The Many Faces of Self-Publishing

Traditional publishing has become so restrictive that many authors say, “Forget 7 percent royalties and giving up rights to media that haven’t been invented yet! I’ll self-publish.” That can be a great alternative. More accurately, it can be a lot of alternatives, including much higher royalties. But do your homework first, so you’ll know what you’re getting into. In 2010 the Grievance and Contract Division (GCD) had six inquiries about PublishAmerica (now America Star), one of the more notorious subsidy presses. The year before, we had two inquiries. There have been none since.
Inquiries about the more substantial firms that became part of Author Solutions (including AuthorHouse, iUniverse, and Xlibris) began to decline, as well. Instead, authors were taking the do-it-yourself route: producing their books through Amazon’s CreateSpace or Ingram’s Lightning Source. They also pursued their own contracts with editors, illustrators, and packagers.
Subsidy presses are still out there. Now their projects are trending upmarket. We still hear frequently about Tate Publishing, which turns out decent products for which authors pay a few thousand in “marketing” fees. Author Solutions is now “a Penguin Random House Company,” and has alsoteamed up with Simon & Schuster to create Archway Publishing. Other niche imprints are beginning to emerge. How can an author resist? While mainstream publishers don’t exactly promise to monitor self-published books in the hope of finding another Fifty Shades of Grey, one can hope.
So choices abound. A good place to start your self-publishing research is the NWU-Book Discussion Group. (Find directions on how to join at www.nwu.org/writer-discussion-listservs). And be sure to send your self-publishing agreements of any type to advice@nwu.org for review before you sign them.
Mende is NWU’s Grievance and Contract Division Coordinator.
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