Sunday, February 24, 2013

Alternate Paths

Given the current publishing climate, I've been exploring options.  It seems that nowadays, many more people are self-publishing than ever before.  Given that, and also given the fact that I've been working more on non-fiction than fiction lately, I've been considering the self-publishing option for the non-fiction.

I've done a lot of homework.  While it does seem that some of the former stigma surrounding self-publishing for unknown writers is beginning to relax, and more established professionals are self-publishing their own work as well, there still seems to be a bit of a question on the parts of some people as to what can actually be viewed as self-publishing and what can be viewed as "vanity press."

From some of what I read, it sounds as though if you format and produce your book entirely under your own steam, it's seen as self-publishing.  It also seems to be seen as self-publishing if you produce your book via a packaging service that simply incorporates your own formatting, your own cover art, etc. and then just prints exactly what you've provided to them exactly as you've provided it, in the form of an e-book or as a print-on-demand book.

The place where the information began to get a little foggy was where it concerned paying to have your book produced by a book packager who actually gets more involved in the process--where you pay for services such as the procurement of ISBNs and LOC control numbers, formatting help and even cover design.  For some reason, there are people out there who seem to view paying for these things as "vanity press."

I have to confess, I have no idea why paying for professional help to bring a book to market would be seen as "vanity press" as opposed to "self-publishing."  Whether you pay for help or do it all alone, you're still the impetus behind putting your own book out there.  You're still the person who decided it was good enough for the public eye, and you're still the one footing whatever bills there might be.  So why in the world is admitting you need a little pro help considered "vanity press?"

This is one of the reasons it has taken me so long to even begin to consider the possibility of self-publishing in any capacity other than the one in which I run Pookatales Press.  But now that I have a non-fiction book very close to completion, I have to begin to consider how I will go about getting it out there.  I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that I will be going with a very well-known, professional packager.  I will pay for help with all those things that make a book look like a professionally-produced product.  I care about quality, and I want to treat the upcoming book the same way I would treat it if it had actually been picked up by a traditional publisher.  I want the book to look good and come across as a quality work.  I don't think that constitutes "vanity" at all.  Just the opposite, in fact.

I think it constitutes humility--the ability to admit that one needs help to bring a book into the light and make it be the best that it can be.  That, friends, is where an author lays his or her ego in the dust and humbly admits that it's time to change a paradigm--the very concept that has been drummed into all writers for decades.  The concept that we aren't really writers unless someone pays us for our work.

I'm challenging that concept now.  I am a writer, and I am going to pay someone to help me put my non-fiction book out there.  There, I said it.  So far, I have not gone up in flames.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

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