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Self-publishing: Smoother sailing for authors?

- 10/06/10  

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Trainer Network | MAI
October-December 2010
In This Issue:
< Self-publishing: Smoother sailing for authors?
< Self-published Author Shares Tips
< RSVP Now for October 21
< MAI Heads to China

< To The Digital Press and Back: One writer's experiment
< The Scoop on Google Docs
< What You Should Know About Print on Demand

Hi, Friend!

"An alternative to traditional publishing is on the rise, and many are jumping ship," writes our intern, Jennifer Lewis. Last year, titles by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers outnumbered traditionally published titles nearly 3 to 1 in the U.S. While MAI doesn't advocate self-publishing, we consider it an important trend worth evaluating.
Publishers and authors today face a dizzying buffet of options for producing a book. Technological advances are making print-on-demand an attractive way to save costs, and many people are experimenting with e-book formats. We hope this issue helps you navigate the waters of publishing today.
-Dawn Herzog Jewell, editor

Self Publishing: Smoother sailing for authors?   

Long before the recent self-publishing boom, many writers in countries without a general Christian publisher were paying printers to produce their books. These writers handled editing, marketing and sales themselves, and the editorial and production quality were dubious at best. Today, even in places where Christian publishers exist, these same writers are often still expected to cover printing and editorial costs. So, the question resurfaces: Should I just publish the book myself?  And, does the increased credibility that comes from working with a respected publisher outweigh the advantage of having greater control and potentially greater profits of publishing the book myself?

An alternative to traditional publishing is on the rise, and many are jumping ship. Aspiring authors are designing and publishing their books through web-based self-publishing companies. In 2009, titles by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers outnumbered traditionally published titles nearly 3 to 1 in the U.S., and authors are asking, “How do I get on board?” 
Companies such as Lulu Enterprises Inc., Author Solutions Inc. and FastPencil Inc. waste no time in bringing writers up to speed. A short tutorial and two clicks is all it takes to upload a manuscript and edit it, if you wish. Self-publishing companies attract authors by offering a buffet of services, from basic, do-it-yourself options to high-end editorial and design packages, offering clients freedom and accessibility.
Veteran authors, jaded by the time-frame and restrictions of traditional publishing, gravitate to the “fast, easy, and affordable” processes similar to those advertised by Xulon Press and WinePress Publishing, both Christian self-publishing companies. Á la carte editing options or 45-day rush production tempt such writers with hands-off and efficient services.
Aspiring writers are keyed up about self-publishing’s accessibility. By simply accessing a website, writers can publish and sell books from anywhere in the world. Creating e-books, which are free to publish and read on digital devices such as Kindle, or choosing to print on-demand, alleviates publishing and distribution costs. No longer hindered by barriers of location and contracts, up and coming authors worldwide are seeing their books on the shelves faster than ever.
Authors in countries with few publishers can benefit from the small print-runs and individual marketing offered by self-publishers. Lawrence Darmani, MAI’s Africa regional trainer, recounts an Ethiopian marriage counselor who withdrew his book from a traditional publisher and self-published it. His sales quadrupled because he sold directly to his audiences.
But, is the appeal worth it? Unlike traditional methods, self-publishing’s laissez-faire system doesn’t help authors market books. Articles highlighting the hazards of self publishing advocate thinking twice about going solo unless you have the time and talent to sell your own books.
Moreover, the advances authors receive from traditional publishers are non-existent in the self-publishing world. Because book sales generate their only revenue, self-published authors must create a demand for their books or forfeit both the overhead costs and a profit.
Entering the self-publishing industry can be risky business. Scams, high overhead costs with little marketing assistance, editing services available only as a premium upgrade, and additional costs to alter a finished product pose many potential hazards to aspiring authors. On the other hand, “Working with a traditional publisher, the writer will typically have the support of an editorial team, marketing team and sales team,” says Alice Crider, an editor at  Waterbrook Multnomah.
When deciding between traditional or self-publishing, consider: Do I have a strong manuscript? How much time and money do I have to market and promote my book? What is my motivation for publishing a book? Do I want to make a living from the sales, or do I want to publish as a side experiment? What about digital options?
Self-publishing can be a viable choice for writers who have tried the traditional route without success. “Rather than abandon a well-written and strong manuscript, authors should give their manuscript a lease of life through self-publishing,” Lawrence writes.

It remains to be seen whether self-publishing continues to rocket forward in the literary world or fizzle out as more authors test its potential. The reality? Ninety percent of American sales still come from traditionally printed books, though 2010 sales are still up for grabs. 
by Jennifer Lewis, MAI intern 


Self-published Author Shares Tips

Twelve years ago, Stella Okoronkwo, a Nigerian missionary in Côte d’Ivoire, chose the hard road of self-publishing after traditional houses declined her book companion to a Sunday school curriculum. Eight successful self-published titles later, Stella shares four lessons she’s learned.  
Subject matter counts. If a traditional publisher is working on a similar book, chances are slim that he or she will take on your project. Before jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon, consider the timeliness or potential receptivity of your message. Does something similar already exist?
Know what you want in a self-publisher. Quality printing, an attractive cover and sound editing are must-haves for self-publishing success. Stella advises being an active participant in the process. “Guide the company in designing the book or cover and get someone to edit after you have done your best.”
Self-publishing opens doors. For Stella, self-publishing books became her gateway into traditional publishing. Sponsored first by local residents and bookstore managers, Stella’s books eventually drew the attention of traditional publishers. Remember, traditional houses take notice of successful books, regardless of their publisher.
Consider the labor. Self-publishing is hard work. “It is not easy to be author, graphic designer, editor, accountant and public relations manager at the same time,” Stella says. Authors willing to make the effort should collaborate with networks of bookstores and other venues. 
Stella’s final advice to writers? Don’t take the self-publishing route if you can help it. Her journey was lined with as many tears as joys. Nonetheless, Stella empathizes with writers struggling to publish: “If the message is urgent and people are hungry, go for it!”

