Power of the press, goes the old adage, belongs to the person who owns the press. Fans of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes swear that’s true. Democrats and fair-minded people swear at that truth, but stand impotent as one after another owner of newspapers, television and radio stations, magazines, slides toward the dark side.
In book publishing, the power of the press takes on a highly elaborated form. it’s obviously never sufficient to have a great story, scintillating writing, characters with voice and ethos. A writer needs an agent, an agent needs a conecta with insiders at a publisher. With those magic ingredients, a writer might get work looked at. Only after the process meanders along—unless you’re a celebrity or the child of a half-term Alaska governor—will a publisher deign to green light a project.
Poets have always known the surest, if not only, route to an audience is small publishing, self publishing. Likewise, novelists and short fiction writers have begun to discover enhanced access to power of the press. Not through ownership but through contracting with “on demand” publishing businesses who, for a fee, can convert a computer file into a gleaming paperback with ISBN number y todo.
Self-publishing, however, comes at a price. Agents and publishers liken a self-published manuscript to a kiss of death for that work. One publisher, speaking to the National Latino Writers Conference, spoke clearly: publishers do not want a work that has a history of self-publication. In other words, don’t do it. Other critics of self-publishing like to draw blood, referring to such books as literary SPAM. Ouch.
But there may be a change in the wind. Recently, a representation firm, Dystel & Goderic, announced it will lend a hand, for a fee, to their stable of writers curious about entering the self-publishing game via e-books as opposed to physical books: what we are going to do is to facilitate e-publishing for those of our clients who decide that they want to go this route, after consultation and strategizing about whether they should try traditional publishing first or perhaps simply set aside the current book and move on to the next. We will charge a 15% commission for our services in helping them project manage everything from choosing a cover artist to working with a copyeditor to uploading their work. We will continue to negotiate all agreements that may ensue as a result of e-publishing, try to place subsidiary rights where applicable, collect monies and review statements to make sure the author is being paid. In short, we will continue to be agents and do the myriad things that agents do.
It may be a huge leap from a represented e-book to a self-published paperback. Then again, maybe not. La Bloga-Tuesday welcomes guest columnist Jose Rodriguez, a self-published novelist, to discuss the experience and satisfaction of being one’s own publisher.
In the days of paper books those presses that catered and still cater to authors who published their own work were called vanity presses. The adjective meant that the author’s work was not up to snuff and had been rejected by the well established book printers in New York city thus the author, acting on his own vanity, had decided to pay from his own pocket to have his manuscript printed.
But make no mistake; self publishing still has a stigma attached to it; many think that a self published author has to be subpar otherwise he or she would have a literary agent and a contract with a big house, plus a nice cash advance.
Here is me and my stuff. I paid nothing for this web page and I paid nothing for my ebooks. That right there is a good incentive for any aspiring author to get into electronic self publishing. Smashword’s business model is a simple one: indie authors self publish their manuscripts, create an author’s page and link that page to their own web sites, Facebook or Twitter, all that for free. You set the price you want to charge for your work and Smashwords takes a small cut with each paid download and that’s their profit. In my case I give my writing away for free so nobody makes a cent (sorry Smashwords).
Why free? Because I’m more interested in getting people to read my stuff than in making money. Thank God I have a full time job that pays the bills. To charge or not to charge has implications: Smashwords books can also be accessed by the Sony’s Reader Store, Amazon.com and the Apple book store but the catch is that the last two want to see a minimum price of $0.99 per book because they don’t want to waste time with freebies. Sony has my free stuff as you can see here.
Not bad for an unknown author who has no agent. I’m in the Sony catalog; take that New York! And it cost me nothing (thanks Smashwords). I want to tell you the good things about self publishing:
• You self publish what you want when you want. No bouncers at the door telling you that your writing “doesn’t fit our current needs.”
• You set your price.
• You have the ability to update or remove your work and reset your prices and personal page at will.
• Smashwords will automatically and for free translate your manuscript into the most common ebook formats. They will distribute your work beyond their site to big hitters like Amazon.com (If your books are not free).
• You set your web presence.
• Smashwords keeps track of downloads and allows readers to post reviews.
• If people download and pay for your stories you make money.
Of course, there is always the other side of the coin and you must be aware of these things:
• You are wholly responsible for the quality of your writing and the formatting of your manuscript. Smashwords are not line editors, book doctors or a critique group. Before you upload anything it must be edited, re-edited, impeccable, error free and the best you can do. You got one chance to impress readers so don’t blow it with a half ass manuscript. I cannot stress how important it is that you do a professional job when you put something out there. I’m amazed at some ebooks where even the synopsis has grammatical blunders; if an author cannot write a short description of his work, is he going to write a decent book? Probably not.
• Strictly follow the formatting guidelines for the web site you are writing for. These guidelines ensure that your manuscript looks good in a hand held ereader or a computer screen. The simpler your formatting the better off you are.
• You are one among many; you’re an unknown face in a crowd. Just because you put something out there doesn’t mean that fame and fortune will follow. There is that dirty “M” word, marketing. Putting your ebook out there is just the first step on a long climb up a steep and slippery mountain.
Follow Janis Joplin’s advice (actually it was Kris Kristofferson who wrote the song) and go for it; after all, what you got to lose?
Fernando invited his guest, Jonathan Osborn, to perform the final reading of the afternoon. Osborn mounted a rich reading in east Indian dialect of an entertaining work, made all the more so by Osborn's skilled oral interpretation.
The tacos, condiments, and wine were provided as part of the day's final event.In a beautifully conceived idea that technology mucked up, Isabel Rojas Williams and friends mounted a Skype-call with Jose Antonio Aguirre, a Los Angeles architect in Mexico studying mural conservancy.
La Bloga On-Line Floricanto June's Ultimate Tuesday
2. “No Consolation for Lidia” by Norma Liliana Valdez
3. "My Land—Not My Land" by Nancy Green
4. "Open the Borders" by Graciela Vega
5. “The Pass-Through Behind Robert's House" by Andrea Mauk
photo credit: Dan Vera
Odilia Galván Rodríguez, is a poet/activist and healer. She has been involved in social justice organizing and helping people find their creative and spiritual voice for over two decades. Odilia is a moderator and one of the founding members of Poets Responding to SB 1070. She also co-hosts "Poetry Express" a weekly open mike with featured poets in Berkeley, CA.
Norma Liliana Valdez