Update for February 2001:
Changes Ahead for Independent Publishers

by Dan Snow,
co-author of

The revolutionary guide for publishing and promoting books, using the latest technologies

by Dan Poynter
and Danny O. Snow

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Changes Coming for Self Publishers?

Whether you are a small to midsize press, a previously published author bringing back an out-of-print book (or test marketing a new one), or an aspiring writer who simply doesn't want to play the traditional publishing "game" with the deck stacked against you, changes are coming for independent publishers.

The good news is that new technologies now make independent publishing more cost effective than ever. The bad news is that some companies which have served self-publishers in recent years may be changing their policies, and starting to exclude the little guy.

The following excerpts from previous news items suggest that changes lie ahead.

  • According to Foreword this Week (12/27/2000) "Terri Boekhoff [of iUniverse] revealed informally that iUniverse has terminated its independent publisher distribution program, which she said the company hopes to have phased out by the end of March." UPDATE: According to Rifka Keilson of iUniverse (6/12/2001) "... we have no intention whatsoever of eliminating or reducing our publishing services for authors."

  • "... publishing executives have been buzzing about the ways that digital technology will revolutionize the industry ... But John Feldcamp ... the co-founder and chief executive of online publisher Xlibris Corp. says ... 'Let's be frank: With the exception of phenomena related to Stephen King, nothing is selling.' Feldcamp reckons that fewer than 1% of the books he sells are in an electronic format."

    -- Matthew Rose, Wall Street Journal, 10/2/2000

  • "Judy Kirkpatrick, general manager of MightyWords ... said, 'As a company, we can't do a perfect job promoting self-published titles, and we had to stop offering these books for sale because the authors didn't do enough to participate in the process of marketing and promoting their titles themselves.' "

    -- Edward Nawotka, Publishers Weekly, 11/20/2000

    What do these reports mean for the independent publisher?

    Changes in the policies of the companies above may leave fewer good options for self publishing, whether in electronic or printed form.

    According to Edward Nawotka of Publishers Weekly, MightyWords suggests "... a number of other sites [that] provide various levels of self-publishing opportunities and services that might better meet your needs. It recommends the services of vanity press 1stBooks Library."

    But for professional writers, vanity presses may not be a viable alternative. Disappointing sales are not the only problem with vanity publishing...

    For example, consider what the L.A. Times has gently termed the "uneven quality" of offerings from some companies, clearly seen when browsing their catalogs in broad categories such as "Romance" and "Poetry." Professional writers may not want their work associated with the kind of material offered by some vanity publishers.

    In addition, vanity publishing can be expensive, if a number of add-ons and extras are charged. Some of these costs may not be immediately apparent to the unsuspecting.

    Finally, some authors and publishers have also reported quality control problems and extended production delays -- especially from companies that will not commit to a a production schedule in writing.

    In this climate of change, how can self-publishers best use new technologies?

    According to Paul Hilts of Publishers Weekly, "Richard Sarnoff, president of Random House New Media ... had no doubt that electronic formats will dominate, certainly within 100 years, he said, and probably within 10 to 20, but he also noted that e-book revenues are 'minuscule,' and suggested that print on demand was the better bet in the short run."

    Print-on-demand (POD) offers many of the financial savings of e-Books, most notably the ability to produce exactly enough copies to meet market demands without producing un-sold books. Yet the finished product is a "real" book, that can be made widely available to the public through established channels such as bookstores, libraries, etc. -- whether or not the reader even owns a computer.

    At present, POD services are still available from Xlibris and iUniverse.

    For previously published authors and small to midsize presses, Unlimited Publishing offers a POD system geared for the professional. UP also accepts a limited number of submissions from new writers.

    POD and e-Book services are also still available from other companies listed in Chapter Five of the second edition of U-Publish.com:


    Online marketing and promotion also remain effective, even if the product is not itself digital. The cost of sending e-mail or building a website like this one to promote a book is usually a small fraction of the cost of direct (postal) mail, printing brochures, and/or print advertising.

    As usual, the publishing industry is changing rapidly at the dawn of the new millennium, for both mainstream and independent publishers. We urge you to visit this site at least once a month, for the latest information.

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