Entrepreneur to Collaborator: Appendices


Appendix A: Motives for Self-Publishing

Motive Agree (Multiple answers acceptable)
Creative Freedom 40%
Efficiency 40%
Expense 20%
Hot-Button Topic 0%
Bad Experience with Traditional Publishers 0%
Limited Audience Appeal 0%
Bringing Out-of-Print Books Back into the Market 20%

*Note: Due to being fairly recent, these surveys encompass a very small number of authors.

Appendix B: What Authors Have Heard About Publishing

Statement Disagree Strongly Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Agree Strongly
“Self-published books are low-quality.” 0% 50% 16.67% 33.33% 0%
“Professional publishing houses won’t give new authors the support they need.” 0% 16.67% 33.33% 50% 0%
“The industry is in a state of transition away from publishing monopolies.” 0% 0% 33.33% 50% 16.67%
“Self-published writers are desperate and more likely to get swindled.” 16.67% 0% 66/67% 16.67% 0%
“Self-publishing gives its authors complete creative freedom.” 0% 33.33% 0% 66.67% 0%
“Even with the percentage of profits taken by publishers, traditional authors make more money.” 0% 16.67% 33.33% 50% 0%
“Self-publishing means being an entrepreneur.” 0% 0% 16.67% 66.67% 16.67%


Entrepreneur to Collaborator: Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Summary and Discussion


Faced with the prospect of publishing a book, each author must choose whether to query and solicit from traditional presses, or to prepare, publish and market the book alone. Traditional publishing, where a prospective author sends a manuscript to a publisher in the hopes of acceptance and publication, has been the accepted method of producing quality books. However, in recent years, self-publishing has exploded onto the scene, fueled by platforms like Smashwords or Amazon and aided by the internet and social media. ISBN Agency Bowker tracked its growth, reporting that “ the number of self-published titles in 2012 jumped to more than 391,000, up 59 percent over 2011 and 422 percent over 2007” (Bowker). Both of these options are now viable paths to success, be it personal or financial.

Statement of Problem

The market is evolving, and with that change comes confusion, especially for the inexperienced. Both styles of publishing bring their own benefits and flaws; what are they, and how can authors either compensate for, or take advantage of, each? Traditional publishing forces books to be drafted and polished, which can bring out the best in them, but the process typically takes six months or longer. Self-publishing can be much more rapid, but it is also riskier, especially for a novice who thinks that all they need is a well-written story and maybe a nice cover. In either situation, how much work will an author actually have to put into his or her book? Also, in a market with so much variety, frauds can creep in and deceive the inexperienced. Vanity presses may trick authors into paying for the privilege of doing all the work themselves, and of course one might run into a stubborn editor whose vision is drastically different from that of the original author. How is a brand-new author to tell when they are being taken advantage of?

This study will compare these two major options to each other so that authors can make an informed decision. It will seek to answer four basic questions: 1) what are the benefits and flaws of traditional publishing, 2) what are the benefits and flaws of self-publishing, 3) what can an author do to help his or her own book, and 4) how can an author avoid being exploited? Since this is a broad field, with many different opinions, perspectives and options, this study will be limited to the market of fiction. Success, a hard thing to measure, will be defined as “a process that results in a quality book the author is proud of.” A number of authors, self-published, traditional and hybrid, have been interviewed, and others have been surveyed as well to discover both common experiences and common perceptions.

Review of Methodology

The internet has been a powerful tool in recent years, allowing authors to connect directly with their readers through blogs, websites and social media. It also allows individuals to publish their ideas with whatever level of outside control they want, allowing for a wider variety of perspectives. Thus initial research for this project took place through the internet, seeking out knowledgeable individuals and commonly cited studies. Once general opinions from both camps were obtained, interviews with various authors were conducted. Most were relatively obscure, but had as many as twelve years of experience and a number of books in various genres on the market. They were questioned about their experiences and recommendations to new authors hoping to enter one field or the other. In addition, a survey was created to obtain more general experiences and perceptions. Authors were questioned about whatever type of publication they chose, as well as their perceptions of the options they did not. Overall, since literary success is as subjective as literary quality, actual experience was the main focus of research.

Summary of Results

1. What are the benefits and flaws of traditional publishing?

Most of the authors interviewed agreed that one of the greater benefits of traditional publishing is the focus on quality. These publishers use professional editors, marketers and artists to polish the book. Since they are also established companies, they have network connections to others within the industry, such as bookstores and competitions. The primary flow of money is towards the author, in advances and later royalties. The process is collaborative, allowing the writer to focus on writing and connecting with readers, trusting that the rest of the team will do their jobs.

The primary flaw cited by authors is the length of time it takes–before and after publication. Soliciting and querying can take a very long time, and even after a manuscript has been accepted, it takes months, if not years, for it to hit the shelves. With this trial and error process comes the risk of being rejected, not because a book is bad, but just because it has been sent to the wrong people, which can be highly frustrating. That same collaborative element can limit creative freedom. Publishers are businesses, and thus have to weigh profitability in each choice they make.

