By Paul De Angelis
It seems that every day the avenues for self-publishing increase. The first big impetus came from new print-on-demand technology, which obviated the need to print fixed quantities of books: often these ended up sitting for decades in in garage of some hapless self-published author. E-books, the current big transformative phenomenon, threaten to do away all together with the paper and printing aspect. So far, however, their main impact has been on fiction; most digital book experts believe that traditional print nonfiction is in no imminent danger of disappearing.
Putting out your own eBook is in many ways simpler than producing a traditional, bound, print-on-paper solution. But for many self-published authors, the ability to present signed copies of their work to friends, acquaintances, and business associates makes it imperative to produce a print edition.
P.O.D. technology gave rise to such large-scale commercial self-publishing operations as XLibris and iUniverse (now gathered with Author House into one company called Author Solutions), followed by Lulu.com and Blurb.com and Amazon’s CreateSpace. But with Ingram’s Lightning Source print-on-demand facility open to all customers, there’s no reason authors have to restrict themselves to the big internet-driven operations.
Many medium and small (not to mention major) publishers have adopted the “subsidy publishing” as at least part of operating model. While a big operation like CreateSpace or Lulu or are in some ways the most convenient and obvious choices, they’re less likely to provide a self-publishing author with the kind of custom advice and guidance a smaller house might. Below I discuss a few smaller subsidy book publishers, in no particular order and without recommending one or the other. As with everything else in the publishing world, it all depends on finding the right “fit.”
But first a few words about the big self-publishing operations. All of us independent editors have heard cautionary tales about the several Author Solutions imprints (XLibris, iUniverse, Author House). Probably any of the comparable biggies (Lulu or Blurb) is preferable to these (of the two, Blurb is arguably the more “refined.”)
Create Space, being an Amazon.com operation, offers the advantages and disadvantages that come with that territory: good access to the book world’s biggest e-tailer, and a leg-up when it comes to getting your eBook on a Kindle or an AmazonFire e-Reader. With Amazon now also entering the field of print publishing, perhaps they will soon have all the print credentials one could want. Still, being tagged as an Amazon product cannot be particularly helpful if trying to gain access to the world of Barnes and Noble, which still remains by far the largest bricks-and-mortar retailer.
Here I’m going to mention a few of the smaller operations I’ve had some experience with. All of them offer customized, individual service, and know the value of a well-edited manuscript. They are: Greenleaf Book Group in Austin, Texas; Epigraph Publishing Services in Rhinebeck, New York; Easton Studio/Prospecta Press in Wilton, Connecticut; and Troy Book Makers in Albany New York and Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
Greenleaf and Easton Studio/Prospecta’s lists are dominated by business books, but by no means exclusively. Greenleaf has a particularly large list and seems dedicated to proving the validity of the independent publishing model. Last year it published a new book by the bestselling author John Gray.
Easton Studio/Prospecta is the brainchild of digital book marketing consultant/guru David Wilk.
Epigraph is the subsidy arm of Monkfish Publishing, which specializes in philosophical-metaphysical-religious works of fiction and nonfiction; the self-published list reflects some of the same interests.
Troy Bookmakers—the joint creation of independent booksellers Eric Wilska of the Bookloft in Great Barrington and Susan Novotny of the Book House in Albany/Market Block Books in Troy— is a good example of how some bricks-and-mortar bookshops are reinventing themselves. By guaranteeing distribution in their own bookstores, these publishers make themselves a particularly attractive resource for authors writing about relevant regional subjects.
I know other independent bookstores around the country are also finding ways of connecting with self-published authors—Tattered Cover in Denver, for example, has special promotional programs aimed at this group. Who knows, it may not be long before we’re back to the original 19th-century model of the bookstore-publisher!