Reflections and Ruminations on Publishing

Reflections and Ruminations on Publishing

There are two primary methods to publish a book: self-publishing or traditional. Either avenue may potentially lead to a lucrative outcome, however, each has its own prerequisites and specific requirements to achieve success.

With self-publishing, there are so many different options available to format, distribute, and sell a book that the sky is virtually the limit. Since the market for self-publishing is still in its infancy, there will undoubtedly be many new and innovative methods realized in the future. One thing that is certain, it requires an entrepreneurial spirit, ambition, and a substantial amount of money to accomplish the goal of selling self-published books. An author who chooses this route will only get as far as her or his advertising, promotion, and bankroll will allow. With self-publishing the author retains full control of the process, however, there is a stigma associated with this method and readers, editors, agents, and publishing houses tend to frown on these books.

On the other hand, traditional publishing has been a tried and true way to publish books for centuries. It works well; so, why try to fix it? The major downside to this method is the amount of time it takes to see fruition and the narrow percentage of acceptance rates. Additionally, the traditional market is saturated with authors from every walk of life around the world, new and old, young and elderly, creating an influx of manuscripts that has never been seen in history. As a result of this, many publishing houses are overflowing with manuscripts waiting to be published, causing a backlog and a glut in the market. It is nearly impossible for an unknown writer to penetrate the bastions of traditional publishing without an agent; once accepted, however, an author will be supported by the influence and power of a big publishing house. They can get a book to market, make people pay attention, and sell a million copies; although, few new authors are readily accepted, and most are rejected outright.

With both methods, quality control is paramount, and the writing should be top-shelf, although this remains to be seen with self-publishing, as there is no vetting process and anyone can pump a poorly written book into the system, virtually overnight. It all comes down to personal preference and goals: to be a bestseller, a Pulitzer Prize winner, a literary figure, or just a published author with a dozen copies sold . . . maybe just seeing a book in print is good enough and will fulfill a lifelong ambition. Ultimately, whatever the author desires and expects as an end result will determine the outcome and method used, and that is the final and decisive factor when choosing publishing options: to self-publish and go it alone, or, to follow the traditional path. Hope springs eternal, either way.

I have learned how to hone my biographical blurbs in ENG-340: Context of Writing class; I now realize the importance of authorial persona and public image, more than ever. It is important to protect this, jealously and judiciously, although all publicity may be good publicity, in the end. I can apply the methods for query letters and soliciting agents that I’ve learned in this class. The simulation and practice were good exercises and a valuable experience in what to expect and how to format a query letter. The writing proposal and author comparisons were good practice, too, and I will use all of this information, if and when, I get ready to publish a serious book through traditional methods.

As far as my writing career goes, I will continue to write as I’ve been doing for over thirty years. I am going to focus on writing freelance non-fiction, which I have done in the past, as a means to earn income. With a bachelor’s degree, I will increase my credibility and earning capacity. It is much easier to write articles, essays, website and blog content, and anything non-fiction for hire than attempting to publish a bestselling novel. I might attempt writing textbooks. Who knows? I do know that I will write everyday and see where it takes me . . . that is the biggest step I can anticipate for the future.

Finally, I will leave you with this little tidbit . . .

When I was editing and publishing a magazine called Macabre Cadaver, I interviewed best-selling author, Scott Nicholson, and asked him about the subject of self-publishing and this is what he had to say:

“If you want to be serious and make a living, you need to try New York. If you self-publish, there are just too many obstacles, the biggest one being that you may not be writing publishable work but don’t know it yet. If you just want to stroke your ego and dump a book out there, it’s easy, but it’s also damaging the entire infrastructure and crappy books dumb down the public. However, if you are willing to create a cottage industry, or have a small and easily targeted audience, then it can make sense to self-publish. But realize you’ll have to do everything yourself, and be smart at business and promotion as well as editing, proofreading, graphic design, and distribution” (Paige, 2008).

Works Cited

Paige, Emmanuel. (Sep. 2008). “Scott Nicholson Interview.” Macabre Cadaver, 2, 44-48.

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