd better turn back!" Molly exclaimed.
Molly said would have been better. You've already got an exclamation point at the end of the statement so 'exclaimed' is redundant. It also reminds the reader that they're reading something, whereas 'said' is enough of an attribution without interrupting the flow. Mnyah.

Re:LaTeX? (1)

Tom7 (102298) | more than 10 years ago | (#7842181)


Latex is actually an excellent way to get high quality PDFs with proper typesetting (spacing, hyphenation, ligatures) and fancy stuff like drop caps, even if you never enter math mode once. I used it for the novel I wrote [tom7.org] for this year's Nanowrimo, and I'd definitely recommend it!

Golden Pillar? (1)

ghostlibrary (450718) | more than 10 years ago | (#7836687)

Gold Rush Games launched their POD/layout group, Golden Pillar Publishing (linked off goldrushgames.com somewhere), specifically for non-game stuff. Prices are good and they do nice layout work, basically everything except the writing.

But you're going to have to push your book. Best model is, self-publish, sell 1k copies, use that to shop the book (or similar books) to publishers as a way to differentiate you from the usual slush pile-- you're proven slush!

For game publishers, mind you, GRG started a service to actually rep and sell you via distribution (great for RPGs, not relevant for fiction or non-fiction writing).

Don't know if it's what you're looking for.... (1)

JasonMaggini (190142) | more than 10 years ago | (#7836698)

...but CafePress [cafepress.com] has a publishing service.

Ask localroger (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 10 years ago | (#7836704)

he's been selfpublishing for awhile now. He's using lulu.com.

Posting other material you've written makes good advertising.

You might not wish to, but I'm sure some of his sales came from the fact you can read the whole thing at http://www.kuro5hin.org/prime-intellect/

SFWA (4, Informative)

andyhat (9136) | more than 10 years ago | (#7836707)

SFWA (The Science Fiction Writer's Association) has an excellent page on the subject at http://www.sfwa.org/beware/subsidypublishers.html [sfwa.org] . Should give you some idea what to watch for.

Don't Self Publish (1)

Laith (21370) | more than 10 years ago | (#7836771)

The best thing to say is really don't self publish at all. even with "some promotion" it still comes down to what the books stores consider a "vanity title" and many won't stock it.

As a result you are basically out your money.

If you can't sell it to a publisher... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7836783)

...you can't sell it to the public. Well, you can try of course, but the reason publishers are in business is because they're good at spotting books that sell. If they don't want yours, either it's (a) not written well enough, or (b) doesn't have much market appeal.

Self-publishing will mean a garage full of books. Sure, there are rare exceptions - the Celestine Prophecy dude - but they're exceptions. Are you really planning on driving around to book stores, spending time with the manager, giving him books on consignment (not that Border's, B&N, etc. will take them)...?

I'd work more on your prose than on self-publishing.

Re:If you can't sell it to a publisher... (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 10 years ago | (#7837488)

You are right. I'm an affiliate for a vanity press for poetry, one of the not so scammy ones (not the one with the easy to remember domain, they are sleezy).

The only successful vanity press I ever see is stuff that is infomercial material. Weight loss... Make money, here's how... etc..

Anything else is a severe uphill battle.

The poetry anthologies are more akin to naming a star, or other vanity things. It's more for your own gratification, than any serious literary meaning. The winners of the contest who get their poems in for free are usually pretty damn good, however. If you are only offered the option to buy the anthology to get your poem in, then it's just a vanity thing.

I'm honest if anyone asks me things about that.

Re:If you can't sell it to a publisher... (1)

avi33 (116048) | more than 10 years ago | (#7838295)

I'd have to say, that's a pretty simplistic view of getting published. I'd add a third:

(c)
1. Move to Manhattan.
2. Get any job you can at a publisher.
3. Have plenty of cash ($50k/year should do it), so you can go to the right bars/parties after work, with the right editors, reviewers, and authors.
4. Be witty, irreverent, clever, but not too full of yourself that you annoy the shit out of everyone. Make friends with all of the people that will one be in a position to edit, recommend, or review your book.
5. Write a book. Give to friend in high place.
6. Publish.
7. Profit! (ok, maybe not your first time)

Any attempt to skimp on the above steps, such as: living in Jersey, not buying rounds of $12 martinis, and crossing the clever/self-worshipping line, will most likely result in failure.

OK, maybe not ALL books are published this way, but you'd be surprised at how many are.

Re:If you can't sell it to a publisher... (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 10 years ago | (#7841979)

also, 2 more things that may help:
  1. Learn to suck dick.
  2. Learn to write fake referral letters from famous people that mention how good your skills are, and that you can suck dick like a pro.

There may be three reason no publisher wants it. (3, Informative)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 10 years ago | (#7836792)

There may be three reason no publisher wants it.
  1. You didn't send it to the right publisher. Publishers are humans too and it is not unknown for extremely succesfull authors to be turned down on their first attemps.
  2. You are to controversial. Your work may be excellent but just to hot to touch. Publishing a work about a pedo relation was fine a few decades ago. Now they would have a witchhunt.
  3. You are crap. If you send it to all and they didn't give reason 2 for refusing then maybe your story just isn't good. It happens you know. Live with it.

Should you self publish? Only if you consider writing your hobby and then see it as a one time splurge never to be recooped.

