Before it was vanity, there was self publishing

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vanity publishing

Self publishing has been a respected way to launch a career for more than a century.

Let’s call this meeting to order. First we’ll have roll call:
Mark Twain, Thomas Paine, Virginia Woolf, William Strunk and Gertrude Stein – all are here.

Yes, it’s a real who’s who of famous authors. But that’s not the reason for this meeting.
E. B. White, Edgar Allen Poe, e.e. Cummings, Rudyard Kipling and Deepack Chopra – present and accounted for.

There’s one thing that all these authors – and many more – have in common. This next group might tip it off:
Vince Flynn, DH Lawrence, E.L. James, Amanda Hocking and J.A. Konrath – all are in the house.

Have you figured it out yet? OK – here’s the answer: These authors are just like many of you reading this. They all self published books at various points of their literary careers.

For many of these greats, self publishing gave them their start. Poe self-published his first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems. While New York Times bestselling author Vince Flynn was employed as a bartender he completed his first book, Term Limits, which he then self-published.

More recently Amanda Hocking was the first break out author of the eBook generation. Employed as a group home worker until 2010, she wrote 17 novels in her free time, self-publishing them all as eBooks. By March 2011, she had sold over a million copies of her books and earned two million dollars from sales.

Others turned to self publishing later in their careers. In fact Virginia Woolf’s final novel, Between the Acts, was self published in 1941.

We talk about self publishing as the “new” wave of book publishing. And yet the concept of DIY publishing has been around for over a hundred years. It was commonplace, an acceptable – even respected – form of launching a book. At some point, self publishing lost popularity and respect. Writers going it alone evolved into the concept of vanity press. It likely coincided with the rise of the traditional book publishing industry. You now had authors, agents, publishers and book stores in lock step.

Seemingly everything old in publishing is new again. Yet in some ways, eBooks and the associated technology are still very much in their infancy. For most prospective authors, the technology available with enhanced eBooks is still far ahead of the content it could be fulfilling.

Many in the industry believe there has never been a better time to be a writer for so many reasons:

  • For the very first time since movable type was invented, authors can control their own destiny if they so choose. Writers have the opportunity to focus on producing the best work they can for an audience they strive to reach.
  • The internet provides a two-way communication link between authors and readers and is changing the way books are written. This interactive dialogue can help shape and improve books during the writing process.
  • The way we choose to deliver our words can be as thoughtful, expressive, and creative, as the words themselves. Your reasons and method of publishing don’t have to be the same as anyone else on this planet.

Now you too can rub shoulders with the literary elite when you choose self publishing.

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Steven Spatz
Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and the President of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self publishing services company. Spatz’s professional writing career began at age 13, paid by the word to bang out little league baseball game stories on an ancient manual typewriter for southern Oregon weekly newspapers. His journalism career continued after graduation from the University of Oregon at several daily newspapers in Oregon. When his family took over a direct marketing food business, Spatz redirected his writing and design skills into producing catalogs. The Pinnacle Orchards catalog was named "Best Food Catalog," received dozens of other national awards, and the business grew into one of the nation’s largest gourmet fruit gift businesses. After the company was sold, Spatz continued his direct marketing career with Fortune 500 companies including Mattel and Hasbro. He joined AVL Digital in 2004 to lead the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. After serving as Chief Marketing Officer, Spatz was tapped to lead the company’s new publishing division in late 2014. In 2019, the AVL Digital Management team purchased the New Jersey brands, including BookBaby. The company is headquartered in Pennsauken, NJ (just outside Philadelphia, PA) and meets the printed book and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Spatz lives in Glenside, PA with his two children, a demented cat, and some well-used bicycles. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to steven@bookbaby.com.

10 COMMENTS

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