To Publish or Not to Publish?

By Anthony S. Policastro

As writers who have completed books, many of us believe we have written the great American Novel or a nonfiction book that will change the world. And we may have, but the hardest part of being an author is convincing others of your feat. Not that you've written a book, but that your book is revolutionary.

And even after you successfully market your book to the best of your financial and intuitive abilities; it still may not be enough.

It doesn't mean you are failure or your work is inferior, it means that we live in a culture of niche markets. We no longer live in the homogenous society of the 1940s and 1950s where most people pretty much did the same things, bought the same products and lived their lives as they were expected to do – at least on the surface. However, many things are still homogenous like fast food restaurants and chains of hotels, gas stations, department and brand name stores and the big box bookstores. But not people. We blaze our own trails, often not caring what others think, throwing our fate to the wind in many cases. We are Americans and that spirit is truly American.

The hardest thing for authors to do is find their niche markets. Even the publishing professionals don't know until the book is out and they track who is buying and reading it. However, they have a better sense of the markets because they are close to them, and they are right most of the time, but in the past five years or so they have been dead wrong.

Their misjudgments or lack of resources to publish many good books has spawned the self-publishing industry. was the pioneer in 2002 and now is the largest online self-publishing book publishing company in the world. But Lulu is losing that honor to the more than twenty or more online self-publishing firms that have copied their business model to ride the wave including Amazon.

The self-published stigma has melted away

The stigma that only inferior work was self-published has melted away primarily due to the publishing industry's failure to see this emerging market, and because of the Kindle and electronic book publishing. The Kindle and its distribution on Amazon was one of the sparks that ignited the self-publishing firestorm. Now you can access and read a book anywhere at any time, and the reading public determines if a book is a bestseller, not the publishing industry. And there are more bestsellers and good books out there than ever before. There are also more books out there that shouldn't have seen the light of the digital book world. But as the old cliché imparts, "The cream rises to the top." There are many authors who first self-published their work and then had that work picked up by legacy publishers.

And this revolution is gaining momentum. R.R. Bowker, one of the major bellwethers of the book industry, reported that in 2008 print-on-demand books surpassed the number of books published by traditional publishers for the first time. In 2009, there were 288,355 traditionally published titles - a decrease of about 0.5% - while self-published titles reached 764,448. But most of the titles were public domain works brought back into print, according to Bowker. The total self-published books in 2009 by individual authors totaled 57,500. Still impressive.

So the question is: Are you going to wait, perhaps your whole life, for a traditional publisher to pick up your book or are you going to self-publish it and increase your chances of success?

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