Self-Publishing is Legitimate and Valid

In 2003, the Book Editor of the Rocky Mountain News wrote in her column titled, “No. 1 on editor’s wish list: help!”

. . . A way to stop the avalanche of self-published books, I’ve gotta be honest with you, Santa, Internet publishers such as iUniverse, lst Books and Xlibris are making my life miserable. Now every Tom, Dick and Harry can self-publish a book relatively cheaply, then call me up to demand I review their “book.”

Given the more than 60,000 titles published legitimately every year and the space we have for, oh say 500 of them, it’s just not possible to tackle these vanity titles.

Would you mind delivering the bad news, Santa? I’m afraid someone will drop a 10-ton box of unsold books on my head . . .

When this was initially printed in the Rocky Mountain News in 2003, Judith Briles was President of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association. She responded on the Editorial Page of the Rocky Mountain News …

Self-Publishing Rancor Out of Place!

Rocky Mountain News Book Editor Patti Thorn’s Grinch column on 12-13-03 earns coal for her stocking—lots of it. Thorn’s blast on self-published books is out of place and a few years out-of-date. Granted, there are lots of books published each year—some great ones and some not so great ones from self-publishers—and from NY houses. To throw all self-published books into the trash heap is irresponsible and downright ignorant.

Let me check my list—John Grisham’s first book, A Time to Kill, was self-published; then there’s a guy by the name of Tom Peters, who wrote In Search of Excellence in self-published format before it was bought by NY; Ken Blanchard started his One-Minute series from the kitchen table as did What Color is Your Parachute author Richard Nelson Bolles. Betty J. Eadie birthed Embraced by the Light on the self-publishing route along with Sandra Haldeman Martz with her When I Am an Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple and Richard Evans with his The Christmas Box.

Then, there are a couple of reference gems that started in the self-publishing route. Consider Robert’s Rules of Order by Henry Martyn Robert and the all-time classic, The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and EB White. To date, over 10 million copies of those tomes have been sold.

The list of successful self-published books is huge and growing everyday. All of these titles plus thousands more that Ms. Thorn may not be aware of have generated millions of dollars in revenue for the authors and their self-publishing efforts. Many have gone on to become NY-published, creating more millions—lots, lots more.

Why self-publish? Part of the answer lands in the domain of groups like CIPA—the Colorado Independent Publishers Association. CIPA represents 400-plus little guys—those who haven’t been able to turn the heads of the big guys in NY as well as those who have no interest in doing so. CIPA is the largest state independent association in the country. Granted, several of our publishing members/authors have gone on to sell their work—as did Peters, Blanchard and Martz, for nice sums of money—but truth-be-told, most of the members don’t care. Many of them have repeatedly turned down the checkbooks of the big boys.

You see, our members know that with the right distribution formulas, the right content, and the right “look,” they will make far more money than they ever could with a “traditional” publisher. CIPA shows them how. And the experienced members of the association openly share what works and what doesn’t with our other members through our monthly meetings, special events and annual three-day College held in Denver each March.

It is not uncommon for traditional publishers to cloak royalty statements in gibberish, hold back large sums of money for the “just in case” column, play accounting games, refuse fulfillment on what they contractually promised in the initial contract, etc. etc. As an author myself, I’ve published 23 books; 18 have been with the traditional publisher—the Simon & Schusters and the McGraw-Hills. I have elected to jump ship. Why? Simply this—I know where the money is; I know what things really cost; I like getting paid within 30 days vs. six months (or never); I have sold foreign rights to nine countries within the last 12 months (a feat that none of my traditional publishers succeeded in doing); and I know where the BS is in the publishing game and have the pleasure to work with the same printers, the same lay-out artists, the same distributors and the same cover manufacturers that ANY traditional publisher uses. I, and many of CIPA’s members, will hold the quality of the books we produce up to any NY house today.

Are there junky books out there? You bet, and a lot of them come from NY. Ms. Thorn carries a huge responsibility in her position—I suggest she break out and discover our wide world. Separate the garbage from the worthy. There is a Mecca of riches and talent right here in Colorado. Yes, I know it takes time, something we are all short of. But, if one is to be the Head Honcho of Books instead of the Grinch of Books, don’t unilaterally say that all of self-publishing should be dynamited to prevent the book avalanche. It’s a disservice to readers, authors and oneself.

2010 Update: Now… here’s the rest of the story… Many know that the Rocky Mountain News shut its doors. Terrific writers and columnists joined the ranks of the unemployed. One of them was Patti Thorn, a gifted writer herself, a lover of books and excellent editor. The Book Shepherds are pleased to announce that Patti Thorn is now “fixing” the words of many of the books that self and independent authors/publishers are creating … long before they get to print. We are honored to have her as part of our team of editors that we refer our clients to.