Self-Publishing August 12, 2008

There seem to be two trends in publishing at the moment. On the one hand, larger presses are making cutbacks. On the other hand, there is a proliferation of self-published books and the process of publishing your own book is becoming cheaper and more convenient.

Does anyone have thoughts on self-publishing? Has anyone done it and can recommend it (or recommend not to do it)? I have a very short book that I might try to publish that way if I can’t secure a traditional publisher for it soon. Would you be less likely to buy a book that looked interesting if it were from a self-publishing source rather than a traditional press that has shown itself to be a publisher of reliable books? If you’ve used a particular service, which did you choose, and how did it go? If you’ve bought a self-published book, were you satisfied or disappointed with the product you received?
I’m also thinking about doing something like this when I have something I want to use in an adult Sunday school class, or perhaps even in classes at Butler.
I look forward to your input!
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  • Please consider publishing it online and via one of the many print-on-demand enterprises such as Lulu.comAs a librarian, and as a reader I have bought books produced in this form. I also believe you will sell more copies of the book if you go thus route because more people will know of its existence.-Chuck-

  • Jim

    I’ve been trying to get academics to self publish for several years now. It’s easy, it allows your books to be acquired inexpensively, and it skips the Brill’s of the world who apparently only wish to put books in the hands of the wealthy.See here, for instance: point of fact, ‘self publishing’ was the way publishing was done as late as the 19th century. Only when academics caved in to the big publishing houses did that change. And they did that only for the sake of ‘prestige’- whatever that’s supposed to be.

  • My earlier curses on Amazon largely had to do with trying to sell a Lulu book with them as my own distributor. I think if I self-publish something else, I’ll do it through Book Surge, Amazon’s own self-publishing wing. That way you get the publicity of Amazon, without the “barely break even if at all” element of having to ship to them every time one person orders your book.

  • I am not as concerned about the publisher of a book as I am about the academic credentials of the author. Sure, I know that if I buy a book from Brill it has a particular level of vetting and will contain particular types of subject matter, but if someone I have reason to respect self-publishes I would definitely not rule out buying their book. I also won’t buy a book just because it’s published by a particular publishing house. I still need to know a bit about the author.If someone whose blog I read and whose opinions I value as a result of reading their blog were to self-publish a book, I would give serious thought to buying a self-published book in the right circumstances. I would want to be able to know what was in it (so table of contents and a brief synopsis) and to be able to read a significant chunk on line to see if it appeared to be well-written. Or if I had heard a paper delivered at a conference or read some of their material in journals. And, of course, I would also want to be able to order it on line in a way that was secure and reliable. The fact that someone writes well doesn’t mean that they are necessarily efficient at making sure that I get the book I pay for.

  • G

    There quite a few self-publishing companies out there.I’m in the process of self-publishing my first novel, and there are pluses and minuses to it, the big plus is that you are in control of everything involved with your book. From book cover to content and everything in between.The big minus is that you are in control of everything involved with your book. From marketing to selling and everything in between.Research carefully and come to your own conclusions on what company you want to use. There a couple decent ones out there. I use AuthorHouse right now. Dog Ear Publishing is another good one out there in the self-publishing field.

  • I started my own publishing company (Energion Publications), and I publish my own books through that, though I also publish several other authors and am working on adding a few more before the end of the year.I did that because I needed the material to use in my teaching and wasn’t all that concerned with how much I sold otherwise. The advantage of the company is both that it is developing into something much more substantial, and that it means I have the machinery in place whenever I need a new study guide for my own use in teaching. Having the pipeline in working order is a very important thing.For my general publishing I work in a more traditional framework, but there is always the integrity question considering that I publish my own work, and this constitutes a bit less than half of my catalog of 19 books at the moment. In general, however, I have not found that to be a problem. At least nobody has reported that they would consider buying, but since I own the company, they won’t.A caveat–this is all still small scale and part time, so perhaps my experiences don’t reflect the market very well. Also, I’m not getting rich off of it, but I’m also not losing!

  • I’d like to submit a comment – in fair disclosure I own a self publishing company called Dog Ear Publishing [mentioned above, but not motivated by me in any way :)]Self-publishing a book can be done in many ways – the simplest is typically using a company like mine. Dan Poynter – one of, if not THE guru in our industry – has a number of good books (though he does advocate ‘going it alone…) Both the Dog Ear site and my new blog – discuss a variety of options. We’ve even stared a site dedicated to textbooks – ProfessorTextbook.comMore than willing to answer any questions – even objectively – -Ray Robinson

  • I usually run screaming the other way from a self-published non-fiction book in religious studies, but that’s usually because the author has no expertise in the subject and is spouting crackpot conspiracy theories or “amazing” new solutions to old problems. That’s the problem with self-publishing, after all, anyone can do it, even the people who don’t know what they’re talking about. For you, James, go ahead and self-publish if it’s for your own use and the benefit of your established readership. You have the credentials to back up your credibility on the subject.

  • If you self-publish using a vanity or subsidy press (such as Lulu), trade bookstore buyers and most librarians will not buy or stock your book and you will not have national distribution. According to industry research, your sales likely will be less than 100 copies and may not even cover your cost of production and manufacture. If you have more than one book in you and/or want to publish others’ works in addition to your own, you should either find a publisher or buy a block of ISBNs, establish a company, and become a publisher of record yourself. –Mary Ellen LepionkaAtlantic Path Publishing

  • I have to respond to Ms. Lepionka's post and respectfully dispute her facts. Her statements reflect a reality of self publishing that is rather dated.Using a company like Dog Ear or AuthorHouse will guarantee your book has full national distribution. Your book will be carried by, Barnes&;, Ingram Book, Baker & Taylor, and available for order in most retail outlets.Trade bookstores stock less than 5% of all books traditionally published – so, for a targeted product, that isn't really relevant. The 'dot coms' now account for over 70% of all book sales. And even the lowliest of self published books gets listed there… Sales are about awareness – not whether a brick-and-mortar store approves of your publishing strategy – With Dog Ear, at least, your book will carry a Library of Congress Control Number making it available to libraries. It is true that self-published books (whether by a self publishing company or indie author) are not eligible for the LOC number.Regarding ISBNs and becoming a publisher yourself – it's much like building a house. Some folks do it all themselves, most hire professionals. Typically authors are best suited hiring professionals. Who owns the ISBN is only important if you relish negotiating and setting up distribution relationships with all the major accounts. It typically isn't a feasible task for most authors.Self publishing companies have come a long way – and using an 'author services' company has changed dramatically in the past few years.As with all things "internet" – do your own research, ask questions, make up your own mind – but don't stay mired in the misconceptions of the past.

  • It seems that BookSurge (Amazon’s self-publishing wing) is able to provide a Library of Congress Control Number. I’d want the book to be readily available to libraries and on their radar.I was surprised how many smaller publishers that I thought might be worth contacting actually had a notice on their web site that they aren’t accepting manuscripts at present.I’m finding all the discussion thus far very helpful. If anyone wants to recommend a smaller publisher that might be interested in a book that starts from the basics of historical investigation and the sources, and then moves on to a study of the burial of Jesus before reflecting on the implications for Christian faith in the resurrection, do share that sort of information too! 🙂

  • BookSurge can provide the LCCN – the downside to BooksSurge is that sales are primarily restricted to Barnes & Noble won't touch them (either online or in-store) due to Amazon being a direct competitor, Ingram Book will also not carry the product. AuthorHouse (or Dog Ear -but I'm biased…) is a better choice is you wan't broader distribution.

  • Try Watertree Press — they published “Beyond the Firmament”. Very author friendly.