Phillip Thompson

Crime Fiction writer

For decades — generations, even — the field of “self-publishing” has been a minefield of controversy. On one side are those who say, “Eh, who needs an agent and a big publishing house? If I can do it myself, even if I have to pay to publish my Great American Novel, why not?” The counter to that is that, if you really, really, really want to be successful as a writer (whatever that means, but, usually it means sales), only a literary agent can get you the access to the big New York publishers and all the bells and whistles that such a relationship entails (think publicity, distribution, marketing, fame, glory, chicks).

Self-publishing operations (or if you prefer, “vanity presses”) have also become an area where predators lie in wait for unsuspecting, inexperienced writers and make a lot of money — but not buy selling books. They charge “reading fees,” “production fees,” “distribution fees,” etc. And while promising (contractually, anyway) to produce what the author feels sure is a best-seller, they instead produce an inferior product — if they produce one at all. My own experience in researching agents and publishers is that if someone charges you a fee to read your work, that organization should be avoided. You want to be the one charging someone to read your work, not the other way around.

Ok, I’m taking a long driveway to a small house here, but stay with me. Self-publishing has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Sure, the Internet has played a role, but it’s more the technology and methodology of publishing that has really changed the dynamic. It started with a phenomenon called “print on demand,” which is pretty much what the phrase implies. Rather than a publisher print a run of say, 1,000 books with the risk that most will not sell and result in a loss, the publisher either publishes a small run and sells them all, or “prints on demand” — you order a book at a store on online, one is immediately printed and bound and delivered to you, sometimes on site. A quick Google search will give you all you need to know about the pros and cons of POD, so I won’t go into it here. Another writer’s perspective on POD here.

But today, with iBooks, Amazon, audio books on iPod and a general shift in the way Americans read (i.e., on a device like a Kindle rather than an actual book), there are even more ways for writers to directly access potential readers than ever before.

Amazon now offers Kindle Publishing, something I’m researching. Sounds good. A friend of mine (my unofficial writing mentor, himself a bestselling author) finally took the plunge and decided to publish his latest novel via Kindle Publishing. No word  yet as to its effectiveness, but it was enough to get me thinking. We can market our own products today. “We” being the everyday American with a Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube channel with access to as many people as we desire (who have access to as many people as they desire). In other words, I don’t have to sell books out of my trunk today. I can, literally, run a marketing campaign via social media and a distribution operation via Amazon. Sounds perfect, right?

That’s what has me skeptical. This piece from Litopia, though, does leave me thinking. I have noticed it takes a bit of time to read through all the process questions on Amazon’s Kindle pages, but I think I’ll take the time and see just how doable it really is. If you have experience with this, or even thoughts, leave a comment.

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