February 28th, 2012, Tuesday
Self publishing used to be considered the worst thing you could do for your writing life. I do not say “career” because as my blog readers know, I do not consider writing to be a career, it’s a life. I would say that has not changed much.
Here’s what you can’t do with a self publishing book.
- Brag that you got a book accepted.
- Have a book that’s widely available
- Have a book that’s marketed or publicized unless you can afford to pay for that yourself.
- Get a teaching job as a result of that book.
- Have respect in the publishing world.
- Have the respect of your writing peers.
- Have a good looking book. (with rare exceptions)
- Have the book in bookstores.
- Get the book reviewed.
- Get the book into libraries.
Someone asked me recently why Rio de Sangre the libretto wasn’t published by Lulu printing. My first reaction was, “Wow, you have no respect for the world of publishing in which I work. Why is your music recorded by regular record labels? You have a recording studio, why don’t you just record your music and rip CDs? “
The reason is that you have respect for the music industry as I have respect for the publishing industry. Real books matter to me. And Lulu is not producing a real book.
What happened with Rio was that very shortly before the opera opened in Milwaukee, we were told by the Florentine that they wanted to sell librettos at the opening. If I had known in advance, I would have sent it out to see if I could get a small publisher to publish it, but there was no time. Red Hen produced a small run for the opening and they are regular books that entered our catalog, the only difference being that I don’t receive royalties on sold books which is fine with me. I wanted to have printed books for the opening so people could read the libretto in English and Alicia Partnoy’s translation into Spanish. And it’s a beautiful book, available through theUniversity of Chicago, Amazon, etc.
If it had been printed through Lulu, it would have been ugly, and we would have only had the copies for the opening and they wouldn’t have been worth having. They wouldn’t be available later on Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, bookstores, or at readings that I do around the country. Lulu books are fine if you are printing up twenty copies of the family recipes for a family reunion, but they are not books. They are a modern day version of the bound galleys Kinkos used to do. I love actual printed books. Lulus is producing bound pages. Again, why not just rip CDs and sell them on Ebay and say you’ve had your music produced?
Because the product does matter. It matters if books are produced by a publisher, edited and printed. And to suggest that Lulu is the same is an insult to the publishing world.
I think self publishing should serve three purposes:
- You have a specific audience in mind for the books and you have access to that audience. For example, you own a chain of clinics for quitting smoking and you’ve written a book on the subject. You can sell it at your clinic and keep the money. I still suggest you hire a professional book designer so the end product looks good.
- You are producing the book for a small select audience—your Mormon family of 250 or your family reunion.
- You have one store willing to carry the book and the book is actually for a very small region. My grandmother wrote a book on the history ofFort Collins. She had a PhD in history and the book was well written and I believe it continues to sell inFort Collins.
What you don’t have when you self publish remains a problem for most self published books: Editors, publicists, marketing people, and the all important three: Distribution, distribution, distribution.