I hope for the health of traditional publishing, with its gatekeepers of editors and its promotional division. I desire further dealings with them. I've got the goods and they have the delivery system. But if the individual writer wishes to do the non-paper work (yes, that's a pun) then here are some viable avenues to try.
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The Joys and Hazards of Self-Publishing on the Web
By ALAN FINDER
Not long ago, an aspiring book writer rejected by traditional publishing houses had only one alternative: vanity publishing. For $5,000 or $10,000, or sometimes much more, he could have his manuscript edited and published, provided that he agreed to buy many copies himself, often a few thousand or more. They typically ended up in the garage.
Minh Uong/The New York Times
Digital technology has changed all that. A writer turned down by traditional publishers — or even avoiding them — now has a range of options. Among them are self-publishing a manuscript as an e-book; self-publishing through myriad companies that print on demand, in which a paperback or hardcover book is printed each time it is purchased; and buying an array of services, from editing and design to marketing and publicity, from what are known as assisted self-publishing companies.
“It’s the Wild West in a lot of ways — people who are innovators can do remarkable things,” said Mark Levine, whose own self-published book, “The Fine Print of Self-Publishing,” is now in its fourth edition.
Digital publishing and print on demand have significantly reduced the cost of producing a book. The phenomenal growth of e-readers and tablets has vastly expanded the market for e-books, which can be self-published at little or no cost. Writers who self-publish are more likely to be able to control the rights to their books, set their books’ sale price and keep a larger proportion of the sales.
But one thing has not changed: most self-published books sell fewer than 100 or 150 copies, many authors and self-publishing company executives say. There are breakout successes, to be sure, and some writers can make money simply by selling their e-books at low prices. Some self-published books attract so much attention that a traditional publishing house eventually picks them up. (Perhaps you’ve heard of the novel “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which began its life as a self-published work?)
Still, a huge majority of self-published books “don’t sell a lot of copies,” said Mark Coker, the founder and chief executive of Smashwords, a no-frills operation that concentrates on self-published e-books. “We make it clear to our authors.”
Some people have no problem with that; they want only to print 50 or 100 copies of a memoir or a family history at a relatively low cost. But others continue to dream big.
There are two basic kinds of self-publishing companies, both Web-based: