A tall handsome man strolls to the front of the blog space. His authoritative air and piercing gaze cause a hush to fall over those in attendance. This isn’t what they were expecting. The mysterious man casts his eyes over the assembly waiting for the last murmured conversation to trail off into silence. He begins to speak:
Well, as you can plainly see, I’m not Ms. Grout. She’s unable to make it today and I’ll be filling in for her. Some of you may have had experience with substitute bloggers in the past and are, even as I speak, thinking that this means you can goof off or act up during today’s blog. Let me warn you—that would be a mistake. I have substitute-blogged on some of the toughest sites on the web and have seen every trick in the book. I’ve reduced trolls from maximum security federal prison to whimpering bunnies, so don’t test me.
Today’s blog deals with self-publishing. We’re going to assume that at some point in your writing careers, you will find that you’ve written something you want published and, for some reason, short-sighted agents and thickheaded publishers are not frantically bidding for the rights to represent you or to publish your book. At that point, in the past you’ve had two realistic choices: drop into your second (or third, or fourth) hundred on your list of prospective agents and keep plugging away, or give up and look for another line of work—or hobby, depending on your financial circumstances. Of course, there was a third choice for the independently wealthy or the foolhardy: self-publishing. This involved paying a printer an exorbitant price to produce one (or two, or five) thousand copies of your work which you could store in your basement or garage and hawk to house guests or passers-by as a life-long project.
Those were the bad-old-days. Now, thanks to advances in printing and binding (hardcopy), and to the advent of affordable electronic delivery systems (e-books), that third option has become a viable alternative.
We (Judy and I) have attended more than our share of writer conferences, book readings, workshops, author conventions and the like over the past several years. All have been useful, some exceptionally so. Populating these venues are, in increasing order of influence,
- prospective authors,
- newly self-published authors,
- ancillary service providers (cover designers, editors, layout specialists, technical consultants),
- PUBLISHED authors, (those authors published through the traditional publishing houses. You know—the ones that proffer advances, employ publicists, have marketing departments, distribution networks, etc.),
- retail booksellers,
- and (rarely) actual publishers.
In our experience, all but the lowest two categories exhibit an antagonistic attitude toward Amazon, the giant internet retailer, ranging from mild disapproval to outright hostility. Often members of the first two categories will refer to the company only in circumspect terms such as “the big online bookseller” or simply “the ‘A’ word” in deference to the power brokers whose approbation we seek. Yet, the ‘A’ word keeps cropping up at these gatherings because, despite the perfectly logical self-interested enmity of brick and mortar book producers and sellers, it is, for the rest of us aspiring writers, the only game in town.
Ahh. I see some in the room whispering objections. “What about iBooks, Nook, Smashwords, …?” Point conceded. However, I contend my statement is akin to claiming that in Green Bay the Packers are the only game in town. You may object that it isn’t literally true since there is amateur softball, high school football, AAU Hockey, and the like. True, but by every measure from press coverage to revenue generated to national recognition, the Packers dwarf all the others combined. The same can be said of Amazon relative to the rest of the field in the book selling arena. So … if you are ready to plunge into the world of self-publishing, learn to love Amazon.
At my next opportunity to fill in for Ms. Grout, I will plunge into the nitty-gritty details of preparing and submitting your manuscript to Amazon for both Kindle (ebook) and CreateSpace (printed) publishing.
The man walks to the door exuding the same self-assurance with which he made his entrance. Opening it, he appears about to depart. He pauses briefly, smiles at the group and gives a quick nod of his head, as if to say “You’ve listened well.” Without a sound, he disappears into the night.