If you want your story out there just put it on the net. If you wanta make money with writing then you need a publisher. A real one. Not just a printer who cuts out the middle man.

His goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7836862)

If you want your story out there just put it on the net. If you wanta make money with writing then you need a publisher.

I suspect that he is neither interested in putting out a great story or making money. He just wants to see his name in print, brag about it at cocktail parties, and give autographed copies of his master work to family and friends as gifts. Otherwise he would have done exactly as you suggested. Hey, whatever turns you on. If being able to point to a printed book with a nice cover makes you feel like you've accomplished something in your life, that's great. I won't begrude you. There are tons of people who never feel they've accomplished anything.

Re:There may be three reason no publisher wants it (2, Interesting)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#7837139)

I've seen this several times in comments so far, the idea that publishers are magical and if they don't accept a book it must suck.

Do you realize that Stephen King couldn't get published for YEARS? You'll find the same with Piers Anthony and a number of chronic bestseller authors.

There is nothing uncanny or special about publishers. They merely have a market lockin much like the music industry, the publishers after all, are NOT the readers.

P.S. Controversial books usually sell well simply because their controversial.

Re:There may be three reason no publisher wants it (3, Insightful)

Uma Thurman (623807) | more than 10 years ago | (#7837235)

Perhaps it took years for Stephen King to build his talents to a sufficient level, and to build his reputation to a sufficient level.

No matter what industry you are in, you should expect to start out at the bottom and work your way up. Though we all hear about the computer programmer who made a million dollars at his first job, or a first time author who wrote a book about child-magicians that was turned into a movie, those are rare cases. Most people work years at their craft to perfect it.

The companies that publish books for authors who can't get someone else to publish the book are collectively known as the "vanity press". They appeal to the vanity of the author, who at the end of the process has spent a lot of time writing the book, and then spent a lot of money publishing the book. In the end, he's out a lot of time, money, and all he has is a pile of books.

If you really think your book is wonderful, then you should self-publish, without a doubt. But, don't expect to make any money. Put the thing up on a website with a tip jar.

Then get to work, writing your next book. Polish your craft, because you're probably one of those people who just has to start at the bottom and work hard to get to the top. Nothing dishonorable about that.

Re:There may be three reason no publisher wants it (1)

kalidasa (577403) | more than 10 years ago | (#7837470)

King was publishing stories in small journals in college. And while there has been a lot of consolidation in the publishing industry, the publishing associations do not have the same kind of lockin that MPAA and RIAA do.

Re:There may be three reason no publisher wants it (1)

Deagol (323173) | more than 10 years ago | (#7839011)

Perhaps it took years for Stephen King to build his talents to a sufficient level, and to build his reputation to a sufficient level.

A little of both. I haven't picked up a King book in over 10 years, but I tore through a bunch the 10 years prior to that. Reading his collections (Skeleton Crew, Night Shift, etc.), there's often interesting and funny tidbits about how the stories were published. I think he even had some published in porn mags (hey, you gotta feed you wife and kids, right?).

I don't recall his entire journey to fame and glory, but King just kept plugging away at it. Many criticize his writing as pretty bad (can't write a believable female character to save his life, unelegant prose, etc.), but you gotta give the guy credit.

It seems to me that someone starting out will either become an overnight success (see Harry Potter) or someone who's walked a steady pace until his time had come (King).

Re:There may be three reason no publisher wants it (1)

cmowire (254489) | more than 10 years ago | (#7838247)

Editors are a filter between the unwashed masses and you.

If you take every science fiction story this year that somebody is willing to show people other than their closest writing buddy, put it in one massive bookshelf, and pick a single story at random, that story may be a bestseller. Or it may be a really bad star wars slashfic written by somebody who's really repressed. Remember, 90% of everything is crap.

The goal of a publisher is to filter this out. A publisher is doing their job if you can pick a book at random from a much smaller bookshelf (so that most of the crap is gone), look at the cover to decide if it's your sort of thing, and then generally be satisfied with your selection.

Now, the problem is that people are self-correlated. A given individual, unless they totally suck, generally thinks that they are above average in every way. So most writers, even rather awful writers, still consider themselves good enough to join the honored ranks of the published (yet still pennieless) authors. This means that an editor for any book publisher or magazine of note sends out 10 to 100 rejections for each novel they take.

This means that an Editor is overworked, in general. They are hated by most writers because you are statistically likely to get a rejection. They often times will stop reading a story at the first few pages if it's got something that they feel indicates suckage (This can be off-the-wall things like including dedications in the beginning, chapter breaks in anything shorter than 50,000 words, weird fonts, etc)

And, of course, they screw up. Names sell, so they would be dumb to not buy up an existing famous-name writer's latest, even if it's crap. They will almost invariably turn down somebody good on a regular basis. They are not paid to develop writers, they are paid to convert unsorted submissions of varying quality to money, via a printing press.

This also means that your average reader avoids some or all vanity press styled publishing mediums simply because the amount of choice is far too overwhelming whereas Barnes and Nobles is certain to have something they will like despite the reduced choice.

The problem with controversial books is that they can backfire or flop in a variety of interesting ways. Boycots of publishers can hurt the bottom line and overrule any cheap publicity gains. It can hurt the reputation of the publisher among scholarly crowds and/or their authors. They can be sued, sometimes successfully.

