HOW DOES SELF-PUBLISHING WORK?
Companies like Lulu.com, iUniverse.com, Author Solutions or Amazon's Create Space operate via web sites. Creating an account enables you to upload your digital file. There is a certain kind of creative freedom involved: The book can be about nearly anything and doesn’t necessarily have to be a door stopper — you can publish something much shorter than what would traditionally be required by a publisher.
Once your file is uploaded, the company prints the book, one copy at a time, as orders come in. Copies can be ordered through the company web site or through other distribution channels, such as Amazon.com, depending on the distribution options that you select. In most cases, however, such books will not be ordered by brick-and-mortar bookstores, primarily because bookstores cannot return the unsold books to the publisher.
The cost to the writer varies from nothing at Lulu.com and Create Space for a bare-bones, do-it-yourself option, to many thousands of dollars for premium options at Author Solutions.
For the struggling mainstream publishing industry, self-publishing could be a good solution: If the writer does all the hard work of writing a great book, then also editing and promoting it, and if that effort translates into sales, all that mainstream publishers have to do is to swoop in and pluck the winner. For others, like Amazon, self-publishing could be a potential goldmine of bestsellers free of strings to old-line publishers, if its new program, AmazonEncore, manages to find the next James Patterson or John Grisham.
However, some critics warn authors against self-publishing, portraying it as nothing more than a pay-to-play scheme.
“It’s being presented as a real route to commercial success, and while that might be true for a lucky few, most writers who participate in these schemes are not going to do well out of them,” writes the author of the blog How Publishing Really Works.
Also, a great deal of investment may be required on the writer’s part for people in the mainstream to take his or her work seriously. For example, Still Alice author Lisa Genova hired a public relations firm to raise awareness of her book. As a result, “one reporter, Beverly Beckham for The Boston Globe, was interested in taking a look at the work.” writes the publicist.
The necessity for initial outlay is what makes self-publishing tricky; if done right, self-publishing places the onus of editing and publicity, traditionally the job of the publisher, on the writer. But most self-published authors lack the resources to professionally edit, promote or design their book. Tempted by the ease of “getting it out there,” they end up publishing into a vacuum, their work never able to attract any attention.