Pssst! I just found out we are annoying some publishers in New York City. Good job, folks!"
by TERI BROSH editor, Printer's NW Trader
EDITOR'S NOTE: I recently returned from an intensive three-day writers' conference.
As a new author (I just self-published my autobiography called "The Publishers' Daughter"), I learned plenty. One thing I learned is that some major book publishers from New York are outspoken and rather denigrating about books that are self-published by authors using local printing firms. I can understand these big-name publishers not being thrilled to have the competition. I was just disappointed that they were not more professional. Self-publishing has been done for years. Zane Grey did it. Mark Twin did it. Rudyard Kipling did it, and so did Beatrix Potter.
So why, nowadays, is it a thorn in the stiff Armani suits of some big guys from New York? As a newly-published author, I admit I was offended at a recent publishing conference when a couple of agents acted as if books that are self-published are utter garbage. That is SO not true. I had a chance to look over numerous books and was impressed. "Why should anyone read your book?" one agent asked haughtily. "Why should anyone buy it?" asked another. Their words, and especially their voices, offended plenty of people.
I've had a couple of days to sleep on the whole issue, and I am now somewhat amused. But as the editor of Printer's NW Trader, I am still indignant. Our regional printers are the high-tech Ben Franklins of the world! You are cutting-edge craftsmen and women who continue to adapt, innovate and move forward in the fine art of printing. And apparently you are bugging the dickens out of some of the huge publishing houses. Why? Because you are meeting a need the public has yearned for for years: You're making it easier, quicker and more affordable for authors to self-publish their work than ever before. I met one woman who printed her book for $350. Wow! It reads well, looks great, and I read the whole thing. I also know of a Catholic priest who had many copies of his poetry book printed for $7,000. He's pleased as well.
For authors and printers, there's a range of prices and services that work for everyone involved. Also, printers make it easy for writers who may not be using the most up-to-the-minute software. You are able to convert and format files as well as a New York City publisher, or maybe even better. My printer-right here in the good old northwest-made my book look really, really good. I love it! Thanks, guys! As for fast turnarounds, no longer are authors forced to write query letters, proposals, pitches and synopses if we don't want to. We no longer have to detail, in writing, what our platform is. (See, I've learned fancy author terminology!)
Instead, John Q. Public can write his memoirs, his suspense novel, his thriller, his poetry or his children's book, and then pick up the phone and call a printer in his area. Better yet, the printer will actually be nice to him! I understand that many people choose to go to the query route if they hope their book will become a block-buster best-seller. Also true is the fact that some big-name publishing firms have, on occasion, sent six-figure advances for books they feel will be huge sellers. But they are few and far between because huge publishing firms can lose big money when they pay out advances and nobody buys the book.
In the February 2007 issue of Popular Science magazine is an ad from Trafford Publishing, of Victoria, B.C. The copy states: "Large publishers reject almost all new manuscripts they receive from hopeful authors. Why? Because of the huge costs of using conventional methods. Typically, a publisher invests $80,000 to $150,000 in printing expenses to stock distributors' warehouses and bookstore shelves. Then, they pray the books will sell." Therein lies another benefit in the self-publishing market. At least in my case, as the author, I am also the publisher.
The responsibility for the marketing, distribution, inventory and success of the book is mine. It's not a risk, nor a burden, to the printer. The company that prints self-published books for authors can decide how involved it wishes to be in the project-without the need for hot-shot agents, huge upfront investments, giant advances, nor huge book inventories. Also, when books do sell well and a reprint is called for, it's easy for the printer to go the archives, print, bind and ship-without mind-boggling expenses. The only thing I am wondering about is the public. Do they know about printers who help authors to self-publish? I plan on telling anybody and everybody out there on the streets about the option of printing locally.
As a side note, when I lauded several of you regional folks, a New York agent at the conference was not pleased I was so happy. In fact, she portrayed the essence of another speaker's comment: "I think the huge publishing houses feel like they'd be better off with just one huge best-seller a year," the speaker said. "That way, it would pay for all their salaries, and they wouldn't lose money on the others." We all translated that to mean: "They wouldn't lose money on the rest of you . . ."
In the end, my hats are off to all of you in our industry. You are making some of the big New York City guys a little uncomfortable for a very good reason. Most new manuscripts, deserving or not, are rejected by the largest publishing houses. They just don't want to take a chance on a new author. But our regional printers have an opportunity to provide a service the public has been starving for for years. You are giving the public a voice.
P.S. I love this comment from one of the keynote speakers. He said something like this: "Writing is the best profession ever. Many times I've heard dentists, doctors and lawyers say, 'One day I'd like to write a book.' Never have I heard a writer say, 'One day I'd like to be a dentist.'"