The Perils and Joys of Publishing
Publishing these days is both a simple and a treacherous thing to do. There are so many tools and resources to create a book, and there are numerous ways to get taken by seeming unscrupulous companies and individuals.
This may sound pessimistic, but I think it is an accurate portrayal of the lay of the publishing land. Let’s consider a few examples:
Traditional publishing: The highly selective system that depends largely on well-paid literary agents, whose success rate, so I understand, is one or two books sold per year. Considering the hundreds of queries they receive, the odds on being one of those is not zero but close to it. And then, of course, there are the publishers themselves, who take absolute control over a manuscript and do with it as they wish. This may appeal to many, but signing one’s book rights away is not everyone’s cup of tea.
And then there is the Wild West of self-publishing, indie publishing, or independent publishing (also called vanity publishing). This is a a growing field and is a doable path for most people. However, there are many choices to be made. Amazon offers a ‘complete package’ to publish a book, as does IngramSpark and others. Other services, such as iUniverse, also offer ‘complete’ packages. All of this can be befuddling to a novice writer, when s/he writer has completed a book and would like some guidance as to what to do next. The guidance impulse is the one that leaves the author most vulnerable.
These services are costly but do have the advantage of providing an array of needed services, often including editing, cover design, interior layout, and the like.
In the absence of these, a writer will have to search out editors, designers, etc. for him or herself. That can be daunting. There are many people who will provide such services for fees ranging from a few thousand to many thousands of dollars. The trouble is that there are few ways to know on the front end how good such people are. There are often reviews online, but if they are on the provider’s website, it is reasonable to assume they have been carefully vetted, focusing on the happy customers. No one brags about their less-than-happy customers.
There are ways around this. Asking people you know and trust whom they might recommend. Asking the provider for references. Doing a ‘trial run’, such as editing a section of a manuscript. All of these can be helpful.
The advantages of doing this legwork, however, is that the writer has maximum control over the quality of his product. This in itself is worth a great deal, and this is where the joy comes in.
Paul Martin Midden is the author of five previous novels, each of which explores different writing styles. He practiced clinical psychology for over thirty years. Paul’s interests include historic restoration, travel, fitness, and wine tasting. He and his wife Patricia renovated an 1895 Romanesque home in 1995 and continue to enjoy urban living.