A writer, simply put, is one who writes. Everyone who writes on a regular basis is considered a writer whether or not they have ever been published. An author however, is generally perceived as a writer who has been published. For some writers, it is enough that they write, publishing their work is not their goal. For most writers, however, the goal is to become a published author. The trick is being published. You have many options. Which one should you choose? Let’s look at your options:
A self publisher, is an author who gets a business license, buys the ISBN #s, hires a printing press (print shop/printer) to print the books, than sells the books themselves. The author keeps 100% of the profits, because no one pays royalties; you keep 100% of the copyright (which btw, does not cost a penny). You market the book and distribute the book yourself through local bookstores, a personal website, your blog, and on online bookstores, such as Amazon.com.
Motives for self-publishing
There are a number of reasons that writers choose to self-publish, although one of the most common is that their work is not of interest to a commercial publisher. Publishers must be confident of sales of several thousand copies to take on a book. An otherwise worthy book may not have this potential for any number of reasons:
- Author wishes to retain complete editorial control over content,
- Author is unknown and does not have substantial resume,
- Popular topic but of interest only in a small geographic area or
addresses an obscure topic in which few people are interested,
- Content is controversial enough that publishers do not wish to be associated with it,
- Author wishes to obtain a larger percentage return from retail sales.
Occasionally authors choose to self-publish for reasons of control, because they want access to their customer list, or because they love the business of publishing. When working with a publisher, an author gives up a degree of editorial control, and sometimes has little input into the design of the book, its distribution, and its marketing. This has been a substantial motivator in the rise of comic book self-publishing. In the late 1970s, creators such as Dave Sim and Wendy and Richard Pini chose—in spite of offers from publishers—to publish their work themselves because they wanted to retain full ownership and control over it, and they believed they could do the job of publishing more effectively than a publisher that did not have an ownership stake in the material. This was facilitated by the development of comic book specialty shops, and the distribution network that serves them, which is more open to small- and self-publisher material than traditional bookstores have been. Numerous cartoonists have followed their example since then, and by the late 1990s, the majority of comics (in terms of titles) were self-published. They remain a small percentage of overall sales, however, with sales of a given book often falling short of 1000 copies. A similar movement took place in the music industry during the same period, coming largely out of the punk rock phenomenon, as some musicians eschewed deals with record labels and published their own recordings.
In addition to the issue of control, some authors with limited markets may also self-publish to obtain a better financial return. Authors in a specialist area may be confident of a certain number of sales but also realize that the maximum number of sales is limited, and wish to maximize their earnings. In this situation authors may risk a significant amount of their own capital to self-publish their own work. This avoids a publisher taking a significant cut of the proceeds and if also self-distributed avoids distribution fees as well. The payoff is a much larger percentage of the sale price being returned as profit.
In recent years, television writer and producer J Michael Straczynski has self published an extremely successful series of books containing his scripts for Babylon 5, his most famous television creation.
Self-publishing is the publishing of books and other media by the authors of those works, rather than by established, third-party publishers. Although it represents a small percentage of the publishing industry in terms of sales, it has been present in one form or another since the beginning of publishing and has seen an increase in activity with the advancement of publishing technology, including xerography, desktop publishing systems, print on demand, and the World Wide Web. Cultural phenomena such as the punk/DIY movement, the proliferation of media channels, and blogging have contributed to the advancement of self-publishing.
As a general rule, self publish only if you are writing one of the following:
- Short story anthology,
- Book of poems,
- Technical journal (which will only be read by a 100 or so college professors),
- Non-fiction niche market (work on an obscure organism),
- Local history book or local field guide,
- A play,
- A memoir or biography of a local ‘celebrity’,
- Church/business/family cookbook
- Any book or pamphlet of local interest only.