Or, even better, it could be a book that was written specifically to be controversial, yet ends up just being pretentious, trite, or dumb. Lolita or A Clockwork Orange were groundbreaking at the time. Trying to write the same novel now just looks dumb.

The problem is that Sturgeon was charitable in saying that 90% of everything sucks.

good writing is hard (and rare) (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 10 years ago | (#7839929)

I've seen this several times in comments so far, the idea that publishers are magical and if they don't accept a book it must suck.

While it's not necessarily true, the fact is that publishers (yes, all of them) have huge piles of unsolicited manuscripts, and yes, most of them DO suck! An occasional good work may get lost in this pile. But they (or at least most) do actually have people to read these "slush piles" (the most feared job in the industry), and they occasionally find good things in there. But the plain fact of the matter is that far more people think they can write than actually can.

Do you realize that Stephen King couldn't get published for YEARS?

This is true of most authors. And, having read a couple of early King works, published later after he was famous (and probably after heavy editing), my opinion is that those early attempts were rejected for damn good reason. They didn't deserve to be published!

If you're serious about writing, the main trick is to keep writing! NOT to keep trying to get your first attempt published. If it gets rejected several times, stick it in a drawer, and come back to it after a while and see if you can figure out how or if it can be salvaged. In the mean time, write more, and keep trying. This is the path that the vast majority of successful (and semi-successful) authors have taken.

Stephen King and Piers Anthony didn't keep trying to get those early works published. They kept writing! And that's the secret to their success.

Also, don't expect to get rich or famous. Most authors, even those with dozens of published books, barely make a living. So, if you don't enjoy the process of writing, try another line of work. And if you do, keep writing; eventually you'll probably learn enough to write something that sells.

And don't forget the short-story market. It's a lot easier to write a decent short story than to put together an entire novel. Plus it takes less work, and is quicker.

(No, I'm not a writer, but I grew up around writers, and have been good friends with dozens, and acquainted with many more.)

Re:good writing is hard (and rare) (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#7841465)

When those books are first piled on the desk, the very first thing that happens is 3/4 of them are tossed in trash without ever getting past the cover page.

Why? Because there will be another 50 tomorrow and maybe 3 can be read by then. Out of the first 50 you've narrowed down to about 12, most of those will be tossed out without more than a chapter read. Maybe due to a slow start, or the formatting, or perhaps some other annoyance. When this stage is completed you'll be down to about 2-3. Those will be read and may or may not be liked and published.

In short, although yes, the selection of books on the shelf is trimmed down to those a small number of poeple liked enough to make them available to the masses, it's hardly a process which only has "a few that slip through". MOST of the good AND the bad slip through. What you get is a reduced selection of good and bad, getting published is hardly an indication of whether or not your book is good. It's really an indication of whether the RIGHT person likes it (in the sense that they believe it will yield profit).

Being published and having written a good book are niether mutually exclusive nor mutually inclusive and really enjoy little corelation to one another.

Aside from that important distinction, your advice is good. I would add just one thing, if your wise you shouldn't count on writing as your primary means of income. Pick a spouse who is not a writer and has a day job or have a day job yourself.

Re:good writing is hard (and rare) (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 9 years ago | (#7849549)

When those books are first piled on the desk, the very first thing that happens is 3/4 of them are tossed in trash without ever getting past the cover page.

The cover page can reveal a lot. Like, whether you have the faintest clue about the publisher's guidelines, whether you can compose anything resembling a coherent sentence, whether you've had the common sense to talk to an agent, etc. A lot of publishers don't even accept unsolicited manuscripts. So, if you send your "precious first novel" to one of these, you have no one but yourself to blame for the result. Investigate the publishers before trying to get published. Or better yet, try to get an agent, since they know what various publishers want -- it's their job to know. (Though most agents will want to see a portfolio, so write a few things before attempting this step).

Being published and having written a good book are niether mutually exclusive nor mutually inclusive and really enjoy little corelation to one another.

I agree that it's neither exclusive nor inclusive. I disagree that there's little correlation. I think there's a strong correlation: 90% of all writers are unpublished; 90% of all writers are bad. Give or take (those numbers are probably underestimating the situation). I've never read slush-piles myself, but because I know a lot of writers (and a few other people in the industry), I've been inflicted with a fair number of unpublished manuscripts by desperate wanna-be writers. And I have yet to see one that was even halfway decent.

There's a myth around that writing is easy -- it's not, not good writing. The dream of taking a year off and writing "the Great American Novel" is crap. Other artists take the time to learn their craft, and know that their early works are unlikely to be of interest to anyone. Only wanna-be writers (and singers who queue up for American Idol) assume that their work is the sin qa non from day one. (And the singers are more likely to be right -- singing is much easier than writing.) Too many clueless wanna-be's assume that writing one single novel is enough, and their job is done at that point.

Writing is a complex skill. There's much more involved than just the ability to form coherent sentences. There's plotting, pacing, character development, seamless exposition that doesn't pull the reader out of the story, and so on, and so on. Natural talent at all those elements is so rare as to be almost non-existent. So even someone who has an innate skill at writing (and there are such people) is unlikely to produce a good work on the very first try.

Bottom line: "how do I get my first novel published, should I self-publish?" is almost always a sign of someone whose work is, frankly, unpublishable. And, given that attitude, may always be. The question about your first novel should really be: "how can I find people who are willing to suffer through my rookie mistakes and offer constructive criticism so I can learn how to be a better writer and maybe get good enough to have a chance of being published someday?"

