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  • Michele Thomas

How Self-publishing Became a Reasonable Option

Updated: Mar 10

Once upon a time, only two groups of people self-published their books. One was those who couldn’t find a perch with a traditional publisher but who were so intent on seeing their books in print that they were willing to pay to get them published. Some of these books were poorly written or otherwise indeed unworthy of publication. Others were truly good but, for one reason or another, just couldn’t find a home. The other group of writers who relied on self-publishing to get their words out was college professors and teachers. They had to publish a book, or several, in order to assure themselves of tenure and/or a raise and/or promotion to department head. Apart from members of those two groups, however, few writers self-published. For one thing, self-publishing in those days—unlike today—was the domain of the so-called “vanity presses.” And the quality of books published by a vanity press was usually inferior. For another, there was a stigma attached to being self-published. Fast-forward to the last few years. Things have changed--radically. And self-publishing most assuredly does not rest only with vanity presses anymore. It wasn’t any one single change. It was a number of things: ~ Many of the traditional publishers stopped giving out advances. ~ At a time when fewer people were reading, the market for books was squeezed. ~ Fewer publishers were willing to consider un-agented manuscripts. ~ Conventional publishers no longer put marketing effort into most of their books. ~ Writers found it was easy to self-publish e-books. That led to self-publishing print. ~ New self-publishing outfits came on the market. ~ Many of these self-publishing outfits were offshoots of conventional publishers. ~ The quality of self-published books became markedly better. ~ Some of the newer self-publishers offered more reasonable pricing. ~ Slowly, the stigma disappeared from being self-published. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen fairly quickly. Writers jumped on the bandwagon. Why send around my manuscript to publisher after publisher and wait sometimes three to five months for an answer, only to get rejection after rejection, when I can self-publish and have my book come out quickly? That “quickly” aspect appealed to another segment of writers, not just those who were impatient. And that was writers whose books had a time value. They were pegged to news events or forthcoming events or holidays or anything time-sensitive. Waiting for what could be years while editor after editor made up their minds just didn’t work for these people. So they turned to self-publishing. Then there were those who wanted a tighter control over their books—what the final title would be, what the cover design would look like, whether the book would be published as hardcover or paperback, whether there would be an e-book edition. More and more writers gravitated to self-publishing. And a respectable number of them had good books. They weren’t poorly written. They weren’t the dross of the publishing world. Many of them could probably have found a home at a conventional publishing house. But the authors, for one reason or another, preferred to self-publish. It worked for them. And nobody turned their noses up when they found out a book had been self-published. Self-publishing had indeed become a reasonable option. ~~~ Here at AbyD we have a self-publishing division called Marlborough Media. If you’re interested in exploring the possibility of self-publishing with Marlborough, get in touch with us at acutebydesign@gmail.com.


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