Stella lives in Côte d’Ivoire and has two Masters degrees in Communications. She has authored eight self-published books, three of which have been picked up by traditional publishers. Her book Chika Goes to School has been translated into French by a publisher and will be republished by the end of 2010.
By Jennifer Lewis, MAI Intern

Celebrate with MAI:
RSVP now for Oct. 21
You are invited to celebrate 25 years of MAI. Join us for an international dessert with guest speaker, author Jerry Jenkins.
Thursday, October 21, 2010 
7 to 9 p.m.
College Church, Commons building
Wheaton, Illinois, USA


 MAI Heads to China
MAI-Asia Trustees travel to Beijing October 9 to 18 to learn from and build relationships with Chinese Christian publishing leaders. Our aim: to discern how to encourage and equip them. Please pray for God’s leading as we meet with Christian writers and publishers.
Read an overview of Christian publishing in China by Peter Cunliffe.

To The Digital Press
and Back:
One writer’s experiment
I ran the race of publishing in 15 minutes. It was digital and not print publishing, mind you. Still, quite a feat considering publishing’s challenges, which oddly resemble grueling hills on a cross-country course.
I can’t say my book had spiffy fonts or striking cover graphics. I could have upgraded for extra dollars, but I didn’t feel the need. I had a title, manuscript (well, a college essay for experimental purposes), and two all important words: Jennifer Lewis. I published my first pseudo novel from an office chair while sipping  coffee. Amazing.
The steps weren’t hard. After a few Google searches on self-publishing, I had a generous list of companies to investigate. I settled on Lulu, maybe not the best option available but adequate for my publishing test.
Next, I maneuvered the website’s home page. Not tricky considering the “START NOW” icon twinkling from center screen. Clicking “start” redirected me to a web page with eight tabs. Each tab reflected a stage of the publishing process, from title and manuscript submission to the final review.
At this point, options opened like floodgates. Did I want hardback or paperback? Bookstore binding or saddle-stitched? Would a smaller version sell as well on the market? (U.S. trade copies are cheaper to print but sell for less.)
I was bewildered by so many decisions. What happened to my editor and design staff? I managed to blunder my way to the final review. After scanning the printing costs, I opted to e-book this masterpiece.

Still, fifteen minutes to create my own book? I am tempted by the self-publishing stroll, although it does have hidden hills to climb. But the nice thing about the self-publishing race? I wasn’t even breathing hard yet.     
 By Jennifer Lewis, MAI intern

The Scoop on Google Docs 
Google Docs is a free, web-based office suite, including a word processor and spreadsheet, plus other tools. Users can create and edit documents online, import documents from other programs, and share them easily. Some users, with a reliable internet connection, report that they use GDocs as a replacement for a normal office suite.   
The "owner" of a document can give access to others, granting permission to view the document only or to edit it. Several people can work on the document simultaneously, and each can see who is doing what.
This feature makes Google Docs a great tool for group projects. For example, details of the chapters of a multi-author book could be entered on a spreadsheet. The editors could then hold a planning meeting by Skype, at the same time viewing the planning document and entering ideas and corrections as they work.
By Ian Darke, MAI Regional Trainer for Latin America


What You Should Know About Print on Demand
In today’s volatile publishing times, more writers and publishers are turning to print-on-demand services, which reduce the financial risks associated with higher print runs of traditional offset printers. Chaz Nichols is the director of business and alliance development at Snowfall Press, a print-on-demand (POD) service in Colorado. He explains POD to former MAI intern Alyssa Keysor.
Q: What is print-on-demand? 
POD is a printing technology in which new copies of a book are not printed until an order has been received. Writers and publishers can link their website shopping carts to a POD printer’s server and no book would be printed before it is paid for. Also with POD, no book should go out of print, and no publisher or writer should have to manage a large inventory.
POD reduces risk and cost, freeing a publisher to experiment with new, untested authors. It’s a great way to produce advanced reading copies, trade show copies, large print books, and profit from long-tail sales.
Q. When is print-on-demand not practical? 
For large publishers who have print runs over 2,000 copies, POD may not be ideal. But even then, a hybrid of POD and traditional offset printing can reduce costs.
Q. What else should we know?
Often POD is competitive with traditional offset printers–even at higher print runs. An offset printer may say a book will cost $1.50 to print, but this doesn’t take into account the cost of carrying that inventory, shipping, returns, etc.
Unlike many POD services, Snowfall Press has no set up charges, no per title charges, no extra charge to make changes, and there is no template a designer must use. Manuscripts and covers can be uploaded online and printed at any time.
POD is here to stay. It is important for writers and publishers to find a printer who has the capability to print both locally and globally.
Read what MAI's friends are saying about POD, plus more articles about its pros and cons.


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