2. What are the benefits and flaws of self-publishing?

The reason most of the surveyed authors cited for their choice was “creative freedom.” Self-publishing is independent, managed entirely by the author. Author CSE Cooney, traditionally published in the past and just entering the self-publishing field, suggests that self-publishing might be the right choice if “your product is perhaps TOO unusual, too beautiful, too strange or interstitial or liminal, or you know it’s good, but you also know there are a billion others like it, and the magazines and small presses can only choose the absolute best” (Cooney). Any editors, marketers, printers or other collaborators are selected and paid by the author, and answer to him or her. Probably for this reason, the process is also rapid. It takes less than a week to publish on CreateSpace, even less for Smashwords. This amount of control is very appealing to those who prefer to work alone, or don’t feel their book fits into an existing market niche.

The flip side of this responsibility is that, as the interviewed authors agreed, self-publishing is entrepreneurship. A novice author who takes the wrong shortcuts could end up hurting his or her book’s chances. The work does not end when the book is published; the author is responsible for ongoing marketing and building his or her own platform. For someone primarily interested in writing, self-publishing might not be the best choice.

3. What can writers do to help their own books?

When asked, authors across the board agreed that the industry is evolving. Readers are making decisions based on user reviews and responses, not the seal of quality a publishing house used to represent. Personal connections with one’s readers are invaluable, and word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools any writer can use. A strong web presence, through a blog, website or social media page, will enable readers to get to know the author, as will appearances at places like book signings or conventions. These tools are valuable across the board, regardless of publishing method.

4. How can a writer recognize and avoid exploitation?

In this market, it is easy for a scammer to pose as a small press or a self-publishing foundation. However, there are also a number of resources available to suspicious authors to help identify potential exploiters. Sites like Writers Beware or Predators and Editors list known issues with various publishers, and of course there are other writing forums where past victims describe their experiences. Comparing those lists to each other, and including other writing advice, a number of common threads become clear. A scam will demand that the author pay for everything, but shirk on actually providing services. They combine the costs of self-publishing with the rights loss of traditional publishing, and hike the prices to boot. An informed awareness of market standards in pricing and services would help many authors avoid exploitation.

Relationship of Research to the Field

Although writing and publishing advice are prolific, they tend to be one-sided, either self-publishing or traditional. Often this is dependent on the medium of publication; traditionally published books naturally recommend traditional publishing, and independent authors sing the praises of self-publishing. As self-publishing has grown more and more commonplace, news sites and other experts predicted dramatic changes in the market, such as Forbes’s Nick Morgan declaring that “In an era where the consumer is becoming king, Amazon gets it, and traditional publishers don’t.  That spells their doom” (Morgan). While Amazon has had a great deal of success, the traditional publishing industry appears to be going on strong, adapting to the change in some areas. Its services are not wholly outdated. Only a few individuals, like authors Alethea Black, Céline Keating and Michelle Toth, have actually compared the benefits and flaws of their choices (Black, Keating & Toth). This study hopes to show the factors involved so that authors can make that decision with open eyes, and then take advantage of the plethora of experience and wisdom about the chosen method.

Discussion of Results

This research project began with a relatively clear dichotomy between the two types of writing, and the reasons authors chose one or the other. Self-publishing has been famously abused by authors of low caliber and marketing integrity, like Gloria Tesch or Robert Stanek (Edelman). However, research uncovered the reality of crossover and hybrid authorship; a well-timed self-published short story can keep readers eager for the next installment of a long series, and an author with clear success in self-publishing will appear a profitable investment for a publisher. Many of the same legitimate techniques for bonding with one’s readership are used across the board. Because of these similarities, the authors have more positive ideas of other types of publishing than was originally assumed in this paper. It was more a case of the benefits outweighing the flaws that led their decisions, not bad experiences or mindless convenience.


Based on the experiences of authors, agents and others within the publishing industry, both self-publishing and traditional are perfectly valid. Traditional publishing is generally better for those who want to collaborate on their books, who are willing to wait for it to be polished, and who want to see them in bookstores. For those who seek creative independence and efficiency, who are willing and able to handle the business of publishing, self-publishing would be the better option. However, hybridization is common, so unsure writers can experiment to see which fits their situation and talents better. Both choices share many techniques when it comes to connecting with a potential audience, an invaluable aspect of publishing in the modern world. Likewise, both can be paths for exploitation and abuse, unless the author is knowledgeable about the market. Ultimately, whatever an author chooses, there are no shortcuts, if he or she wants a book to be proud of.

Works Cited

Black, Alethea, Keating, Céline and Toth, Michelle. “Decisions, Decisions: Three Different Paths to Publication.” Poets & Writers. pag. 1. 3 May 2012. Web. 27 May 2014.

Cooney, CSE. Email Interview. 22 July 2014.

Edelman, David Louis. “A Guide to Ethical Self-Promotion.” DavidLouisEdelman.com. n. pag. 17 August 2007. Web. 10 July 2014.