Re:good writing is hard (and rare) (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#7851313)

"I think there's a strong correlation: 90% of all writers are unpublished; 90% of all writers are bad. Give or take (those numbers are probably underestimating the situation)"

Here is the biggest flaw in your argument (aside from your made up numbers), If 90% of whats out there is crap, that's means that 10% of it is not. I think that's a reasonable number. Now only 10% of what's out there is published. Here's the problem, 95% of what is published, is polished crap. That means that the other 9.95% of what's NOT crap was never published.

"
The cover page can reveal a lot. Like, whether you have the faintest clue about the publisher's guidelines, whether you can compose anything resembling a coherent sentence, whether you've had the common sense to talk to an agent, etc. A lot of publishers don't even accept unsolicited manuscripts. So, if you send your "precious first novel" to one of these, you have no one but yourself to blame for the result. Investigate the publishers before trying to get published."

Thankyou for agreeing with me on this, out of the things you listed as reasons for objection only one of them actually has anything to do with writting rather than getting published. In fact let's look at a very real possibility, two writers of equal natural skill wrote manuscripts and submitted them.

Now one of them did everything right, agent, publishers market, crossed all his t's and dotted all his eyes and expeneded the effort to go about getting published the right way.

The other failed on all of the above, he failed be he instead expended that effort on actually writting and improving his writting ability.

The second writer who will be a superior writter (all other factors being equal, such as learning rate, ability to find the information, starting basis of education etc etc etc, and we've already covered inherient natural ability) would be rejected without his work ever being read because that cover page didn't follow the publishers guidelines or was unsolicited.

What publishers need to do is cut the crap, stop paying people 6 figures to read books. Hire in hordes of people from different demographics and have them read ALL the manuscripts.

Re:There may be three reason no publisher wants it (1)

Monkelectric (546685) | more than 10 years ago | (#7840955)

You my good man are right on the money. I was *ASKED* to "pitch a book" (technical book) to a very large technical publisher. Even when *ASKED* to submit a proposal I was subject to constant "market evaluations" that changed the book completely every few weeks. After the second or third time they changed the scope of the book entirely myself and my partner and I told them we weren't able to do business with them.

Point being that, the book publishing industry is every bit as bankrupt of integrity as the Movie/Music industries to which we have more exposure. A "Good" author is one that makes money, and most of the time they have no clue who that will be.

Re:There may be three reason no publisher wants it (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 10 years ago | (#7842017)

Do you realize that Stephen King couldn't get published for YEARS?

Having read half a dozen of his books, I'd agree with the publishers that turned him down.

Yes, he's popular, but so are Windows 98 and Brittany Spears, and soap operas.

Re:There may be three reason no publisher wants it (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 10 years ago | (#7838008)

I agree with the above. I've also written a short story once (it's on my website (in Dutch (un)fortunately)) and I now want to publish a few more stories there before thinking about publishing. So far I've gotten mostly positive responses about my story about Sophie. However, I am quite sure many people say that it's good just to be nice, so I am not too satisfied about that. It's now time for Sophie to have her next adventure; hopefully I get more negative responses about that one. Of course this could also mean that it's really crap. O well... What I wanted to say was that I think it's a good idea to put your stories on the web first for everyone to read so you get a feeling of how good you are before going to a publisher to try to make money out of them.

Good luck!

Re:There may be three reason no publisher wants it (1)

splattertrousers (35245) | more than 10 years ago | (#7838633)

You are crap. If you send it to all and they didn't give reason 2 for refusing then maybe your story just isn't good. It happens you know. Live with it.

If I had just written a book, I'd print out a copy and pay a English grad student to read it and give me her honest opinion.

Re:There may be three reason no publisher wants it (1)

delorean (245987) | more than 10 years ago | (#7839783)

curious, why do you say her?

I have an BA in English, but I am male, I am not wussy, etc.

There was treatise quite some time ago, probably written tongue in cheek, about the inordinate amount of BA's who gravitate towards the Unix environment; English students in particular. It was naturally well thought-out and well written. It was as if the author knew me!

Anyway, I'll read for money.

Re:There may be three reason no publisher wants it (1)

splattertrousers (35245) | more than 9 years ago | (#7848558)

curious, why do you say her?

I don't like to write "his or her" all the time so I choose one at random.

How much is your time worth? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7836797)

If you've really invested some serious hours into this novel, then you have to ask yourself if it's worth the investment to get it published with some support. Unless you think your novel will be some sleeper word-of-mouth success, you are going to need some help selling it, and frankly 1300 doesn't sound too bad. Additionally, if no publishing houses, who have infinite advertisement resources, were interested in your book, do you think you can get your book sold with zero support?

or do you just want a book with your name? (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 10 years ago | (#7843281)

If you just want a book with your name on it check out places like bookprinter.com they're just a printer, but have decent prices for only a few copies. That said, printing anything professionally, covered and bound is 300-500 just to set up the proof copy...you get a better deal if you buy at least 1000. Of course you're looking at $2k-$5k minimum...if you can't get published, consider it an expensive hobby!

