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I am curious. I have been talking to a few of my writer friends, most have been published by big NY publishing houses. The others go through companies like lulu or Lightning Source to manufacture the book and then publish under either their own company or small publishers such as Love Bunni Press. And then there are a scattered few that only work with small well known presses such as Soft Skull.

My question to you and all of them is:
What is your take on the publishing industry?
How do you feel about it now, during the rough economic times?
What is your take on Self Publishing vs Traditionl?
How do you feel about POD (magazine wise) printing as a way to help the environment?

I will first talk about magazines and then move on to books.

All of us at Constellation Magazine have decided to go POD for our print version. Of course, we do not mind doing distribution, promotion, and design. We decided this for various reasons. First we were getting a lot of mail asking us for a print version. We wanted to but the site of stacked paper waste that we saw on sidewalks made us shiver. Yes, its being recycled but that's still a lot of paper . So we looked into it and with the help of a writer friend found our printer. POD printers can still be a little expensive for magazines but the site was set up nicely and they had a good marketplace as well as a way to hook it up to your own site. The reason I went with magcloud? You can view the magazine before you buy it, the print quality is good, and there's some great magazines on the site. Our first printed issue comes out February. With magcloud you can order it in print form or download it for super eco-props. It's a great way to get your ideas out there.

Okay, on to books. An internet friend of mine published through a major publishing house. In the beginning it was good and then her writing changed a bit. The publishing house had her contracted for I believe, 5 books. Well, the first three came out and the publishing company did nothing to promote them. Then when they weren't making money they let her go, and this was a known writer. Needless to say, she hasn't had much interest in writing these days. But she did provide me with some good feedback. She always suggests people go through small publishers and large publishers first. Although with major publishers you will need to get an agent, which is almost as rough as getting a publisher. The book will go through months of edits and then after a year or two finally be published. You get a small amount as an advance but that's it. You also will do most of the promotion yourself, but you have their bright and shiny name.

Self publishing in her eyes, was exactly what it had been years ago, a vanity press. Most of the books she read (not all) were not edited correctly and filled with errors. Some of the books were good and some, well, there was a reason the author self published. She liked the DIY aspect of it but still held true that you should always seek out publishing houses first, even if only for the experience of rejection letters.

Now, another friend of mine, who is also represented and published by a major house loves the idea of self publishing. If you think about it there have been a few self publishers out there who have had great success. Mark Twain, Carl Sandburg and Mary Baker Eddy. More recently, Dan Poynter, James Redfield and Deepak Chopra. He not only encourages artists and writers to publish their books but if he likes it he will write a blurb for the book.

Self publishing gives you complete control over what you want published, but please remember to hire an editor, and I do mean a real editor, and not your friend who has an English degree. There are plenty of great editors out there that know the business and are decently priced. Unfortunately, the editor I usually work with has taken on a larger project and has taken a break from editing manuscripts. Self publishing also gives you the freedom to start your own publishing company. You apply for a fictitious business name for your company and file it with the county. You purchase the ISBN block and the bar code. You set the price. You are in charge of everything including promotion. Self publishing can get you into bookstores, if you have the right promotion. It's hard, and it will probably take you years unless you have media attention, but if you are willing to do the work and you want complete control then go for it.

The friends I have that have self published have been happy with the results. One even got into Barnes and Noble. But most have gotten into a few small bookstores and do most of their business through amazon or their own sites.

I have also read up on POD printing for books. Anyone charging you to publish your book under their company is a scam in my eyes. They may take over the layouts and provide you with their "name" but most libraries and bookstores will not purchase your book from them. They know these "publishers" names and stay away from them for quality reasons.

My take is this. As far as magazines go. POD for magazines is okay, you promote, it's online, and there are so many of us doing business online these days that it's a pretty good solution for both the environment and ezines that want to go to print. POD for books, is okay as long as you are not paying a publisher. I named Lightning Source earlier as a good one and for photo books Blurb is excellent.

If you are an author, try to do traditional publishing first, It doesn't hurt and it's good experience. If you don't get a publisher it doesn't mean your book wasn't well written, perhaps it just didn't fit the criteria the publisher needed.

Now, if you are ambitious, a good business person and want to have complete control then self publishing is for you. Just remember, you are in control of everything including promotion.

"In my writing I am acting as a map maker, an explorer of psychic areas, a cosmonaut of inner space, and I see no point in exploring areas that have already been thoroughly surveyed."
William S. Burroughs

Related Items


The following comments are for "Self Publishing vs Publishing House"
by KatHarlander

POD Publishing
Here's a link to Warren Ellis' Whitechapel community where members are talking about their experiences with POD.

( Posted by: katharlander [Member] On: January 20, 2009 )


( Posted by: katharlander [Member] On: January 20, 2009 )

@ Katharlander
Very well-written, thoughtful piece.

From experience, I know that POD and self-publishing were once equated with vanity press; traditional publishers and presses laughed at it. If you were vanity published, it was even harder to get a publisher, and if you were POD'd, they wouldn't look at you.

Now, the concept frightens them. It challenges traditional publishing models. One book (whose name is on the tip of my tongue but I can't remember), was just featured by AOL news. It was a Christian novel no one would touch. The man self-published, and in a year sold 3 million copies out of his garage. Incredible stuff!

Over the next ten years, I think we are going to see a lot of changes in publishing models. It's a good thing. Publishers take away rewards from authors, and definitely no one gives us our fair share of the profits. Soon, very soon, we will all be in much more control and profitability than we have in the past.

It's an empowering thing!


( Posted by: OchaniLele [Member] On: January 20, 2009 )

@ Ochani POD
I am enjoying the thread on Whitechapel.

I think you are absolutely right. Years ago POD and self publishing were a joke. Now, you can barely tell who is publishing through a publishing house and who is starting their own publishing company. Publishers still tend to look down upon Self Publishing but with sites like, that link you to Amazon and Lightning Source links you to both amazon as well as having access to bookstores such as Barnes and Noble.

As far as reviews are concerned, there's still that snobbery. Unless you get enough press (blogs, etc) for your self published book, most reviewers will not touch it.

But times are changing and many people are taking publishing into their own hands. I think the publishing industry will be an interesting one to watch as years go by.

( Posted by: katharlander [Member] On: January 20, 2009 )

Good Articles on Self Publishing

And this was recently published in the NY Times.

( Posted by: KatHarlander [Member] On: January 31, 2009 )

good info
Good information on self-publishing, POD and the market in general. I read two of the articles you suggested too.

( Posted by: sandra [Member] On: January 31, 2009 )

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