Morgan, Nick. “What Is the Future of Publishing?” Forbes.com. n. pag. 12 July 2012. Web. 29 May 2014.

“Self-Publishing Movement Continues Strong Growth in U.S., Says Bowker.” Bowker. ProQuest. n. pag. 9 October 2013. Web. 30 May 2014.

Entrepreneur to Collaborator: Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Results of the Study


This study sets out to compare and contrast the factors of different methods of publishing, in order to allow authors to evaluate the risks and benefits, and find the best option for themselves. In order to do this, it will ask what are 1) the benefits and flaws of traditional publishing, 2) the benefits and flaws of self-publishing, 3) how can writers improve their own books and their chances, and 4) how can they recognize and avoid exploitation in a market with so many possibilities. A number of authors, primarily self-published, have been interviewed, and others have been surveyed as well to discover both common experiences and common perceptions.

1. What are the benefits and flaws of traditional publishing?

The main benefits of a traditional press are, ideally, the expertise of its people in crafting and marketing a book. Their contacts within the industry help put books into major bookstores, which even profitable and famous self-publishing presses like lulu.com and Smashwords cannot typically do. In some cases, as with author and illustrator Bonnie Watson, an arrangement with a traditional press can lead to unexpected opportunities: “It threw business my way since I became sole graphic designer for the publisher who did my books” (Watson). Even small presses can connect with various professionals to create a quality manuscript.

However, the process can be time-consuming. Traditionally published author Geri Krotow recalls from her own experience, “The worst part is the wait—it took me 6 years of submissions (and rejections!) to sell. But this is good because it forced me to keep learning and improving my writing” (Krotow). The average time between acceptance of a manuscript and publication is two years (Laube) (Doyen) (WritersServices). For those who choose a small press, the uncertainty both in production and sales echoes the troubles of a self-published writer. Thus, in this evolving market, many tools and tricks of self-publishing and self-marketing have become more useful to even traditional authors. Essentially, traditional publishing is best for authors who 1) want to focus on writing, 2) finds the process of submission, rejection and revision useful instead of frustrating, and 3) can wait for publication.

2. What are the benefits and flaws of self-publishing?

Self-publishing has been a polarizing issue in the past. Either acclaimed for undercutting publisher monopolies and granting creative freedom, or decried as a way for writers to sidestep benchmarks of quality, it is becoming less controversial as its users grow in skill. In fact, for some it can be a step towards a traditional contract. After all, an author who has an established fanbase and track record of quality writing is much less of a financial gamble than a completely new writer. As Bonnie Watson recalls:

I really have no regrets. It was a nice learning curb [sic] that slowly transitioned the more I studied between the different companies. I knew where I wanted to go. It was only a matter of time before I could get there. So what’s there to miss about self-publishing? I suppose it would be the fact that I could control my prices, change up books on the whelm [sic]. Not so much now, at least with print. Now eBooks… that’s a different story.

As demonstrated in the survey (see Appendices A and B), self-published authors typically choose this path for its speed and creative freedom, and agree that it is an entrepreneurial endeavor. Author Kimberly Herbert, who first entered the self-publishing arena twelve years ago, “In order to be a successful self-published author, one must have that drive to get their work out into a very crowded market” (Herbert). Some authors might not be well-suited to self-publishing, either because they have little time or experience in marketing, or because in their haste to finish their book they turn out a shoddy product. Self-publishing would be best for authors who 1) value creative freedom and efficiency, 2) can afford the time and money to handle all aspects of publishing, and 3) make their own standards of quality.

3. What can writers do to help their own books?

Speaking from experience in both fields, Bonnie Watson says, “Marketing is still a big factor and is very expensive” (Watson). In her interview she mentioned that she was offering free PDF’s of her books in exchange for Amazon reviews as a promotional tactic. Word-of-mouth marketing, through reviews, social media or even conversation, is a versatile and useful tool. According to Kimberly Grabas of The Writer’s Platform, it is “the most powerful way to market your book” (Grabas). Other techniques include an author’s website, virtual tours by guest-writing on other writers’ blogs, and various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. All of these connect directly with potential readers, as well as other writers who can help and cross-promote. In an evolving market, an author must be willing to work for his or her own book’s success, no matter how it was published.

4. How can a writer recognize and avoid exploitation?

With the world of publishing opening up in new ways, room has been made for scammers and con men to take advantage of the unsuspecting. They can take the guise of small independent presses, self-publishers or even platforms managed by famous traditional publishers, meaning that old chestnuts like “follow the money” are tricky to apply. However, an author who fully understands what he or she has signed up for should still be able to recognize a company that is taking more than it has worked for. In an article detailing how to identify a vanity publisher, Chris Holifield points out that self-publishing “is very much cheaper than vanity publishing, as it generally uses print on demand and books are only produced when they are required. Equally importantly, the author is in charge and keeps all their rights. This means that they continue to control their own destiny and are not at the mercy of a possibly crooked publisher” (Holifield, emphasis original). That freedom is one of its primary appeals, after all. Whatever choice an author makes, he or she should research and understand it, not blindly ship his or her book off for “publication.”