I've never heard anything good... (2, Informative)

Eneff (96967) | more than 10 years ago | (#7836845)

But your mistake is going straight to the publisher. Go to literary agents working in adolescent fiction.

http://hollylisle.com/fm/Articles/faqs3.html will give you a good start.

Kevin Kelly's Self Publication Experiences (4, Informative)

leoaugust (665240) | more than 10 years ago | (#7836867)

There is a good article by Kevin Kelly on "Printing small quantities of books cheaply." [kk.org]

In addition to heavy-duty self-production he also talks about his experience of

I recently produced a 120-page book that reproduced a sketch journal I kept while bicycling across America. I scanned the images and sent the printer the files of the completely designed book. They sent me back 200 copies at $3.23 per copy. And I could have ordered as few as 10 books.

There is also a longer descrition of Kelly's Latest Publishings in Wired - Kell's Catalaog of Cool. [wired.com]

Try.. (1)

annisette (682090) | more than 10 years ago | (#7836974)

1st books.com

Lulu.com (4, Informative)

Stoke (86808) | more than 10 years ago | (#7837131)

I'm not sure why more people haven't head of http://www.lulu.com/ [lulu.com]
It's a great service and I've used it already to publish a small book to give to family members.

Lulu Enterprises is the latest venture of Red Hat, co-founder and open source enthusiast Bob Young. Lulu.com allows anyone to publish and sell digital files--including books, artwork, and photographs--over the Internet.

Publishing work on Lulu.com is free, and content creators are asked to establish a royalty fee for each item they upload.

Lulu's revenue model is based on receiving a small percentage of each content purchase, as well as on fees for a line of planned additional services, such as editing and formatting.

Re:Lulu.com (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 10 years ago | (#7837761)

I just went over and scoped it out. It is attractive on some levels - but say it catches on- how do you filter all the gunk for the good?

For example - check out the database administration 'books'. There aren't any books there- just a bunch of $105.00 cd rom tutorials on running SQL Server and Oracle. There are a couple $30.00 cd roms on Access and all of them were 'written' by some company- there is no author listed. There was 4 or 5 pages of it. No biggie. But what about when there are 100 pages of that crud? I love the idea but I can see a lot of pit falls.

More info (4, Informative)

vonFinkelstien (687265) | more than 10 years ago | (#7837165)

I wrote the question a few days ago (moderation is feeling the slowness of too many holiday goodies).

Since then I have found that same SFWA warnings that someone has posted and this article [proudlyserving.com] , which highlights a lot of the problems facing POD and self publishers:
1. Bookstores won't order books that they cannot return. POD's mantra is NO INVENTORY, so they will not take the books back.
2. Reviewers will not review POD or self published works, because they want a pre-release copy to review before the book comes onto the market.
3. Some distributors do strange things (like making the stores have the books on backorder) with POD books, which make the titles even more unattractive to book stores.

One POD publisher that the article mentions is Superior Books. For several years they have tried to merge the old way of publishing with the way of the future (POD). Offering free publishing, selective acceptance, delayed releases to make reviewers happy, and more. However, they have all but given up. Now they will only refer a good author to a literary agent or publish niche non-fiction (perhaps my ESL book would work here).

I will look at small presses which specialize in fantasy and adolescent literature and try to get an agent (which are all but unheard of here in Sweden for authors).

Re:More info (1)

cmowire (254489) | more than 10 years ago | (#7838699)

Consider that POD inevitably costs much more per book than normal publishing, even after returns, warehousing, etc. Thusly, it's inevitable that if you take the same book in two parallel universes and sell it with POD in one universe and the normal way in the other universe, the one that was printed the normal way in the other universe will end up making far more money.

So Superior Books was pretty much doomed from the beginning. I've felt that book editors do a valuable service ever since I read my first truly wretched vanity press novel sent in to my now-defunct 'zine for review. ;)

I wish they had a bigger presence in the books-that-don't-sell-well-anymore-but-should-stil l-be-published department.

Now, the other point is, if you are aiming at a book published in the American market by an American publisher, a Swedish agent isn't going to help much. A Swedish agent, if they exist, will have contacts with the Swedish-speaking publishers in Sweden and any marketing to an English-speaking publisher in America or Europe is going to be through an overseas agent anyway. Meaning, if you book is to be published in NY, get an agent there because one there will be involved anyway.

The other thing is, if you have one good novel, it's not like you have broken the mold and cannot ever create another good story. Give it a year of trying to get it published to give it a fair shake and then just put it up on the 'net, promote it, and see what happens.

Re:More info (1)

neocon (580579) | more than 10 years ago | (#7841514)

Had responded to the article before I saw your comment. There, I wrote:

For whatever it's worth, John Derbyshire self-published his second novel (his first novel, and his subsequent pop-math book about Prime Number theory were published traditionally, and have been modest successes) using a Print-on-Demand shop. His account of the whole self-publishing experience (he's generally happy about it) can be read here [olimu.com] .

Well, in a worse case scenario... (1, Funny)

JamesP (688957) | more than 10 years ago | (#7837443)

Ctrl+C Ctrl+V and post your entire novel as a Slashdot comment.

But wouldn't -1: Offtopic (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7839563)

ruin his self-esteem?

Self - Publishing only works.... (1)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 10 years ago | (#7837542)

for conspiracy theorists, people peddling business schemes (ie, "tiny classified ads")or regional/local histories.

