Friday, November 10, 2006

Companies that help you self--publish your book


NBC4 in Washington yesterday had a story about a new company that makes it very easy to self-publish a book. The latest company is Blurb.

There have been a number of companies with various business models since the late 1990s. One of the best known is iUniverse, which is a cooperative publisher, and is one of the best known examples of print-on-demand, the technology that makes this new style of publishing possible. iUniverse has a number of programs that include, for some books, considerable promotion. Two of my titles are carried with iUniverse; the details are here. With this publisher, the company becomes the official "publisher" that controls the isbn, and it arranges listings in amazon.com and bn.com. iUniverse has also helped previously conventionally published authors bring books back into print, and it has an Author's Guild section. The company has, with more recent books, arranged with Google to do "search within the book" and makes it an option for all books.

There are other services, such as xlibris. With many of these services, the author remains the "publisher" and sets up the isbn. The company that does is is RR Bowker / Reed Elsevier, and the website is this.

I actually self-published Do Ask Do Tell: A Gay Conservative Lashes Back in 1997, with an initial small print run with a book manufacturer in Gaithersburg, MD. I managed all of the publishing activities myself, as I moved to Minneapolis with a corporate transfer imemdiately afterwards. During research for the print run, I found an enormous range in prices. Many of the printing companies are in the Shenandoan Valley or elsewhere in the South. The most common technology then was a "web press." I hired my own proofreader, and we tried to follow the conventions of the Chicago Manual of Style.

When the author controls the publishing company, the author obviously keeps all of the revenue (rather than sharing it with a publisher). There are various tax implications for all of this, which require a tax advisor as they can be complicated (as to what is an allowable deduction). Generally, to take deductions for a "proprietorship" one needs to show an operating profit in three out of five consecutive years (at least that's what I was told in 1997). In the late 1980s and early 1990s there were a number of handbooks or how-to books written on self-publishing.

Writers' conferences say that conventional publishers today expect authors to take much more pro-active responsibility in promoting their own books.

But it is important to note that some entities will not work with authors who are only self-published. The last time I looked, Author's Guild welcomed membership only from authors who had been able to make a living from conventional trade publishers and get advances. Some reviewers in newspaper business will not review self-published books. Yet, I understand, Walt Whitman was a self-published author. A rather famous first book that did well as self-published was Vince Flynn's thriller Term Limits, which he first published with his Cloak & Dagger Press in St Paul MN (I have an original from a 1997 book signing in Eden Prairie,) but Mr. Flynn went on to sign a contract with Pocket Books.

There are more details on my sites these two url's: 1, and 2 (chapter from my "When Liberty Is Stressed" book).

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