Works Cited

Doyen, Barbara. “How long does it take to publish my book?” BarbaraDoyen.com. n. pag. n. date. Web. 28 June 2014.

Holifield, Chris. “Vanity Publishing.” WritersServices.com. n. pag. 2006-13. Web. 30 May 2014.

“How long does it take to publish a book?” WritersServices.com. n. pag. n. date. Web. 28 June 2014. A breakdown of the time it takes to publish a book, comparing traditional and self-publishing.

Krotow, Geri. Email interview. 27 June 2014.

Laube, Steve. “How Long Does it Take to Get Published?” SteveLaube.com. n. pag. 8 March 2011. Web. 28 June 2014.

Watson, Bonnie. Email interview. 27 June 2014.

Entrepreneur to Collaborator: Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Methodology


This study intends to explore the benefits and flaws of traditional publishing and self-publishing, comparing them to each other. It will seek to answer four basic questions: 1) what are the benefits and flaws of traditional publishing, 2) what are the benefits and flaws of self-publishing, 3) what can an author do to help his or her own book, and 4) how can an author avoid being exploited? Since this is a broad field, with many different opinions, perspectives and options, this study will be limited to the market of fiction. Though financial elements are important, success will be defined as “any process of publishing which results in a book the author can call an accomplishment, rather than an embarrassment.” This study seeks to determine some of the most important factors of either publishing option and present them so that individual authors can evaluate them against their own skills and circumstances, and make the choice that will be most effective for their unique situations.

Plan of Action

  1. Consult a variety of secondhand sources from individuals in different parts of the industry.
  2. Interview knowledgeable individuals within the publishing industry to determine the flaws, virtues and requirements of various types of publishing.
  3. Collect first-hand data by surveying writers and others in the publishing industry on their choices, experiences and opinions.

Research Methodology

Descriptive Research

This study will be primarily qualitative, using a descriptive approach to determine both general opinions and insider knowledge of the publishing industry. A general questionnaire will be used to gather data on what most writers have heard, experienced, chosen or would recommend to other writers. This will be through an online survey in order to make data collection and analysis simpler. The people approached will primarily be members of online writing groups with varying levels of skill and experience. In addition to this survey, knowledgeable individuals within the industry will be interviewed on their experiences in more detail.

1. What are the benefits and flaws of traditional publishing?

Descriptive Research/Interview

To understand the process of traditional publishing, experienced and successful authors will be interviewed. These interviews will be conducted through email exchanges, with the timing dependent on the author’s schedule. The interview questions would focus on points like 1) What are the greatest benefits of having your book published traditionally? 2) What are some flaws of this method? 3) What is your experience with self-publishing, and your opinion of it? 4) To whom would you recommend either choice? and 5) Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known when you were first starting? The average interview will contain 10-12 questions, in order to balance the intake of relevant information with timeliness.

2. What are the benefits and flaws of self-publishing?

Descriptive Research/Interview

In order to gain insider information on self-publishing, successful self-published authors will be interviewed about the experience of creating, preparing and marketing a book. As above, the interviews will be conducted in whatever remote method is most effective for the interviewees. The questions would also be similar, but would include further questions of 1) how much should most authors try to do themselves, rather than hiring others? 2) What subtypes of self-publishing exist and what are their merits and problems? 3) Is self-publishing more like being an entrepreneur than a writer for most? The length of the interviews and number of questions will be approximately the same.

3. What can writers do to help their own books?

Descriptive Research/Interview

In order to explore what an author needs to do for his or her own book, a book designer or book shepherd will be interviewed, asking 1) What are some common mistakes inexperienced writers make? 2) What are a few basic ways an author can help his or her own book, aside from writing? 3) What do authors need to know in order to sell their books? 4) What would you typically recommend, traditional publishing, self-publishing, or another option? If such an individual is unavailable, the self-published authors will be queried on these subjects to see what has worked for them or those they know, and even the traditionally-published authors may be able to provide useful information.

4. How can writers recognize and avoid exploitation?

Descriptive Research/Interview

The final interview will be with a writer with experience identifying and labeling exploitative agents and presses. This interview would cover questions like 1) What are some common “red flags” that new writers should be aware of? 2) With the new blurring of the lines in the industry in recent years, what do you think of self-publishing? 3) How do you see this affecting the publishing industry in the near future?


Organization and Analysis of Data

Each section of this paper will focus on one of the four main questions, with the interviews supplying relevant information in quotations. They will be accompanied by references to other sources gathered in existing research, in order to balance their perspectives. The data collected from the general survey will be arranged into charts, simplifying them into sliding scales of positive and negative experience with the two primary publishing options, and referenced in each of the four main sections as they become relevant. The charts themselves will be contained in the appendices for the curious.

Entrepreneur to Collaborator: Chapter 2

One bout of backyard Shakespeare and the beginning of a new job later, I finally return–and this time I’m going to prepare the rest of the paper now and just stagger the releases of the rest, so I won’t have a chance to forget again.

