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October 11, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
For some Columbia writers, the dream of publishing a novel has become a reality.
Authors on a local and national scale are frequently choosing to bypass traditional publishing houses. Using websites, private book printers and e-readers, authors can take their manuscripts directly to the public.Related Articles
“There are a lot of hurdles to getting something published,” says Casey Voight, a Columbia writer who chose to self-publish her first novel, The Dove: Book One of the Legend. “So why not try and do it myself ?”
Many authors today share Voight’s entrepreneurial spirit. Factors such as a high rejection rate from publishing companies force writers to distribute their own work. Mark Bernard Steck, author of Artless, says the publishing industry is tightening its belt, so writers are going solo more often. This means the stigma of self-publishing as an illegitimate avenue is fading.
These artists also enjoy more control over their work. Columbia author James Downey had two deals with publishing houses fall through before he decided to independently publish his novel, Communion of Dreams. “You send a book off, and it disappears for months on end,” Downey says. “It was very much like sending things off into a black hole.”
Traditionally, novelists send query letters and manuscripts to publishing companies, wait for a response and then adhere to the company’s edits. Using an e-publishing site, Downey says an author can publish in as little as a month. Because physical copies of the book don’t have to be printed and fewer people are involved in the process, the lead time is much shorter.
E-readers such as the Amazon Kindle or Barnes and Noble’s Nook make it possible for authors to publish their work at a lower cost. Steck says e-publishing made the thought of publishing his own novel more appealing. Because so many people own e-readers, distribution of self-published work is wider spread and the market is larger.
Some authors like controlling the book’s schedule, marketing, layout and design. Royalties as high as 70 percent aren’t bad, either. “For me, I think it’s more fun,” Voight says. “It’s up to me to dream up all of the various outlets that I want my book to go.” Voight, who wrote the novel with her mother, Barbara Wendleton, is trying creative marketing methods, including a book trailer, a website and a blog. Steck also produced a trailer available at kickstarter.com, which he’s using to raise money for the book’s production.
Up-front costs are a disadvantage. Authors who self-publish must hire their own team of editors, proofreaders and designers to polish their manuscript. But for many writers, self-publishing is worth the headaches. “It’s not a matter of being successful or making money off the book,” Steck says. “The only thing that matters is getting people to read it.”
Some writers worry working without editing team could allow for mediocre e-book releases. “Now there’s a lot more out there,” Voight says. “It’s not always quality, but it’s allowed authors who have fallen through the cracks in the past to have a chance.”