Publishers don't just print books, they get them in the stores where consumers can buy them.

If you have a desire to make money writing books, write something that a publisher wants. Once you are published, you'll have a better shot of successfully pitching your current book.

Monolith (1)

BigBir3d (454486) | more than 10 years ago | (#7837563)

Maybe this [monolithpress.com] will help.

Nope (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 10 years ago | (#7837696)

From the FAQ at Monolith:
Are you currently accepting unsolicited submissions?
Not at this time.


As long as I have been aware of Monolith this has been the case. I have always assumed that Wil Wheaton created Monolith purely as a vehicle for publishing his own work (maybe allowing for it to become something bigger down the road if that worked out) - and I am curious to see what he does with it now that O'Reilly has picked him up.

On a side note- I've been meaning to email him for some time and ask how he went about getting those initial copies of Dancing Barefoot printed - what methods mentioned above that he may have used. (are ya readin' this wil? can ya save me the typing? -- I know it's a long shot but hey- can't hurt to ask)

A tale of two writers (1)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | more than 10 years ago | (#7837636)

Two people I know are writers. One wrote a novel, and used one of those print-on-demand services. He wasn't happy with the formatting or anything, really. But the book was really horrible, anyway, and I doubt any of the publishers he sent it to read beyond the first horrible page. I read the whole horrible thing, though, because I'm a nice guy.
The other writer wrote three chapters, showed it to a friend, who showed it to his boss, who is an editor at a major publisher. She just signed a contract, got a $50k advance, and a dealine in April. Amazing for a first book, eh?
I'll read her book with pleasure, and never read 'vanity press' books again. If you are good, people will pay YOU, if you are bad you will pay THEM.

Re:A tale of two writers (1)

ghostlibrary (450718) | more than 10 years ago | (#7838035)

"If you are good, people will pay YOU"

Actually, I read your anecdote as the very accurate "if you know someone in the business, or a friend-of-a-friend, you can get published. Otherwise, you'd better be both good and topical."

Not a bad lesson, but a far cry from a meritocracy.

Re:A tale of two writers (1)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | more than 10 years ago | (#7838181)

Major publishers don't give $50k advances based on friendship.
However, if I wanted to get published, of course I would use my network of friends to try to get the book read by someone who matters. If my book were horrible, I'd lose the chance of using that path in the future.

Re:A tale of two writers (1)

ghostlibrary (450718) | more than 10 years ago | (#7838903)

"Major publishers don't give $50k advances based on friendship."

True, but my point is, you don't even have access to a major publisher unless you have an 'in'.

It used to be, for SF, the magazines were a good way to get the attention of book publishers. SF mags aren't a good gateway anymore, though. Friend-of-a-friend is still the best way to get attention. (Then, as I mentioned, good work actually gets a fair chance at being considered).

So yeah, the work has to be good, but friendship gets it looked at. Yeah, a bad work and you 'lose the chance of using that path in the future'-- but how many people get that one chance? Not many.

Re:A tale of two writers (1)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | more than 10 years ago | (#7843240)

I won't drop any names, but I can put my hypothetical manuscript into real famous hands with an email or phone call. This required ordinary socializing, and not actually putting a BAD novel out to get shot down.

Consider yourself one degree of separation closer.

However, *you* can work for Border's or B&N and get even closer. Anywhere in the industry is a good start, actually.

heehee:

Now, that no one is reading this, I shall flame Wally Lamb, who said in my hearing, "Windows, where would we be without it?" in a completely irony-free manner. Now I have to hide from him during subsequent social events.

(He's not the one I would send my manuscript to, fortunately.)

Lulu has a low entry price (2, Informative)

Dammital (220641) | more than 10 years ago | (#7837803)

Check out Bob Young's (yes, that Bob Young's) Lulu service [lulu.com] . No setup fees.

Self-Publishing: Bad Idea (2, Informative)

Kent Brewster (324037) | more than 10 years ago | (#7837979)

I've been fielding communications from people like you for almost nine years now over at Speculations [speculations.com] , and I keep saying the same thing to everyone: please don't self-publish your work.

With very few exceptions it ends badly for the author, with a garage full of books, an empty bank account, and no chance of a career as a professional author. Pointers upstream to SFWA and Writer Beware are excellent places to start; I would also recommend looking around the Speculations [speculations.com] site, paying particular attention to the Caveat Scrivener section of The Rumor Mill [speculations.com] .

Above all things, remember Yog's Law: money flows towards the artist. Never pay anyone to read, edit, represent, review, or publish your work; if you do, you're a sucker, not a professional.

Re:Self-Publishing: Bad Idea (1)

Gudlyf (544445) | more than 10 years ago | (#7838849)

Some friends and I discussed this whole issue of self-publishing quite some time ago.

I brought up the question of what effect it would have on a book's popularity or chances of being picked up should a stack of your books "mysteriously" appear on the shelves of Barne's & Noble? Really, what would happen if you loaded a backpack full of your self-published book (that is done very neatly and would stand up to the other books in the store in appearance, at least), then found a spot where it would attract some customer attention and plopped down five books on the shelf? If you really feel positively about your work -- that it really will attract readers by word-of-mouth, once it's read -- why not take that leap of faith? What's there to lose besides five books?