Chapter 2: Literature Review


Faced with the prospect of publishing a book, an author must choose whether to seek out a traditional press, or to self-publish. Self-publishing started small, with a reputation of low quality, but now as author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki said in a Forbes interview:

The self-publishing world has eradicated the filters and barriers that the traditional publishing world represented (where editors – typically male — made the judgments about content and worthiness). In the old days, the imprint of the publisher was a proxy for quality – if you were accepted by the publisher, you passed the test. Now the proxy for quality is how your book fares in terms of reviews and ratings on Amazon, and sales. Customers vote on the book’s quality or on their need to expose themselves to your material by clicking to purchase, or not clicking.

An author entering this user-oriented market should do so with an understanding of the options presented, and be willing to research and market as well as write. The focus is now on the product, and thus it must be quality work no matter how it was published. This work would also protect them from scams, which have inevitably crept into this often-confusing situation. Ultimately, whatever decision an author makes, it should be an informed one, so that he or she can write a book to be proud of.

The History of Self-Publishing

The self-publishing industry became worthy of notice in the writing world only recently, and its rise was rapid, in no small part thanks to the development of eBooks. In 2012, Bowker reported that “the number of self-published books produced annually in the U.S. has nearly tripled, growing 287 percent since 2006, and now tallies more than 235,000 print and ‘e’ titles” (Bowker 2012). In the next year, there was another increase of 59% (Bowker 2013). Self-published books were not only sold, but became bestsellers, even though the increase in books meant an increase in competition. Publishing houses began to see the potential of this new market. It was far safer to offer a contract (and advance) to an author with an established fanbase and marketing ability, than to risk their assets on brand-new writers. However the self-publishing industry retained some issues. Amazon’s increase in power has recently led it to use leverage on other publishers like Macmillan (Stone), Hachette Book Group and Bonner Media Group (Yu) to win disputes, and a number of bookstores like Barnes & Nobles will not sell the books of their competitor. Overall the profitability, quality and respectability of self-published works has risen, affecting the entire market.

Process and Factors of Self-Publishing

There are any number of guides on the internet for the eager self-publisher-to-be. The first step is, just like in traditional publishing, to write a quality book and have it professionally edited. However, because the author is also the publisher and marketer, those jobs come into play much more quickly. As Kimberly Grabas of Your Writing Platform says,

The best time to design and implement your marketing plan of action is before you even start writing your book. It takes time to build relationships, learn your readers’ wants and needs and develop a base of rabid fans that clamor for more.

Grow your readership as you write your book, and when it’s time to launch your baby, you’ll already have an invested and eager audience waiting. (Grabas)

Once the book has been formatted and prepared, it can be published and sold right away. Even the length of time it takes to publish a book can vary, purely depending on the wishes of the author or the frequently brief requirements of the publishing platform.

Self-publishing is not a way to escape benchmarks for good writing, though it can be abused in this way. It is not easy. As author Dave Bricker points out, “this path offers con­trol over both cre­ative aspects of the work and busi­ness strat­egy. Authors who wish to pro­duce lit­er­ary art that’s unfet­tered by the demands of pop­u­lar gen­res, and authors who have ready access to niche audi­ences may find oppor­tu­ni­ties in smaller-scale pub­lish­ing that large pub­lish­ers won’t” (Bricker). Overall, self-publishing’s primary advantages are speed and flexibility, putting the production of the book in the hands of the author, for better or for worse.

Process and Factors of Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing’s methods are not entirely dissimilar. An author must still build a platform, the sooner the better, along with writing a quality book. However, instead of paying a company to publish a book, the author sends a manuscript to a publishing house, sometimes with an agent to smooth the way. If the publisher thinks it is worth the cost, the author receives a cash advance, and agrees to a contract, giving up part of the royalties and rights. At this point, the publisher’s team of designers, artists, blurb writers, distributors and marketers take on the project. They are ideally experts in their fields, as the writer is expected to be one in his or her own, and use this knowledge to create the best book they can. As traditionally published author Nathan Bransford explains on his blog, “The book really truly benefits from the input of your publisher. You trust that they know what they’re doing. [. . .] those rules about publishers having ultimate say exist for the reason. They’re fronting the investment to produce the book, and it prevents books from being held up by arguments and disagreements. But you do give up some control with traditional publishing” (Bransford). The process of assembling a book and selling it takes anywhere between nine months to two years. Ultimately, the goal is to produce a book that shines in every way, and sells well because of it.

A traditional publisher will pay the author, rather than the author paying a company, to publish a book. The advance must eventually be paid off, ideally from the percentage of royalties the author receives from the book’s sales. According to a 2013 study conducted by Prof. Dana Beth Weinberg, “These aggregated category [of authors making $100,000 or more] represents 1.8% of self-published authors, 8.8% of traditionally published authors, and 13.2% of hybrid authors” (Weinberg), so in terms of profit, traditional publishing still seems to be a better route than undiluted self-publishing. Of course, simply getting a publisher to accept a book can be an arduous process. Plentiful are stories of future bestsellers and classics that were rejected dozens of times—Harry Potter is a recent example. The process of querying, rejection, revision and querying again can help a book improve, but it can also be very discouraging, and a desperate author is more likely to fall prey to a publishing scam.

