Do you have a novel you’ve been thinking about self-publishing, but you’re worried about “self-publishing stigma”? Wondering if there are advantages of publishing an e-book as opposed to a paperback? Are you stumped as to where to find a good editor? We’ll check in on the changing world of self-publishing, consider the pros and cons of the traditional publishing industry and answer your self-publishing questions.

Navigating the Changing World of Self-Publishing 19 May,2015forum

Ted Weinstein, literary agent, founder of Ted Weinstein Literary Management and former music critic for NPR's All Things Considered
Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, an e-book publishing and distribution platform based in Los Gatos
Laura Fraser, journalist and editorial director of Shebooks, which publishes short ebooks by women

  • In BookGarage, we believe self-publishing deserves (other than needs) to be professional.

  • I self-published my first novel “March to November” last September and I’m so happy that I did. It has been hard work but a very rewarding and positive experience. Publicity is the biggest challenge, but I called in every contact I had. I live in the USA, but the book is set in Ireland – where I’m from originally – so I targeted my marketing with an Irish flavor. I took a trip back to Ireland and was received by the Lord Mayors in two cities,was interviewed on radio and TV, and I even managed to get a piece published in the Irish Times on my experiences

  • What a great lineup of guests to talk on this topic. Looking forward to it!

  • Max Varázsló

    Most authors interested in self-publishing desperately need a professional editor — not just a proofreader who might also be an uncritical friend. So much potential out there remains untapped by authors who self-publish sloppily mounted manuscripts.

  • Another Mike

    One of my classmates published four books conventionally, and now also has four self-published books. Three of the last four are marked departures from her previous work, and one is a compilation of her online columns.

  • Terri Moss

    I guess I’m a rare example of a highly successful self publisher. The keys to success: don’t call yourself a self publisher (“boutique” works better), have a book that fills a niche, pay attention to quality with a great editor, designer and printer, get an award (essential) and target your marketing (e.g. professional associations if appropriate) and build word of mouth. Finally, avoid Amazon at all costs (their cut is too huge!). My book, Healing with Heart: Inspirations for Health Care Professionals, won a nursing leader book of the year award and is in its 8th reprint, and I’ve sold over 30,000 which is pretty good in the world of independent publishers.

    • Gladys Nuria Jimenez Ramirez

      Congrats Terri. You found your niche and I wish your much more success.
      I got 4 awards, recently one in Cuba. That helps -a little 🙂
      After my recent tour to Peru, USA: L.A. book festival, N.York -latinamerican community there is powerful when it’s about word of mouth, I found that marketing is now on track. All the best.

  • marte48

    San Francisco has a great literary publisher called McSweeneys.

  • Mark Shoffner

    Children’s book that are self-published are starting to get a much better reception. I’ve self-published two books and am finally finding that independent bookstores are willing and sometimes even happy to carry the books. That’s especially important for children’s books that need to be seen and flipped through by kids and parents… and the traditional publishing industry is surprisingly conservative about what they will publish.
    (My books are “Call Me Haruki” and “Haruki and the Laughing Cats” available on Amazon and in SF bookstores such as Folio books, for those interested.)

  • Terri Moss

    You must believe passionately that your book serves a purpose and is needed to be read! Marketing involves speaking, doing workshops and finding other ways to reach your audience. But passion comes first and must show through.

  • droops

    I disagree about if you arent willing to tout your work it may not be the right project for you. Some people are extremely intoverted and dont like doing that, and it’s a skill. Its silly to think that an artist only creates good work if they are good promoter. Isnt that the whole concept about why creatives have reps? So they are in the social trenches getting your work out there.

  • ES Trader

    Marketing 101; at least when I was in school the # 1 lesson was ” build a better mouse trap…” is NOT trure; everything must be marketed which is the product+place+price+promotion… the 4 P’s of marketing

    Simply having it published is not even 1/2 the battle, traditional or self published someone or organization must perform the distribution, promotion etc

    self published sounds like the proverbial tree that fell with no one hearing it

  • Kimberley

    To the commenter who laments how hard it is to handle PR on one’s own: it was really hard to handle PR with a publisher as well! Finding a publisher is not a cure-all for the challenges of the industry. While my publisher had great leverage in traditional media outlets, I still had a ton of work to do on my own (especially with online/social media promoting), and it was also the hardest part of the process for me, because I wasn’t prepared for how much work it would be!