Sure, it's possible the books may not last on the shelves for more than a week, once they did an inventory sweep. But it's also possible someone would find the back cover interesting enough to bring it up to the counter, cause some confusion, and then possibly raise the question (to the store) of why this book that's being purchased is not in the computer. It got a sale, so why not put it in? Honestly, I have no idea what would happen. Don't want to put the books on the shelves? Give a copy of the book to ten of your friends and have them come in at random times throughout a month or two and approach the counter with the book. Have them say they got it in the [insert section here] section and look puzzled as to why they can't buy the book. I have to imagine eventually one of the cashiers will ask a manager, and the manager may finally decide it's time to put the book in the computer and on the shelves.

If anyone's tried this or knows if it being done, I'd like to know the implications.

Re:Self-Publishing: Bad Idea (1)

Nick of NSTime (597712) | more than 9 years ago | (#7847987)

Interesting idea, in theory, but it wouldn't work with most bookstores. See, bookstores don't buy books from publishers. They buy books from one of the major bookselling middlemen. If the middleman doesn't have the book in its computer, the book never gets ordered, regardless of what one Barnes & Noble store wants.

When a publisher decides to publish a book, that doesn't mean the book automatically gets to bookstores. The publisher has to sell the book to the middleman (most authors have to fill out a sales form, which contains marketing info for the book). If the middleman doesn't think the book will sell, they won't bother with it...they don't want to spend time and money trying to sell the book to the stores, only to have the stores reject it. That's business.

Ten or twenty people at a Podunk, IA Barnes and Noble are not going to drive enough demand for the middleman to spend money selling the book to B&N, and definitely not enough for B&N to put the book in their stores. Ten or twenty thousand people, maybe.

Self Publishing (2, Informative)

major.morgan (696734) | more than 10 years ago | (#7838392)

I have worked for several printers in the past, one in particular specializes in short-run self-published books. Suprisingly inexpensive, especially if you do the layout yourself. Has excellent documentation on website on how the prepare the files + tips (click on the information link).

http://www.gorhamprinting.com

Self-Publishing (2, Informative)

burtC (736664) | more than 10 years ago | (#7840237)

You ought to check out www.imprintbooks.com I have published two novels with them and been very happy with the outcome. Am I wealthy enough to retire and write, yet? Nope. Will that happen any time soon? Who knows? A lot of it goes to why you write in the first place. If you write for yourself, because you need to write, and getting it out there--even if it's just to a handful of people--is part of that need, self-publishing is a road to get there. The world is full of nay-sayers and people who only go for sure things maybe you need to ignore them and get your book out however you can.

Not unless it's a cookbook... (1)

annielaurie (257735) | more than 10 years ago | (#7841095)

They used to call these "vanity presses," and there was and is a stigma attached to them. Think about it carefully, because you could be tossing aside your chances ever to be picked up by an agent and publisher.

They work better for non-fiction pieces; for example, if the Ladies' Guild at the First Self-Righteous Church decides to collect and publish their recipes, self-publishing is the way to go. In the non-Slashdot part of my real life, I refer to self-published books on dealing with esoteric "How to do this" subjects related to my art. No major publisher would ever pick that type of book up, but there are audiences, and such books do very well when self-published.

Have a look at Stephen King's surprisingly good "On Writing." He has a whole section on getting published.

Self-Publishing -- not for the meek (4, Informative)

MaxNomad (736680) | more than 10 years ago | (#7841405)

Greetings,

There have been alot of interesting comments on self-publishing in this thread. Some are pretty good, some are bitter, and more than a few seem to be coming from people who haven't really followed the publishing industry since the early to mid 90's. I've been studying the publishing industry for about 5 years now, started my own publishing company, produced 1 of my own books, 1 almost finished, and 2 other author manuscripts in the chamber for production. I've got alot to share about the publishing thing - good, bad, and ugly. Mostly through word of mouth, I've sold several hundred copies of my first book, a collection of poetry and short stories. It's been my guinnea pig to build from.

For starters, if you're going to self-publish your book, you'll want to do so with the knowledge that, at worst, the endeavor serves as a huge time and money sinkhole. At best, you'll set out on what will become a great success story. And if you're smart early on, you'll be able to break even. I've got alot to share and I've been writing on this post off and on for several hours now in and around last minute work stuff, so if it seems a bit jumpy in parts, forgive me.

The publishing industry as a whole has been undergoing a slow, steady shift as a result of current technologies and changing trends in information distribution. According to a study done by the Publisher's Marketing Association, while large publishing companies have barely held their own over the past five years, the 80,000-plus independent publishers in the U.S.A. have grown at a rate of 22 percent per year. Their combined revenue now amounts to approximately $30 billion per year. The numbers aren't earthshattering, but they're enough to have the majors already nervous about what the future holds.

When it comes to self-publishing your book, before you embark on this endeavor, do alot of homework.

Go download this PDF; it contains what many startup independents would consider the quinessential reading list for how to crack into publishing, whether just for your 1 title or as a small press: http://www.wexfordpress.com/tex/pub.pdf [wexfordpress.com]

Investing in all or even at least half those titles can save you literally tens of thousands of dollars in the long run.

Although, by default, when you pay for the production of a book, even though you are the publisher, it does NOT make you *A* publisher. There's a huge difference. I'm going to hit on some key points and do so in real broad strokes, so forgive me for any details I may gloss over.

