New Technology Offers New Opportunities in Publishing
by Nan Hawthorne
Bothell, Washington

Has anyone ever said to you, "You really ought to write your life story?" Or perhaps you long to pull your short stories or poems together into a book but you have dismissed the idea. It is hard enough for professional writers to find a publisher, especially now in a down economy. Thanks to new technology, however, getting published is no problem at all. Anyone can do it, and it doesn't take a huge outlay of money. Is this your chance?

Two new developments make publishing available for anyone who cares to take the time to write. One is what is called "print on demand" or "publish on demand" or "POD." This is a company that prints your books as they are ordered. This means no inventory to store and no running to the post office to mail book orders. Since there are several companies that take their cut from completed orders and do the fulfillment, that is, take and process every aspect of the orders, you can just sit back and cash royalty checks.

Well, almost. POD companies do none of the marketing of the book. You will need to market your book just as the corporate publishers of the world expect their authors to sell their own books. The good news is the other development that makes this possible, and that is the proliferation of online booksellers, like Amazon. Your book and one of Stephen King's books get the same space on the product pages. You just have to make people aware of the book.

Let's start at the beginning, and that's with you, the writer. It will be up to you entirely to produce a worthy product, both in terms of literary quality and the look of the book. When you have finished writing, you will have to assemble your work in an attractive design. If that is too visual a task for you, you may want to get help, whether from friends or a professional. Make sure the final product is well edited and proofed. It is useful to create a PDF file that looks exactly like what you want to publish.

You will need an ISBN number if you want the book to appear on online bookseller sites. Your chosen POD can usually obtain an ISBN for you. The company will likely charge for this, generally less than $100.

Let's look at POD companies that print and distribute your book without upfront payment. POD companies provide Web-based tools that enable you to upload your completed work, choose or upload a cover image, select what binding you want and how much you want to charge for the book. The company packages the book, sends you a copy to approve, and begins taking and processing orders. The best known company is Lulu, but it is far from the only one. There is a comprehensive list and analysis of 45 companies at

A company that recently caught my eye is CreateSpace. I went with BookSurge because Amazon owns it, and I thought it smart to guarantee a good showing there, but now I learn that CreateSpace is their POD as well, with no upfront cost. If in fact one needs to curry Amazon's favor, this might be worth a look.

You can pay for a POD company to pull your work together and make it look great. You will have to come up with hundreds of dollars upfront for this convenience, and there is no guarantee your experience will be any better than doing it all yourself. The companies that will do it all still require that you give them a perfect product. I would say the only advantage when I went this route with my historical novel AN INVOLUNTARY KING is that the company, BookSurge, created a really impressive book cover. The disadvantage was that they charged a great deal for it, $27.99 for a paperback, which I believe has stifled sales. I have had to resort to selling my own copies at a lower cover price.

But, you ask, isn't this what we used to call a "vanity press?" Yes, the new term is independent publishing, a response to the fact that the publishing industry has become so unwilling to take a chance on quality books by unknown authors. Readers are starving for more books in more genres, and with the online booksellers they can find you as easily as Tom Clancy. People read what they want, not what has the imprimatur of a well-known corporate publisher's name on the spine. If you create a compelling book and get the word out, readers will find you, and they will buy.

For more information, visit the Independent Authors Guild at

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