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Actually, I'm aware of some of these good reasons for self-publishing.
A co-worker of mine is about to enter into a POD deal with a book that a
commercial publisher is hesitant to pick up because it may have only
regional appeal. The commercial publisher has said that MAYBE they'll
pick up the book if the POD sales prove it'll have a wider audience.
From: David Neeley [mailto:dbneeley -at- gmail -dot- com]
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2004 4:27 PM
To: Downing, David
Subject: Re: Self publishing
The fact is that fewer and fewer new authors are able to break into
commercial publishing these days. Most publishers are avidly seeking the
"next blockbuster" and are less willing to carry titles that have
limited prospects for large sales.
In fact, today there are titles that are only a few months old and
already being remaindered. Publishers have less interest in letting a
new author or a new series "find its audience" than ever before. In
addition, publishers are well aware that very many books do not make
back the royalty advances, however paltry they may be.
Established authors with a known following are therefore coveted
properties--and get very large advances, and are sought avidly by
publishers hoping to steal them away from the competition.
Thus, using a vanity press and getting some respectable sales is, today,
a valid strategy for breaking into paid commercial publishing for many.
The stigma that the term carries in the minds of some is
unfortunate...but since this is an established term within the industry,
it is not for me to attempt to redefine it.
Of course, there are alternatives to these two--such as small,
independent, often regional presses and the university presses that form
a surprisingly large part of the market.
For some people, self-publication makes very good sense indeed. After
all, if they have a working marketing plan--often leading to repeat
buyers--they can make far more money on modest sales than they could
with a commercial publisher. Some of these authors, in fact, publish
under their own imprint--and not uncommonly begin to publish *other*
authors under that imprint and develop a small press identity of their
This has its own advantages, of course--including the avoidance of the
semi-automatic skepticism with which the large vanity houses' products
are greeted by booksellers and distributors.
By the way...the large commercial houses today have editors who seek
through the various vanity press titles looking for books they can,
themselves, pick up for broder distribution. This is a growing trend,
since the expenses involved in developing a new writer are already
largely born by others--and with at least some track record, they get an
indication of the potential broader appeal the title may have with the
marketing muscle of the larger publisher behind it.
Finally, there is a reason for self publishing that I do not believe has
been advanced yet. Those who do consulting, public speaking, or other
writing may find having a book or two to their credit adds to their
cachet among potential audiences and employers. If they do seminars, for
instance, these are often substantial sources of revenue when sold in
these "back of the room" opportunities. Nonfiction books that are not
quickly dated are particularly effective in this arena, but books on hot
new technologies may also be used in this way.
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