  • Can you please share thoughts on the merits of serial publishing? Is it viable to distribute chapters-at-a-time to build platform?

    • Thanks Michael! Awesome show … us authors totally appreciate the updates! Great guests, too

  • Agent after agent told me that my writing is great but no one wants to read my story about the daughter of a plantation owner. Eventually I independently published via Amazon’s Createspace. It was exciting and daunting, but I loved having control over the cover, lay out and editing. I paid to have a professional editor. I marketed mostly through book blogs and book clubs. It was tedious but paid off. Two years after I sold the rights to a major publisher. It’s selling well and has been translated into Norwegian and German. I’m grateful for the opportunity to get my book into the hands of the right readers.

  • Joe Cottonwood

    I self-published a novel in 1978 that was picked up by a major publisher, translated and distributed all over the planet. Self-publishing is nothing new. The chances of success have always been slim. The need for promotion has always been there. What’s new is the digital distribution.

  • Our brain is a powerful learning machine. You’ve written multiple drafts of your novel, you’ve read it more times than your fingers and toes added together, you’ve done a lot of revising. You fall in love with your own darlings and your brain protects them at all costs, even if they’re not doing your story any good. It happens to the best ones and the most experienced writers. Before we know it, we stop seeing the faults, our brain has become accustomed to them, especially continuity errors and clunky “beautiful” sentences.

    All writers need editor(s) and proofreader(s). It doesn’t matter whether traditionally published, or self-published. But it is ever more important in this last case. It is difficult to understand how some (or most?) in self-publishing believe it is not important nor needed.

  • Interesting discussion.

    The bar has been raised, and independent authors (need to) produce books that stand tall next to what comes out of traditional publishing houses.

    You can do it, but you can’t do it only by yourself. That’s the myth that makes so many perpetrating the stigma self-publishing has. That is do-it-yourself delusional publishing.

    • Gladys Nuria Jimenez Ramirez

      Right! you need a team: proof readers, editors, illustrators, etc. From a team they become my friends. In my case also musicians, producers, studios, cameramen/image editors, etc. where my songs, audios and videos have to be mixed and improved. Same than above. I publish multimedia e-books. There are 4 million books on the internet, people need to choose you because you offer something different/new.

  • Gabriella West

    This was a good program! I first published with Smashwords in 2011 (a literary novel set in 1980s Ireland that would never have been picked up by an agent!) and then went on to publish on KDP a few months later. I’m now a seasoned self-publisher with two novels and a memoir under my belt, as well as many shorts. What I’ve found is that because my work is mostly LGBT- and romance-oriented, there is a niche for it. My literary novel doesn’t sell well compared to my other works, but gets plenty of views on Smashwords every day. My memoir and a short ebook I’ve done on ADHD and food dyes sell pretty well on Apple iTunes (via Smashwords). It’s all been quite a trip.

    Additionally, I’m a professional freelance copy editor who works with independent authors (see I’m muddling along and am not raking in the big bucks, but I feel like I am using my skills and my love of words every day. As a tip to others, I would like to recommend, where many successful indie authors hang out in the Writers’ Cafe. They are superb marketers, and I’ve learned a lot from reading there. Good luck out there! The adage that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, certainly applies to this business.

    • Gladys Nuria Jimenez Ramirez

      Great comment. Same here: after 20 years being a mom/grandma, I came back to full writing and publishing. Smashwords has been wonderful to me and my work. From Dec 2013 up today I published 2 romans -part of my trilogy- and 17 stories (some are in translations to Spanish or Dutch) Indeed no big bucks, but see how many people download what I write is motivating. It seems my work is interesting for an app where people want to learn languages. You never know where the spin-off effect is. Thanks for sharing your contacts.

  • I was very interested in the hybrid model of publishing represented by Shebooks, in which there is some editorial input. Shebooks is attempting to build a reputation as a publisher which may allow readers to find books in their field of interest, while still opening the doors much wider than the legacy publishers do.

  • EricWelch

    I was amused to hear the distinction being made between “consignment” and “returns.” The return system that so cripples the book industry is basically a consignment system. Bookstores don’t really buy the books unless they sell them, since they can return anything that doesn’t sell. This effectively distorts the bestseller lists and makes for a very inefficient system where there is no penalty for over-ordering.

    Ironically, I think we are returning to the system that existed in the 17th and 18th centuries where authors often paid to have their work printed and distributed. The mediated system with editor, publisher, advances, etc. is really a relatively recent creation of the early 19th century.

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