On Self-Publishing: To Publish or Not To Publish

by Kevin Norris

The other day, a 9th grade Honor English student of mine approached me, asking me publishing advice. As one who has never been published, I wasn’t quite sure of how to come up with an appropriate response. However, common sense told me that the best response would be, “I think you have to be 18 to legally sign a contract, so I don’t know if you will be able to get published without your parents being involved.”

“I know. They are involved. We are thinking about IUniverse. They said they want to publish my book,” she said. At first, I was confused as to what company would want to publish her book. I’m not an expert critic by any means, but I did read part of it, and though it did have good potential, my good senses would tell me that no legitimate company would publish it as it stood.

Then I thought back to the first book I wrote about 13- years ago. Thinking it was the best thing since Goosebumps, I sent query letter after query letter to agents and publishing companies. After filling up a shoe box with prewritten rejection letters (AKA form letters), I came across a non-traditional publishing company: PublishAmerica and after getting warm praises from my family and friends, I was just about to publish it with that company.

However, I started reading about the publishing industries along with reviews of self-publishing experiences. Most of the literature on the publishing industry states that a writer should never have to pay a fee for anything, not even for a publisher or agent to read your writing samples.

As stated, this was about 13- years ago. My student made me curious about what is out there now. When googling the topic, I saw several familiar sites: Authorhouse, OutskirtPress, and IUniverse.

Authorhouse’s website attempts to draw the author in by using the pathos approach, stating how hard he or she worked on his or her book. The author feels as though he or she deserves to be  published and for the price range, according the website, of $899 to $11, 899, the author can see his or her book in print.

OutskirtPress prices fair a little better. For as low as $399, according to their website, an author can become a published author.  Of course, if the author wants the book edited, there are additional fees.

As far as my search goes, there is no published pricing information with regards to IUniverse publishing. An author has to fill out a request form, so the information can be mail to him or her.

So, what’s the point of self-publishing? When I first contemplated the idea of self-publishing with one of the mentioned companies, my hope was for a big publishing company to read my book and want to publish it, thus, paying me the big bucks. It has been rumored (I can’t find a respectful confirmation) that such authors as Poe, James Joyce and Steven King once self-published.

So as to whether not one should self- publish, hey, if you think that your work will be discovered that way, go ahead. If you want to have your family and friends read your manuscript in a nice shiny book jacket, go ahead. As for me, I will continue to try the tradition route of going through an agent (though I probably won’t become famous until, like Edgar Allen Poe, I’m dead). And, if I want my family and friends to read my books, I will just print them out. They will love them no matter what.

Kevin Norris is a second year MFA in Creative Nonfiction candidate at Old Dominion University. He also teaches High School English; therefore, he has a strong interest in the current trends of public education.  He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife of 22 years and three children.

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