To Publish Or Not To Publish . . . And How
By: Susan C. Haley
Wouldn’t it be great if dedicated writers with thoughts of publication were able to pick up a “How To Publish” guidebook that steered them, guaranteed, step by step to the desired results? It doesn’t exist.
Oh, there are many ‘how to’ disclosures available, but none with guarantees, and their content requires changing as frequently as the cat’s litter box. What worked last week quite likely won’t work this week. The entire business is a fickle entity driven more by dollars and cents and high-tech than a search for the next Pulitzer. It’s time for reevaluation; some imperative thought food that every writer, regardless of experience, should contemplate.
With costs of high-tech printing, advertising, and distribution soaring higher than the Space Shuttle Discovery, the big house publishers are selective and prefer to go with established authors. Even so, the author is expected to do the lion share of the marketing. Writers, by nature, are often a reclusive lot and superstar or no, don’t relish warming the couch on Late Night, or the roundtable on Sunday News Magazine shows. They do it because they are expected to do it. Yet, their very ‘celebrity’ opens doors that the unknown require a battering ram to penetrate.
Small Press and University Press publishers, although a mite easier to approach, usually lack the funds required to launch an unknown in the direction of the New York Times Bestseller list. Where we all expect to someday be, right? And due to the ‘unapproachability’ of a
Random House, agents for small presses are finding themselves inundated with submissions from everyone who has mastered the navigation of Microsoft Word. I read somewhere recently that for every book in print, tens of thousands of manuscripts never made it past the Deep Six file. A bit daunting to say the least!
But, take heart. The insatiable world of competition and the self-help psychology of ‘never give up’, has given dawn to the growing alternative of ‘print on demand’, or POD, publishing. Frankly, with the costs of clothing warehouse shelves with print runs of ten thousand books, coupled with the advent of printing equipment able to spew hundreds of books per hour from electronic disks, I see even the Random Houses eventually switching to ‘print on demand’ methods. One possible exception being the next offering of thrice-retired Stephen King who is also able to refuse warming couches.
Of course, if you’re independently wealthy and have the luxury of twenty-seven hour days in a few five week months, ‘self-publishing’, which gives the author total control of content, style, and pricing, is another option. If electing this route, if may behoove one to own a few stock options in UPS, Ingram Distribution, Barnes and Noble, a team of lawyers, and a franchise in “WeStaff YourOffice.com”.
So what’s an author to do? First, I’d say, honestly examine your motivation. Is it purely sharing your passion for your subject? Fame and fortune? Are you ego driven? Ego fragile? Is your frustration level high or low? Your skin, thick or thin? How much time do you have? Is age a factor? Is it career related? How much can you afford to invest? Submitting manuscripts to agents all over the country can get very expensive and time consuming. Think hundreds and years!
Secondly, have you laid your groundwork? What is your genre? Is it timely? Timeless? Have you researched its market? Its representative agents and publishers? The competition? One more diet book and I’m going on a chocolate binge in rebellion! Do you have a marketing plan? Believe me; you’ll need one, even if you land Double Day and a spot on Oprah’s couch.
Once examined and grounded, thoroughly research the various publishing options. Don’t be too quick to rule out POD publishing if you don’t understand its full premise. Most do. There’s huge differences between ‘self’ and POD publishing. Make sure you know what they are. Additionally, there are various levels of POD Publishers. They aren’t all the same.
I’ve been fortunate enough to publish both traditionally and POD. Each has served its purpose in its time. Writing is hard and dedicated work. Getting it published is equally challenging. ‘Never give up’.
No email received will ever be shared or listed without the express permission of the sender.