The influence of the internet, combined with new technologies to make it faster and easier to produce print books, has caused an explosion of interest in self-publishing. Tens of thousands of books that might not otherwise have been published have gone to press.
Most of these books will sell less than one hundred copes and I don’t see much of a downside to that. Keep in mind that many of these books are virtually private publications, done by the author for just a small group of people, family and friends, or a professional group, or as giveaways. Since other people never see or hear of these books, I don’t see why this great outpouring of stories, history, imagination and fantasy can be a bad thing.
In some ways self-publishing reminds me a bit of the great project StoryCorps that collects live recordings of people telling, in their own voice, significant stories from their lives. It’s this recording of history and ideas that have traditionally been lost that really fascinate me. Get those books out from under the bed or out of the bottom drawer of the desk and publish them. Enrich the world.
Profit is not always the main thing
Making money usually is not an issue. This might come as a surprise, but after producing books for dozens and dozens of self-publishers over the years, I’ve found that money or profit is often a very distant consideration when authors decide to publish their own works. They want to leave a record, or to promote a new idea, or to support a charity, or to enhance their standing in a professional field. There’s still nothing like the esteem you get from people when they find out you’re the author of a book, whether you published it yourself or not. And some studies have shown that the value of being the author of a book can top $100,000 to a consultant or business person.
The new technology of e-books is not a fad. It’s the future. There are a lot of forces at work right now that are propelling e-books into a prominent place in book publishing, and those forces aren’t going to change soon. The internet itself, by making communication between writers and readers easier, is having its own effect. It’s because of our networking and the connectivity that the internet provides that Amazon.com, for instance, can lure people with the idea of downloading an e-book in minutes, rather than getting in the car to go visit a bookstore.
E-books may become the dominant format
Between the economic advantages of e-books, the improving quality and lower price of new e-book readers, and the advantages to publishers who never have to worry about reprint costs or inventory stocking levels or shipping—books are quite heavy for the retail price they command—e-books are going to be the dominant form of books in some genres very soon.
Most self-publishers these days are using print on demand to produce print books economically. It makes sense to plan your e-book production as an extension of your print book. Partly this means a bit of extra planning in the production phase to make sure the book will translate well for e-readers, and partly it means using the final, corrected version that’s developed for print as the document from which the e-book will be created.
Almost all the sales of e-books right now are in two formats, Kindle and ePub. You should get your book converted into both formats. The Kindle format will work for the Kindle store, the largest vendor of e-books at the moment, and your ePub files will work for almost all other e-book readers. Finish your print edition first, and then use those final files for conversion to e-book formats. All the graphics have to be in line, and a lot of formatting needs to be simplified. Other than that, the most important thing is finding the right person to do the conversion for you.
Joel Friedlander is the author of A Self-Publisher’s Companion, a book designer, and the proprietor of Marin Bookworks in San Rafael, California, a publishing services company where he has helped launch many self-publishers since 1994. More on his work and his book at TheBookDesigner.com.
What has been your experience with self-publishing in e-book or print format? Select comments to let us know.
Photo courtesy Joel Friedlander.