My local NPR station, WCPN in Cleveland, featured a panel on the weekday arts show "Around Noon" today that had a terrific perspective on self-publishing. Host Dee Perry - a Cleveland NPR legend - spoke with Suzanne DeGaetano, owner of independent Cleveland Heights bookstore Mac's Backs; Sari Feldman of the Cuyahoga County Public Library; and Karen Long, Book Editor for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I called in to ask the panel about who is buying self-published books, and who - if anyone - is taking them out of the library.
My question referred to the ease and relative cost-effectiveness with which authors can now self-publish their work as e-books and POD (Print On Demand) paperbacks, both of which technologies I have availed myself for Escape From Goshen. I missed a chance to shamelessly promote EFG when I introduced myself on the phone: I gave the title, but not my elevator synopsis of, "It's the Exodus story told from the point of view of 12 year-old Israelite twins about to become slaves to Pharaoh." Coulda kicked myself; woulda and shoulda too.
What I found out from DeGaetano was that there is such a thing as a local, self-published bestseller. She said these are usually nonfiction or art books that have not only local authors but topics of local interest. She mentioned Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology, a collection of essays about living in a reviving "Rust Belt" city, and a coloring book based on sketches of famous Cleveland buildings (The Cleveland Architecture Coloring Book) that was funded in part by kickstarter.com.
All of this, of course, does not apply in the slightest to my tweener novel that takes place in ancient Egypt.
Library head Feldman had more useful information. She said that the libraries will only acquire self-published books if they have been reviewed by reputable authorities. The Plain Dealer's Long chimed in, bringing up The Revolution Was Televised by television critic Alan Sepinwall, which was favorably reviewed by Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times because she was a fan of his "What's Alan Watching?" blog.
I put out a call to my friends on Facebook for ideas about how to garner a review, perhaps from the Plain Dealer; apparently Kirkus Reviews will do one for about $400. I don't think I'll go that route yet. Self-publishing was, for me, always a step to publishing through the usual channels and there has already been so much interest in EFG I don't feel the need to double my investment in the POD version.
But I'm sure there are other writers out there who will be just as interested to hear these perspectives as I was!