A subcategory of traditional publishing is the small press. It retains the team aspect and form larger presses use, but is typically more personal and sometimes uneven, as most new, small businesses are. As author and poet CSE Cooney describes:

Small presses [. . .] are great fun, but usually only run by one or two people, who have pretty full lives of their own. Publishing books in a small press is not their only, or even their major, source of income. Communication can get hairy, especially in this age of social platforms, when one expects immediate responses. Deadlines aren’t always met on time, or ever. Promises get broken. On the other hand, other small presses perform quickly, are enthusiastic and helpful, and one’s relationship with them grows into a kind of long-distance friendship, which is really cool (Cooney).

Subsidy and Vanity Presses

Vanity publishers are the most infamous exploiters of would-be authors. In the past, self-publishing was conflated with this route, since both have to be paid for by the author, rather than vice versa. As self-publishing has become a more common option, exploitative prices and deceptive practices are easier to spot. With the lines blurring between the two main options, these presses pose as something in-between, perhaps an independent publisher or a subsidy service, charging exorbitant prices for books they have no interest in selling. As author and investigative journalist Patricia Nell Warren warns a young author, “If you follow the money, you can always identify a vanity press. How? It contracts with you to own your book rights, yet it requires you the author to pay all the costs of publication. Yet it does as little as possible for your book, so you will seldom, if ever, see a return on your investment” (Warren). Unfortunately, this is not the only shape abusive presses can take. Some of the more famous publishers, upon entering the POD industry, have chosen to exploit the market rather than provide the services they promise. Author Solutions, purchased by Penguin, is facing a lawsuit for its abusive practices (Strauss), and it is the umbrella company for other “Big Five” connections, like Xlibris, WestBow Press or Balboa Press. The publishing world can be a dangerous place for the ignorant.


In conclusion, there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to choosing a method of publishing, so long as it is not a scam. One method may result in more money, or more recognition, but as science fiction novelist Glenda Larke said, “Success is not measured in money or awards or other people’s admiration or envy. It is measured by how happy you are. The most successful people are those who love what they do” (Larke). A book to be proud of is a great thing, and each author must decide for him- or herself what will shape that book. But in order to make that decision, authors must be active, aware and diligent in understanding how the industry operates, and may change in coming years.

Works Cited

Bransford, Nathan. “Traditional Publishing, Self-Publishing, and Control.” NathanBrandsford.com. n. pag. 16 May 2011. Web. 30 May 2014.

Bricker, Dave. “Self-Publishing & Vanity Publishing: Confuse Them and Pay the Price.” TheWorld’sGreatestBook.com. Essential Absurdities Press. n. pag. 4 February 2013. Web. 31 May 2014.

Caprino, Kathy. “Considering Self-Publishing? Don’t Bother, Unless You Follow Guy Kawasaki’s Advice.” Forbes.com. n. pag. 21 January 2013. Web. 27 May 2014.

Cooney, CSE. Email Interview. 22 July 2014.

Grabas, Kimberley. “71 Ways to Promote and Market Your Book.” YourWriterPlatform.com. n. pag. 1 Aug. 2013. Web. 29 May 2014.

Larke, Glenda. “What makes a successful writer?” S F Novelists. n. pag. 31 August 2009. Web. 29 May 2014.

“Self-Publishing Movement Continues Strong Growth in U.S., Says Bowker.” Bowker. ProQuest. n. pag. 9 October 2013. Web. 30 May 2014.

“Self-Publishing Sees Triple-Digit Growth in Just Five Years, Says Bowker®.” Bowker. ProQuest. n. pag. 24 October, 2012. Web. 30 May 2014.

Strauss, Victoria. “Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Author Solutions Inc.” Writers Beware. Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. n. pag. 2 May 2013. Web. 30 May 2014.

Warren, Patricia Nell. “Secrets of Vanity Presses.” Wildcat International. n. pag. August 2007. Web. 30 May 2014.

Weinberg, Dana Beth. “Self-Publishing Debate: A Social Scientist Separates Fact from Fiction.” DigitalBookWorld.com. n. pag. 4 December 2013. Web. 30 May 2014.

In which I interview CSE Cooney

This interview is sadly the last one I was able to do before my deadline arrived, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I originally met CSE Cooney when she and some of my siblings were performing with Flock Theatre. She’s written several poems and novellas, getting them published through small traditional presses, and is part of a band of authors called the Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadors. Her main site can be found here.


1. What, in brief, is your history with publishing? As far as you know, is this a common experience, or were there special factors?

