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July 21, 2010

Self-Publishing: The Greening of American Authorship.

The Reclaiming of Individual Perspective

In the world of book writing, self publishing has, until recently always fallen under a keenly scrutinized category. Many people will discredit a self published author as someone who didn’t make the cut: to be published by a bigger book firm. So, for many self published authors it’s been kept as a “dirty little secret.”  But there are several reasons why self publishing is ideal for authors and consumers alike.

When you write a book you lay down a lot of time and a little piece of your soul. When I wrote my book, “Prenatal Yoga; Finding Movement in Fullness,” I was pregnant with my last son. Because I knew I wouldn’t have any more children, I was eager to put voice to that perspective and I was incredibly driven by all my gestational energy. After all I was creating a child, how hard is a book, in comparison? Turns out, pretty stinkin’ hard. It took me a year; half my pregnancy and into the postpartum. I had, however,  always planned on self publishing the finished product.

I had many reasons for choosing self publishing. The first and foremost is it was easy. Well,  that is and isn’t true. It was as easy as formatting allowed. It was a painfully tedious process to format a book with the limited software I had. Createspace, the company I used, offers little-to-no guidance. But, in essence, if you can create a PDF you can create a book.

The second reason for choosing self publishing: the author retains more control over the finished product and  more royalties. The downside? Being a self-promoter will never be as successful as corporate book publishers.  But if we consider for a moment that big-book-business only publish what they think will sell, it’s not hard to conclude that there are many voices not being heard. By self publishing, an author is creating their art for the mere sake of creation. It may or may not sell, but profit is not an immediate goal.

The expense and waste that goes into traditionally publishing a book is enormous. A publisher creates a product that it has to then get rid of. And that’s not even accounting for the number of rough drafts and proofs that are generated before a product is approved and printed. The book is made, the book is sold (or not sold) and one way or another the book is eventually disposed of. The very least a traditional book publisher can hope for is to print enough books to make the cost affordable to consumers and hopefully recoup the investment.  This is not the same story in self publishing.

Most self publishing is “print on demand.” The concept is pretty simple: only enough product is created that is actually demanded by the consumer. This requires less financial investment on the part of the creator and creates less by-product (paper, ink, packaging, fuel) and subsequent waste. Simply put: if the only product produced is that which is wanted, we can view self publishing as a greener, more eco-friendly alternative to big-book publishers.

As a consumer it is important to understand there are some downsides to the self-published book. First, standards and quality vary. Take the time to preview your product before you buy it. Second, buy from a reputable source to ensure you actually receive your product. Self published authors are available at local bookstores and trusted websites like Amazon.com.

If you are interested in becoming a self published author, there are a great many options. Take the time to research a lot of different companies. Some companies require you to pay an upfront cost in exchange for a package. Others ask for no investment on the author’s part and will simply take a greater portion of the sale price of the book.  Also, expanded distribution to big retailers and websites will cost you more.  Do your homework and know your options before you commit and be prepared to handle all your own public relations.

If you do decide to self publish, let me know. I’d love to hear your trials and successes. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the next great American novelist.

See Famous Self Published Authors.

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