On Saturday afternoon, yesterday, I moderated a panel on self-publishing. This is no longer quite the novel topic it once was. About five or six years ago I moderated a panel on publishing that morphed into one about self-publishing because one of the writers had done both commercial and self-publishing. We had about ten people in the audience. Two and a half years ago we put together a panel on self-publishing and drew about fifteen people. Those in the audience asked a lot of questions and the discussion was mild and easy going. Fast forward to yesterday.
Yesterday six writers showed up for their panel, and we waited for everyone to get settled. By the time we began--I was moderating--over 40 people were in the audience. That number grew to over 60 people. What happened in the last two and a half years? The word about self-publishing spread and people began to understand what was possible. So many companies have jumped into this world with various levels of service that it would be hard for anyone not to find a resource for publishing their own work--in paper, in audio, in eBook format.
The writers on the panel had a wide range of experiences and were willing to share generously. They talked about their first efforts, and the high costs of not knowing the "system," and then talked about their most recent efforts and the almost nonexistent costs after learning how to do much by themselves. Another talked about the doors that opened to advocate for important causes, and another talked about the opportunity to put a personal experience into print. One writer wowed the audience with her own success--30,000 copies of one title sold in the last year (and her new car, paid for with cash). Another talked about her several books that reflected a life of both tragedy and triumph in working for justice for others. The last panelist described a new profession that allows him to work at home on others' writing projects while creating his own books. The panelists were varied and interesting and enthusiastic and generous.
There were so many questions from the audience that I, as moderator, could not keep up. Every time one question was answered, another ten hands went up. We could have stayed there for another four hours answering questions. People came with lists of questions about the process in general and their own works in particular; some came with their own self-published books and suggestions about what companies to work with. Most people were clear about learning quickly from any missteps and moving on to the next project.
When asked about the advantages, every writer--on the panel or in the audience--echoed the idea of control and time. Writers wanted to control their own work and they didn't want to wait months and years to see a book make it into print.
No one said he or she wouldn't do it again, and no one discouraged anyone else from giving it a try. We talked about the challenges in publishing something without assistance such as proofreading, publishing color drawings with text, copyright, business choices such as iUniverse or CreateSpace, POD and eBook formats. It was one of the most stimulating and hands-on panels I have ever participated in.
The big question for some of us was, how did so many people who were interested in this new world of publishing find out about the panel? The panelists did their job before Saturday. Every one of them posted the announcement somewhere--Facebook, a local website (Good Morning Gloucester), blogs; and it was twice in our local newspaper.
Yes, it is indeed a new world. And, to my surprise, I'm not the last one to enter it. Last month (which was only last week) I posted my new Mellinghan/Joe Silva mystery for Kindle. Last Call for Justice is on sale now.
The panelists are a group of Cape Ann writers and I hope you'll take the time to look at their work. You have lots of good reading ahead of you if you do.