I really can’t speak for anyone else’s experience, although from what I’ve witnessed, the combination of mentoring, submissions, beta-readers, writing groups, and networking is all part of many people’s processes. I didn’t know that when I was 18, though! When I was 18, I met my mentor, Gene Wolfe. He took a look at the first few chapters of the novel I was working on, wrote me a letter–full of both critique and compliments–and recommended I start out writing short stories and submitting them. After I’ve gotten short stories published, he said, I’d have enough credentials to present myself to an agent or publisher when I submit a novel.

Gene also took me to my first writing convention. It was there I met the editor of Subterranean Press, Bill Schafer, who ended up publishing “Stone Shoes,” which was my first pro-rate sale. At different conventions over the years, I also met the editors who published my first poems. I’ll never regret this–ever–but it has made me wonder from the first if editors published me only because they liked me personally and not solely on the basis of my work. People have told me time and again that no editor would publish something bad on the basis of personality. However, I do think having a face to set to a submission name never hurt me!

Fourteen years later, I have had many short stories, novellas, and poems published. I am currently looking for an agent for my novel. I think that if I had written more novels instead of short stories, and began looking for an agent sooner, in my twenties, I might be further along in my career now. But I might not be as good a writer. It’s hard to say. There was a three year chunk in college while I was only writing for my classes. Perhaps this was a necessary break; again, who can know?

For me the publishing process has been arduous, surprising, occasionally frustrating, and mostly splendid. The only thing I know for sure is that everything happens so much slower than I thought it would when I was a teenager! Which is not everybody’s experience, I think. But it is most people’s.

2. What was the best part about being published? How about the worst?

There is a sense of unreality when you hold your own book in your hand, and look at your byline and think, “That’s me. This is the house that I built.” A kind of euphoria.

Sometimes it’s even enough to make you forget the true difficulties of working with small presses, which are great fun, but usually only run by one or two people, who have pretty full lives of their own. Publishing books in a small press is not their only, or even their major, source of income. Communication can get hairy, especially in this age of social platforms, when one expects immediate responses. Deadlines aren’t always met on time, or ever. Promises get broken.

On the other hand, other small presses perform quickly, are enthusiastic and helpful, and one’s relationship with them grows into a kind of long-distance friendship, which is really cool.

3. How do you connect to your audience outside of writing? I know you have a site and a LiveJournal.

I do have a LiveJournal. And a Facebook page. And a website. And, now, on my friend Amal El-Mohtar’s insistence, a Twitter. I like to blog the big things (I like to blog in general), but I’m on Facebook more than anything. My friend Julia Rios, one of the editors of Strange Horizons, likes to tease me and say, “You always have CONTENT.” But I do pop my head up and…assert my personality as often as possible. This will sound callous, but I mean it in the most earnest possible way:

If people like you, they might buy your book for your sake. Then, if they like your book, they’ll buy your next book for the book’s sake.

It’s another way to get your foot in the door. It’s sort of like that Irish curse: You’ll know writers by their limping.

4. What about other authors and people in the publishing industry?

Again, I can’t speak for others. Some people are geniuses, and their work is worthy of recognition right away. Some people are geniuses and aren’t recognized for the first few decades they’ve been writing. Some people start out with novels and stick with them. Some people only write in the short form. Some people are far more garrulous and social than I am, and their pool of friendly, professional acquaintances is wider, and therefore their chances are broader. Some people are brilliant and have bad luck. Some people are awful and are blessed by the gods. I don’t know! I only know that I have been helped so much, and there is an honor system of returning the favor to writers younger than myself. People are pretty conscious of this mentoring system in the Speculative Fiction community. It’s something we talk about often.

5. Is there any other non-writing work you do for your books and poetry?

I have done a few lectures, many readings (at conventions and the like), and performances as well. My training is in writing and acting. I have my BA from Columbia College Chicago, which is an arts school. A few friends and I decided that a group we had far more likely a chance to boost our own signal than being tiny flames on our own. Together, we could become a beacon. Plus, we’re all stage-trained and musically trained. So we formed a performance group called The Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours. We excerpt and dramatize sections of our fiction. We write and sing music. We recite our wicked, mythic, storytelling poetry. And we just went on our first mini-tour.

6. Is there anything you’ve learned from experience that you wish you’d known before you began?

I suppose it would be to know how slow all of it is, and to have started earlier and more aggressively. I’m pretty timid in any new given situation. I wish I could tell my younger self (as many people TRIED to tell me) to spread my net more widely. To be courteous but not so tender as to retreat in the face of defeat. To submit a hundred times more than I did. To write faster. To read more.

But so much can only come from experience. There is no possible way that me telling my younger self could have changed much; my brain needed to change. It needed years to grow and mature and to specialize in this particular career. Maybe the truth is that I’m a slow bloomer. Maybe someone else will be able to read this at 18 and have it all by 25. Everyone has their own speed, their own time.

7. Have you run into any real differences between publishing fiction and poetry? Or between short and longer works?

There are fewer markets for poetry than for fiction. For fiction, there are fewer markets for novellas than for short stories. I write more novellas than anything else. Often short story markets also have a poetry department.

