As anyone unfortunate enough to be a Facebook friend of mine knows all too well, I recently published my first novel, Loss of Control. What they may or may not know is that I've gone the self-publishing route, meaning I don't have an agent or a "real" publisher. For now, at least.
I've done this for a couple of reasons but the most compelling of these, to me, is that I got tired of trying to find an agent. It turns out that the game for publishing the conventional way pretty much requires you find an agent to represent you to the various publishing houses. If you're a celebrity or have done something incredible (think: cut off your arm to escape a mountain) or, I suppose, if you're sleeping with a publisher, you may not need an agent. But the rest of us do.
Agents are both plentiful and blind to your desires. I've read more than one "How to land an agent" essay which suggests you should plan on submitting to somewhere between fifty and 100 agents before you find one who'll have you.
That's probably true, but I gave up around 30.
As recently as a few years ago, not having an agent and not having a publisher would have been the death of an author's ambition unless said author had a pile of cash she was willing to spend on printing her own book. As someone who used to own a pretty substantial printing company, I can tell you firsthand that printing your own book is not an inexpensive way to go.
But today, that's no longer required.
In today's world, more and more authors are self-published, partially because of the difficulty finding agents, partially because self-published authors collect a vastly higher percentage of the dollars from their book sales, and partially because it is so darned easy to do.
What we have today that's changed the game are two things.
First, there is the incredible rise of e-readers like Barnes & Noble's NOOK and Amazon's Kindle. And, the iPad. And, the iPhone. And, your computer or your Android device or whatever else you have. There are a million ways for people to read books today given nothing more than a properly-formatted file.
Along with the e-readers is the relatively new availability of POD, or Print on Demand. If you're Danielle Steele or Lee Child, your publisher will happily commit to printing a boatload of your books and then do their darnedest to figure out how to get rid of them. You're a known entity. A proven bet. They'll spend big bucks up front for the benefit of a low unit cost, but that comes with a lot of risk unless you're mighty sure you can unload them.
With POD, the model is different. Print on Demand means exactly what it sounds like: If you order one book, they print one book. Effectively, they are using incredibly sophisticated copiers to print only as many as they have orders for. That brings the unit cost up slightly, but not as much as you think (about $10 each for a 400-page book). But it also means no inventory.
That's a good thing.
That means we peons without agents and publishers can sell our books without mortgaging the house. We simply upload files to a POD publisher (I'm using Amazon's CreateSpace) and they'll print them as they need them and, hopefully, send me a check now and then.
In the interest of sharing, of throwing the rope back over the wall to help those coming along next, I hope to do a series of posts here over the next few weeks about the whole process, from writing, to the frustration of looking for agents, to finally taking the bull between the horns and publishing it myself. I'll let you decide if you're willing to do what it takes to publish your baby.
1. John Mackey09/25/2012 09:47:32 AM
Thanks for publishing this series. It's interesting and helpful. I have been wanting to write a novel but don't know where/how to get started. Though your experience sounds difficult, you seemed to have enjoyed the process at least. That's encouraging...