Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a panel on self-publishing, which was hosted by Jersey City Writers to educate aspiring writers on the various methods and virtues of self-publishing. I’m sure there are many among you, like myself, that romanticize the life of a writer — bohemian, spontaneous and fulfilled. We’ve grown up on so many prolific writers who led movements and gave birth to ideas, but if we look back realistically, many of their lives were strange and often grim. That doesn’t mean that life has to be grim and strange to be an effective writer. It’s just a reminder that if a writer wants success, that success won’t come easy, especially as more and more generations of aspiring writers try to break into the industry. With today’s technological resources, a more realistic option may be self-publishing.
The panel included poet Lana Rose Diaz, mystery writer Patricia McFerren, and fiction writer Laryssa Wirstiuk, each of whom have had the experience of publishing their work independently. Local writer Adriana R. Fernandez moderated the panel, asking questions about why they decided to self-publish, how they did it, and the challenges related to self-publishing. The panelists’ answers were insightful and informative, given their range of experience and genres. Both Ms. Diaz and Ms. McFerren self-published using the services provided by CreateSpace, an Amazon company which allows writers to publish on both paperback and Amazon Kindle for free. It’s a pretty incredible service for writers in that it doesn’t cost them anything to make the book, and they are able to attain up to 70 percent of their royalties, which is unheard of in traditional publishing, where writers can maybe get about 12 percent for bound books.
Ms. Wirstiuk went a different route and essentially built her own publishing company from the ground up. She wrote, edited, designed and marketed her book entirely on her own, and crowd sourced funds on Kickstarter for the printing costs. Now there is a possible future in her company Painted Egg Press.
It’s hard work self-publishing, and not just for Ms. Wirstiuk, since Ms. Diaz and McFerren also had to market their work entirely on their own to get some traction. While self-publishing provides a great deal of freedom, writers may not have the level of distribution or clout of traditional publishing houses. Like anything, there is a give and take, but it is comforting to know that there are several established writers, such as David Mamet, who are giving self-publishing a try after becoming increasingly frustrated by the traditional process.
The most important piece of advice if you’re interested in self publishing is to be informed. Do your research! I’ve barely scratched the surface here, and those who attended the panel still have more to learn on the subject, but it was a great start.
Jersey City Writers is a wonderful resource for growing writers. They provide writing prompts, workshops and wonderful panels like the one last night. It is co-chaired by Jim DeAngelis and Rachel Poy, who were very enthusiastic about what they do and welcoming to all those interesting in being a part of Jersey City Writers.