The main difference between selling short works (be they fiction or poetry) to magazines and small presses and selling longer works like novels to large presses is that for the former you are working directly with the editors, if not the publishers themselves, and for the latter, you have to ally with an intermediary, an agent, who knows the business end of books in and out. I’m in the process of questing for an agent myself right now, and it’s trickier than you’d think. People have compared it with dating. If one were dating around for a business partner instead of a romantic relationship. I haven’t been on my quest long enough to come up with a comparison of my own yet; the dating one doesn’t quite work for me.

8. Which would you usually recommend to a new author, self publishing or traditional? Why?

Oh… This is a tricky question. Part of me would recommend traditional first. Writing, in a weird, is weirdly communal. Your story comes through you first, raw in its early form, then polished through the draft process. Usually it passes through the hands of other writers who are your friends: beta-readers or writing groups, that sort of thing. Then when you submit it, it can come back to you with useful rejections from editors (who have seen hundreds, thousands of stories) telling you why the story wasn’t working, or why they couldn’t publish it. Alternately, it could be accepted and go through undreamed-of changes that improve the story beyond anything you could have done to it.

If you self-publish, most of those latter steps go right out the window. Your product may still be beautiful and unusual, but perhaps not as honed.

Now, if one has tried all the traditional venues, and your product is perhaps TOO unusual, too beautiful, too strange or interstitial or liminal, or you know it’s good, but you also know there are a billion others like it, and the magazines and small presses can only choose the absolute best. But you know yours is just as good – and besides, you already invested all this time in it, then I think exploring self-publishing is absolutely spiffy.

But part of me says, publishing is changing. Technology is changing. The world is changing. Change with it. Do whatever. Do all the things. Make money by writing. By fair means or foul, sell your work.

I think casting a wide net, getting both feet and a head through the door, boosting your signal, spreading out in all directions can all be necessary in this business.

Of course, that makes focusing on the craft a little harder. So. Artist’s choice.

9. The industry’s been changing, especially in recent years with companies like Amazon getting into the publishing game. Do you think this is for better or worse? Why?

Oh, I have no idea. I’m going to let better minds than mine decide. There are plenty of articles on this very subject all over the internet. I rarely read them. It’s hard enough to find the time to write, much less speculate on if I even have a future in it. I think that as self-publishing gets easier, big publishers are going to get more… refined. I think the market will be inundated with all kinds of unfiltered, unedited manuscripts and it might be harder to get to the good stuff. But then, publishers of big presses haven’t always (in my opinion) only published good stuff. Not by any means. Unfortunately, this part of the industry is one that’s never really interested me. I’m probably the poorer for it. But I only have so many hours in my day. And I’d rather be writing.

10. I saw you’re looking for an agent. What made you decide to do this?

It’s just the next step! I have a book I’m really excited about: Miscellaneous Stones: Assassin. It’s the first in a trilogy. I think it’s supermarketable. And I’m not up to the task of self-publishing it. In a sense, I feel the book is better than what I can give it, in that sense. It deserves a team of professionals, from the copy-editor to the cover-designer. And I’m not those people.

11. Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours. There’s got to be a good story behind that—even just the name.

See above!!!

In which I talk to Geri Krotow

Geri Krotow is another find from Facebook–note to self: personal connections are a lot more reliable than cold-calling strangers–and a traditionally-published romance writer. Also I did ask her a few more questions than this, but her response was a body of text so I had trouble separating it into Q & A format. Her site is here.

What were the best and worst elements of publishing?

The best is having my books on the shelf in Kmart, WalMart, grocery stores, etc, all over the country and world. My stories can reach so many people, and now with the digital market it’s beyond my dreams. The worst part is the wait—it took me 6 years of submissions (and rejections!) to sell. But this is good because it forced me to keep learning and improving my writing.

Would you recommend this to a new author? Why or why not?

I recommend traditional publishing to everyone as if I’d independently published that first manuscript (that never sold and never SHOULD sell :)) it would have been a BIG mistake. My writing wasn’t ready for “prime time.” That said, my friends who have a large backlist of books AND have gotten the rights back from their publishers are re-publishing on their own (indie) and some are making big profits, especially if they have a large readership.

How much of the legwork (like marketing) did you have to do yourself?

As for marketing, in this day, every author is her own marketing person. You have to be. I am very conscious of my brand (military romance/romantic suspense) and it’s important to keep giving my readers what they expect from me. This is the promise to the reader. The most important platform is the author website, which must be kept up-to-date and give readers a place to go and learn about you after they’ve finished a book (and hopefully find more of your books to buy!). Next is a strong social media platform. I’m active on Twitter and Facebook, and a bit on Pinterest. Also, Goodreads. I have an Author Page on Facebook, too. I do this all myself, except I do pay people to do my website (which costs A LOT, you get what you pay for.). But it’s part of building my business from the ground up, and having a secure platform I’ll be able to rely on when I hit it “big.”

For that, I trust God. If I’m meant to be financially successful, I will, if not, the most important thing is that I’m true to the stories that come down for me to put on paper. If they reach and help one person through a rough day, then I’ve done my job (vocation).