Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Self-publishing: to do, or not to do? That is your question

It's no grand secret that one of my most ardent dreams is to be published.

I currently have one completed (but needing-to-be-updated) book on the Holy Spirit, another that could be rounded out and published on Proverbs, and a novel.

Decades ago, I tried (and failed) to get the novel published. Did not try terribly hard. I think I tried one or two on the Holy Spirit, and failed. One of my personal issues is that I'm fairly easily discouraged.

One publisher's representative actually invited me to send him some of my writing, which was thrilling; but that was well over a year ago, and he never got around to looking at it. He's a very busy man.

So there are more and more ways online of self-publishing, including ways that require no setup fee. And my mate down-under Craig recently noted that Amazon is now into self-publishing.

So here are my questions:
  1. Has anyone done it?
  2. If so, what did you think of it?
  3. (The big one): does self-publishing pretty well stigmatize you as lame, and ruin you forever as to the likelihood of being picked up by a "real" publisher?
UPDATE: see further discussion, very lively and informative, over at Pyromaniacs.

17 comments:

BugBlaster said...

This guy has done it.

DJP said...

Yeah, well maybe that guy will come tell me about it!

(c;

Chris Anderson said...

I'd try really, really, really, really hard to get published before I self-published.

You've got connections. Use them. :)

Jared Wall said...

Dan,

Have you looked into www.lulu.com? They won an award for their site which is a self publishing site. I have published several anthologies there and the printing and binding is excellent quality. I do not know if you have ever visited A Puritan's Mind. But the pastor who runs that website has at least one book published through Lulu.com. I don't know anything about a stigma from self publishing, but I guess it beats not publishing at all. Ps. Lulu works just like amazon in its interface as far as book presentation with previews and reviews.

Connie said...

I'm sorry, I don't know anything about self-publishing, but I do know that our pastor, Dennis Gundersen has a publishing company called Grace and Truth Publishing--I know little about that aspect of his business. However, I do know that what he publishes is NOT "fluff". You can check his bookstore out at www.graceandtruthbooks.com, and contact him through that website if you're interested.

CraigS said...

I've always got your back, mate. ;-)

I've spent a bit of time wondering the same thing. A publisher is only going to pick you up if you are going to sell books. That is the only consideration.

That means you either have to have a "name" already, or your book has to be so surpassingly brilliant that it will sell itself.

(Tim Challies got a book contract, I believe, because he had established a name and audience already with his blog and reviews. He's also a handy writer.)

Given that neither is true for most of us mortals, what do you do?

A few years ago I had a book on my hard drive that I was keen to publish. I knew it would not sell so I didn't approach a traditional publisher. But I printed a few copies off using Lulu.

It was a tremendous feeling when I received a book with *my* name on it. Wow, it was satisfying.

I'd encourage you to do the same - keep seeking professional publication, but print yourself off a copy or two. It is very inexpensive, and you will feel good about it.

CraigS said...

Oh, as far as if self-publishing *works*, I've heard of a few stories.

One interesting case is a guy called "Scott Sigler" who writes horror/action novels. He was rejected by traditional publishers for 10 years, so he finally podcast his whole novel for free, and 2 follow up novels. Built up an audience of 30,000 listeners. What happened? Crown just signed him to a 3 book deal.

Carla Rolfe said...

I have 2 books self-published through lulu.com One is listed at Grace and Truth Books and the other has been requested for a city library in the midwest. For me, I'm just delighted there's interest in my work.

I'm currently working on a sequel to my children's book and will publish again through lulu. If a "real" publisher ever takes interest, that would be great - but until then, self-publishing works just fine for me.

Fr. Bill said...

Craigs' comment about Sigler makes a point about conventional publishing that no author can afford to overlook: they are in this for the money. This is not a criticism;it's just the nature of that sort of beast.

So, if your book is MORE than apt to turn a profit,they'll sign you on. Remember, they hate to play the role of speculators.

Depending on your angle, you can also run afoul the way for-profit publishers play to the current theological fashions of the market they serve. Books critical of currently regnant egalitarianism, for example, will not get much of a hearing in the meetings where editors decide what to publish.

DJP said...

