Last year, I completed my first novela 180-page fictional account of one
man's personal journey of discovery in which he contemplates the meaning of
life and death. Writing this book was both a therapeutic exercise for
meallowing me to explore my own questions and thoughts on the subject
matterplus a bit of a business venture.
Could I actually publish a book and generate a passive income stream?
Shortly after finishing, I distributed a promo package featuring sample
chapters and a synopsis to a hand-picked list of about 10 small to
medium-sized publishers who accept non-agented work. I received four
nibbles and two of the publishers expressed genuine interest in the
manuscriptso much so they requested to review the book in its entirety.
While this was an exciting time for methis was also when I got my first
behind-the-scenes glimpse at the publishing industry.
I received generally strong feedback about my writing and story-telling
ability, even praise for the uniqueness of my novel. But at the same time,
this "uniqueness" was making it impossible for publishers to categorize my
manuscript. They couldn't find a round hole in which to fit this square
pegwas this mainstream fiction, spiritual material, speculation, all of
One publisher asked me to consider changes in order to move forward.
Another said the changes would be cost-prohibitive so they simply "passed,"
asking me to keep them in mind with my future efforts . . . and that's when
I decided to "pass."
Seems that all those editors admonishing new writers to target a specific
genre aren't kidding. If you write a book, they tell us, make sure you'll
be able to find a readily-apparent home for it on the shelves of your local
book storeor be prepared for a hard sell.
To make matters worse, when I began to explore the finances of my book
being published by a traditional publisher, I really became discouraged. It
soon became clear that, unless I had a major bestseller on my hands, I
wouldn't be seeing muchif anyprofit. Even if it was a moderate success,
this is what I was looking at as a "new" author: no advance and only 40%
royalties on the wholesale price of the book. If any money was to be made,
it would be going to the publishernot me! So much for dreams of grandeur!
STICKING TO MY STORY
Given the personal nature of my book, I decided I could not and would
not change it dramatically to better fit into a marketing "category." By
this time, more than two dozen people had already read my manuscriptand I
had received universal encouragement from them to get it published so that
its message could be read by others. As expected, my decision to not change
slammed the door shut on the publishing interest I had generated, so it was
time to consider another path . . . and I landed on the path to
COMING FULL CIRCLE
A decade ago, this path would have been too cost prohibitive for me to
even entertain. A decade ago, this path also carried the stigma of "vanity"
press and low qualityself-publishing was the apparent bailiwick of those
whose works were not good enough for a "real" publisher.
Not so anymore. And interestingly if you turn the clock back a century or
so, self-publishing was the norm with most writersDickens for
examplewho published and then peddled their own works. Seems we've come
full circle and it's mainly due to the advent of high quality digital
printing services, powerful software layout and design applications, and
the reach of the World Wide Web. Technology has not only made it possible
for authors to design and publish their books more economically, but has
also provided a world-wide forum through which they can sell.
Financially, once production costs are covered, an author (who is also
the publisher) who aggressively markets his or her work and creates a
"buzz" can actually turn a profitnot to mention the possibility that the
self-published work might find its way, deliberately or not, into the hands
of agents and other power brokers in the traditional publishing world.
In my case, I was fortunate that I was also able to do all of my own
editing, photography, graphic design, layout, pre-press work, and then
build a Web site (www.mattmcgovern.com) with a marketing plan to support
the book. My only "cost"other than the time it took to write the book,
design it, and develop the Web sitewas the actual printing.
Granted, my total do-it-yourself approach may have taken self-publishing
to the extreme, and most authors will likely need to outsource editing,
book design, and Web designbut the cost of producing a well-designed,
digitally-printed book, along with a Web site to support it, still remains
in a range that makes self-publishing a viable and attractive option.
IT STILL REQUIRES TALENT . . . AND PERSEVERANCE
Of course, you still need the talent to write the book and a strong desire
both to tell your story and to sell it, but self-publishing is a reasonable
alternativefor a host of reasonsand it is becoming more and more
Self publishing no longer carries the stigma of substandard work. Self
publishing seems to have found its own nichequality works that can't be
categorized to fit neatly on a book store shelf, written and published by
authors who believe in their message so strongly that they are willing to
invest their own time, money and effort into the entire process.