FORM A CORPORATION - cheapest alternative would be to set up an LLC in your state... roughly $50 for your local biz license, $100 or so for the State Corp Commission registration. Get your EIN number from the IRS as well. Set up as a company and you'll have a legitimate means of using all of your invested monies as a tax writeoff against what you're earning with your day job. The profits and losses within an LLC flow back to the owner(s) in the form of K1-statements from when you file the company's taxes. These K1s are then used when filing one's own taxes. In the early days, you're almost always going to take significant losses, thus significant gains on income tax refunds.

CONTENT EDITING - I don't care if you've spent half your life as an editor for your local newspaper, it's a bad idea to act as the editor of your own work. Do as much editing as you can on your end then contract an outside editor to go through the whole manuscript. Be sure it's someone that is accustomed to real content editing and not just proofing/spell checking. The editor will ultimately help turn your book into a streamlined readable work. Not working with an editor foreshadows failure.

ISBN Numbers - can be purchased in blocks from RR Bowkers.. sorta like IP addresses. Anyway, if you're going to self-publish, you're going to want your own ISBN numbers. Some of these all encompassing services will offer to put an ISBN number on your work; avoid that, because on the chance your title gets the interest of a larger publisher, they'll have to bring that service into the picture since it's their ISBN number.

DISTRIBUTORS: As a small or independent publisher, getting into camps like Ingram or Baker & Taylor can take years. Ingram in the past couple of years has set up a division specifically for small publishers; the key is that you have to be set up as an actual *publisher*, meaning a real company, real ISBNs, and a growing catalog of titles with the intention of producing X number of titles each year.

Here's a pretty solid list of book distributors:

http://dir.yahoo.com/Business_and_Economy/Business _to_Business/Books/Distributors/ [yahoo.com]

The good news - there are plenty of majors and minors to shoot for. The bad news - most of them won't touch publishers with 1 title. Therein lies the crossroads you will probably reach one day: To become a small publisher or to shop the book to literary agents. Both have benefits and drawbacks.

Anyway, if you're serious, get those books and be prepared to dig in for a long trek.

Good luck.

Mod up parent (-1, Offtopic)

falsification (644190) | more than 10 years ago | (#7842089)

Moderators, please +1 the parent article. It is quintessentially +5 Informative.

Here's one person who's happy with self-publishing (1)

neocon (580579) | more than 10 years ago | (#7841494)

For whatever it's worth, John Derbyshire self-published his second novel (his first novel, and his subsequent pop-math book about Prime Number theory were published traditionally, and have been modest successes) using a Print-on-Demand shop. His account of the whole self-publishing experience (he's generally happy about it) can be read here [olimu.com] .

lulu (1)

Tom7 (102298) | more than 10 years ago | (#7842165)

No, they're not worth hundreds of dollars, because lulu [lulu.com] will do it for free. There are still some kinks in their process, but they have pretty good customer support and a great attitude.

Wary, but with a suggestion nonetheless (1)

Chasuk (62477) | more than 10 years ago | (#7842372)

I am wary of self-publishing generally, but I have heard good things of Lightning Source [lightningsource.com] .

The YA novel Eragon was published by Lightning Source, and was subsequently purchased by Knopf. Eragon was written by Christopher Paolini, who was 15 when he started the novel, and 18 when it was published. It has recently been optioned as a feature film, and is actually remarkably well-written, especially for a novel in the fantasy genre (irrespective of the author's age).

Anyway, google Christopher Paolini. He seems to speak highly of Lightning Source.

my experience (2, Informative)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 9 years ago | (#7845660)

I self-published these free-information physics textbooks [lightandmatter.com] . It's worked out well for me, but it really depends on the details of what you want to accomplish, how you want to do it, and how hard you're willing to work at it. Do you want it to be (1) something you can just give to friends as a present, or (2) something that will reach an audience, or (3) something that will pay your rent? If the answer is 1, then just find a printer, get a couple hundred printed up, put them in a closet, and hand them out at Christmas. If the answer is 3, stop now and pick a genre that's more profitable (cookbooks, romance novels,...), then write an outline and a sample chapter and shop it around to publishers.

OK, let's assume it's #2, and you really think your book has something special to say, and your main goal is to get it to some readers without losing an arm and a leg. Then I'd suggest simply putting the PDF online and bypassing the whole print publishing thing. If you do a good job promoting your web site, you may reach 100-1000 readers a year, and you'll do it without losing your shirt.

The reason self-publishing has worked for me is that I am able to reach physics professors through the web and inexpensive print advertising in trade journals. Basically I try to get them to come to my site and download the PDFs to see if they like them. All it takes is one professor who likes them, and then I get a wholesale order for 20 or 200 books. I hired a printer, paid him a bunch of money, and filled my closets with books. I'd recommend against the vanity publishers; they take a really hefty chunk of your money. Although my method has worked for me, it's been capital-intensive --- right now I have about $10,000 worth of inventory in my house. (For tax purposes, you're supposed to account for inventory at the price you paid for it.)

Ask Dave Thomas (1)

jbrownc1 (589652) | more than 10 years ago | (#7854044)

I believe his recent book, Pragmatic Version Control [pragmaticprogrammer.com] , is self-published. Last I heard, he was in his garage boxing up orders, due to a really large spike that arose from the recent book report on /.. He would probably be able to give you considerable insight into the process.
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