Of course, then there's the big thing: if some publisher did pick up one of my tomes, they might insist on using END NOTES.

That'd kill me.

Chris Anderson said...

Yeah, end notes should be a deal breaker. They're the worst.

Sewing said...

Kind of funny that you wrote a book on the Holy Spirit: assuming the Holy Spirit was working through you when you wrote it, then He was writing a book about Himself! ;)

ThirstyDavid said...

I believe you know James Spurgeon. I don't know how it worked out for him, but I got the book.

Michael Beasley did a really nice job with All Nations Under God. Again, I don't know how it worked out sales-wise but I got that one, too.

I'll buy yours, too. See, you've already got one sold. One suggestion: anything worth publishing is worth a hardcover first edition. I know you can do it with Lulu. I don't know about others.

Even So... said...

That guy here (I was on vacation, DJP)

Anyway, I self published through Xulon because...

1. I'm nobody in the world's eyes and didn't want to go through the hassle of trying ten years to get published the first time...if I "become somebody" it won't matter about this first little book anyway...

2. I just wanted to get "over the hump" - I have written perhaps a dozen manuscripts, and never submitted any of them yet, not being sure, etc....so I just took 50 blog posts and figured this would get me off my rear...I post six days a week of fresh material, and my readership is growing substantially, so I might (probably will) do several more blog-book compilations, while trying to pursue the "bigger fish" at the same time...

2. This first book wasn't about being published for the wider audience, but is intended to be for my blog readers and friends (although it is in two book stores)...primarily it was to be and it is given as a gift to visitors to our church...instead of a jar of peanuts that has a topper saying "we're nuts about you", this gives them something tangible that speaks about where our church's ministry is coming from, etc...

My next book I will be "shopping" for "real" publishers because it is vitally important (the topic, not me), and controversial...

Why You HAVE To Go To Church

Xulon is inexpensive, print on demand, and they do the cover, ISBN, etc.

ENDNOTES however...
:-(

Even So... said...

I guess I don't know how to count, he he...

My overall experience with Xulon was what I would call very good...

That being said...

Tying to submit a manuscript via email proved

EXCEPTIONALLY

difficult through Xulon...and they said this is a common occurrance!

You'd think it would behoove them to fix the problem, but the communication between depts. was, let's be gracious and say not so good...

Email me for the extremely gory details if you wish, DJP...suffice it to say I sent a hard copy with much prayers as my final proof...

Short Thoughts said...

I have read the posts and comments on both sites and have picked up some interesting insights. I am kind of in the same boat with you Dan--I have a few manuscripts in varying stages of completion. I have never published a book, just some articles in a couple of different Christian periodicals. That's where I am right now.

I used to pastor a church that had a bookstore and a monthly publication that went into all 50 states and a few English speaking foreign countries. As editor of the paper, I would receive books from various sources that wanted me to review them. I did not review them all and the ones that were self-published were prioritized to the bottom of the pile, unless I knew the author in some way or was just otherwise interested by the title, subject matter, or cover copy.

Having said that, in my opinion, self-publishing does not necessarily make you a lame duck and a few examples have been given by commenters to support this. The real question when it comes to self-publishing is, What is your goal in publishing your book? If your goal is to reach a widespread audience, then this is probably not the best way to go about it. It is also worth noting that if you want to reach a broad audience, even it you get a traditional publisher, you will still have to work market yourself and your book (see Writer's Digest, October 2007, "Get Your Money's Worth," by Jodi Piccoult).

If you just want to get your material into print to preserve it, pass down to family, sell a few hundred copies, or you just want an inexspensive means to print quality looking material for ministry, distribution, etc., self-publishing is a good vehicle. At the church bookstore, we published numerous books via print on demand with www.instantpublisher.com, which consistently gave us good quality and was cheaper than most other POD's. These were reprints of out-of-print titles and the written works of the former pastor. We sold these in the store and also distributed them freely in some cases.

I don't know if any of this is helpful or not, but if you decide to do anything with your material, let us know.

Austin Storm said...

I work for a small Christian publishing house, and yes, self-publishing does all but kill your chances of getting published *unless* it becomes a runaway success. Which it won't, because individuals don't have the ability to market the way publishers do.