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Self-publishing: a viable option for aspiring writers, students


Staff Writer

Staff Writer Self-publishing is no longer a laughable course of action for writers rejected by the publishing establishment.

Some very famous writers turned to self-publishing. James Joyce’s “Ulysses” was published by a small press to get around American obscenity laws. Poet Ezra Pound did the same with his first collection, “A Lume Spento,” when he could not find a publisher.

It used to be a scam run by vanity presses. You would pay to publish your book. In practice, this usually meant you would end up with boxes and boxes of books in your basement.

Amazon has completely revolutionized the self-publishing business. Their Kindle Direct Publishing (e-books) and Create Space (print) platforms are a professional, affordable option for the writer that wants to become an author. Amazon charges nothing up front. Instead, they take a percentage of your earnings.

SU student Scott Fisher self-published his own series of novels that are available on Amazon, titled “A Righteous Series” about a man who time travels and finds God.

An indie published Kindle e-book earns the author 70 percent royalties. According to, a traditionally published author earns very low royalties, often fewer than 10 percent, with a portion deducted from that percentage for the agent.

The authors with books published by any of the Big Four companies (Hachette, Penguin-Random House, HarperCollins and Simon and Schuster—who own smaller subsidiaries) went through a grueling process.

They had to find a literary agent to represent their work to a publisher, the first ring of approval.

After multiple rejections from different agents, they found one who thought they could sell the book to a publisher.

The agent repeats the process the writer went through with publishers, until they find one who thinks they can sell the author’s work. The publisher will buy the book if they think they can break even on it.

When you “sell” a book, you give the publisher the print and e-book rights for life plus 70 years. Authors used to be able to get the rights to their work back if it had gone out of print. E-books mean no book is really out of print anymore.

This gives a publishing company carte blanche over an author’s work. The other problem with this model is that publishers cannot predict the future. Science fiction classic “Dune” was rejected over forty times before Frank Herbert found Chilton Publishing, a firm that specialized in technical manuals.

John Kennedy Toole’s novel “A Confederacy of Dunces” was rejected so many times some speculate it drove him to suicide. The work earned him a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

Marlon James, the winner of this year’s Man Booker Prize, had his first novel rejected 78 times by publishers. Writers can take control now, thanks to indie publishing.

You can go from manuscript to finished e-book in a day or two. Publishing is no longer up to a relative handful of people to decide what is good enough to sell.

Self-publishing has its challenges. You can do everything yourself: covers, synopsis, editing, hire everything out, or linger somewhere in the middle as hiring a cover artist and an editor is costly.

Success is not easy or cheap.

Your definition of success may be different. Maybe you want a small group of readers, or maybe you want to be on the bestseller lists. With indie publishing, you do not need to sell thousands of copies to stay in print as you do with corporate publishing.

It is better to take action and try to get your book in front of readers than languish in a pile of rejection of slips.

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