Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Publishing or Self - Publishing

It will probably come as no surprise to you that these days it is very hard to publish a book. For those of you, new authors, who haven't learned the reasons for this, consider the following facts

• Under incessant attack from TV, film, CD, video, and of course the Internet, the market for serious printed books has shrunk a good deal from what it was in prior decades. While all of these, especially the last, may not seem like direct competitors in kind, they are all direct competitors for the potential reader's time.

• One might be tempted to place significant blame on the declining quality of education as well. Insofar as this is true, it also operates synergistically with a decline in the quality of popular culture, particularly of the young who would otherwise be consumers of future literature.

• As a result, conventional print book publishers have had to concern themselves more and more with the bottom line, tending away from the effort and concern they previously expended in consciously supporting the quality of literary output. They no longer can maintain armies of in-house editors whose job it is to screen manuscripts sent to the publishing house by authors. The recognized freelance literary agent is now typically used to pre-screen such manuscripts.

• For newly written fiction, well over 95% of manuscripts by unknown / first time authors are rejected by agents. Of those manuscripts which are accepted by agents, over 95% are rejected by conventional publishing houses, believing they represent a serious risk to their bottom line. There is thus currently almost no market in conventional book publishing for fiction by new authors in the U.S.

• Authors of authoritative or otherwise interesting non-fiction generally have an easier (but not always easy) time with conventional book publishing. This may be particularly true of scholarly works written by recognized experts (of course, new fiction by well-known authors in general also gets an easy path to conventional publication.)

How can we authors publish a book in the face of this current unsatisfactory condition? Fortunately, there are three relatively recent developments in book publishing, book printing, book marketing and promotion that, if used wisely, can be used to overcome the publishing brick wall and get our books out to the public:

• Web-based publishing and similar state-of-the-art printing technology allows us to print relatively few high-quality books at a time at remarkably low cost. Though that cost is typically borne by the author, the process allows him to retain all rights to his literary creation — something that conventional book publishers never permit.

• Internet-published books, or e-books, are a very good way for small manuscripts to be created with virtually no printing costs, since the e-book exists only in electronic form.

• The Internet is an excellent way for the author or his allies to promote and even to sell his book directly to the reading public. It is not usually recommended that it be the only way to promote your book, but it provides an excellent start.

This route to publish a book has a number of advantages for you, the author. You may not have even thought of some of them, or if you did, gave them much merit. Still, consider, if you will, some of these:

• Your publication plans do not have to depend on a publisher's opinion of your work, which is at least as likely to be based on his estimate of the likelihood of making money from it as of its literary worth.

• The fact that you do not have to wait for anyone's opinions or views, nor do you have to surrender any of your rights to the publication, can act as a powerful energizer to you while you actually carry out your planned publication.

• You can save a great deal of time to publish a book — typically the many months that it takes to find an agent; and if you finally do, for the agent to find a conventional book publisher.