Monday, April 24, 2006

Self publishing versus independent publishing versus mainstream, corporate publishing

Received an email a few days back from a former marine who had self-published a book about his experiences in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. He is now trying to get it"properly published and marketed."

I am asking this former marine to send a copy for our consideration. While we don't read everything offered us, we are interested in first-hand books about Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War and, of course, the Iraqi War.

Veterans have three choices for publication of their books: Self publishing versus independent publishing versus mainstream, corporate publishing. All three have their problems for an author/veteran. If you self publish, your access to the marketplace is severely restricted, as this former marine learned. Independent publishers (such as Southfarm Press) have a wider access to the consumer and tend to keep books in print for long periods of time. But an independent publisher’s access to consumers is less than corporate publishers which tend to own many imprints. Many of the corporate publishers themselves are owned by foreign publishers. Random House is an example of a large book publisher owned by a corporation controlled by a foreign firm, in this case German. I’ve heard it referred to as Random Haus. While at first it may seem lucky that a veteran gets his or her book published by a corporate behemoth, if the book doesn’t do well in the marketplace immediately, it won’t support the book, will remainder it and let it go out-of-print quickly.

To remainder a book means to sell off all inventory at cost to discount book wholesalers. Authors do not receive royalties for books remaindered. And frequently the corporate publisher doesn’t keep the author in the loop when it remainders his or her book. Surprise, surprise. –Walter Haan,


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