Self publishing used to be problematic for many reasons. The quality of self-published works would immediately be suspect. If the manuscript was any good, why did all traditional publishing houses pass on it? Sometimes the quality of the physical book itself left something to be desired, from the materials used to the manufacturing process, not to mention the lack of quality graphics on the cover and potentially poor self-editing.
What if the manuscript was fantastic but no traditional publisher wanted to take a change on it? If a writer believed in his work he might pay out of pocket to have a few thousand copies printed, but then what? Self published authors typically stored boxes of books in their garage or basement and distributed them by hand. There were a few success stories even in the old days. L. Frank Balm’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz was first self published then picked up later by Reilly and Lee. The real success of the Wizard of Oz was never fully realized until after his death, however. When William Young and friends were unable to market The Shack they formed their own company, Windblown Media, in order to self publish. The Shack is not typical even of self-published success stories, spending two years on the New York Times Bestseller list and eventually selling over ten million copies. It illustrates, however, the difficulties of new authors to attract the attention of traditional publishers and enter the industry.
New technologies such as print-on-demand, e-book sales and internet retailing have changed the publishing industry. There are also companies that specialize in marketing self publishing services. Wikipedia lists Create Space, Lulu and iUniverse as examples of companies that utilize print-on-demand and online marketing through channels such as Amazon to put publication within most people’s reach. When I first began researching Christian publishers I discovered a company called Xulon that specializes in self-publishing new Christian authors. My book, God is Near, is being published by a company in Colorado called Outskirts Press. These companies offer packages of options that include everything from copy editing to custom cover design. The author is in charge of the decision making process, from choosing the trim size to the retail price, but not without plenty of advice with which to make an informed decision. Or you can always choose to say “here’s my manuscript” and let people who know what they’re doing take it form there.
I will have more to say about my experience with Outskirts Press soon. Once I learned about companies that offer self-publishing services I never even bothered with the manuscript submission process via the traditional channels. In 2009 76% of all books released were self published and traditional publishing houses reduced the number of books they produce. Online sites like Amazon.com and digital e-readers such as iPad, Kindle and Nook have redefined what buying, selling and reading books looks like.