Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Changing World of Publishing

The publishing world is constantly changing; and as it does, the choices available to new authors change right along with it. Once upon a time, an aspiring nonfiction author had two alternatives: an established, conventional publisher, often in New York; or "vanity press."

Traditional publishing has always been a tough nut to crack for unknown writers, though sometimes a first manuscript miraculously attracts the attention of an editor and becomes a published book. Vanity press, which "publishes" (prints) anything authors are willing to pay for, quickly developed a reputation for poor-quality books. Unfortunately, the reputation attached itself to self-publishing, which is quite different.

Traditional publishers are having their own problems. There are fewer than there used to be, and the ones that have survived are struggling to make a profit, small as it may be. So, they tend to stick with tried-and-true authors. Not only are publishing houses competing with each other, they are also up against the ever-expanding world of ePublishing. According to Amazon, eBooks are now outselling print books. That doesn't even take into account all of the eBooks that are given away. No one is making any money on those.

They say everyone has a book inside. I believe that because many would-be authors take my classes, hoping to defy the odds. One of the first questions I ask my students is how do you plan to publish your book? Most don't know, or if they have a preference, they have no idea what is involved

Two important points

  1. It is possible to have your book published by a traditional publisher; but you must understand the process and be prepared to invest time, effort, and some money.
  2. Self-publishing is not the same as "vanity press." You can produce an excellent book yourself, but you must be aware of the wide array of available methods and make informed decisions about which one is best for you. Again, this requires time, effort, and money.


If you want to produce a quality book, there are prescribed steps to follow. The steps may take a few months or more than a year; they may cost you a modest amount or a large sum. As an author, this is not something you want to leave to chance or other people's whims. My advice: Educate yourself.