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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkEntertainment | Books | April 2009 

Self-Publishing Comes Into Its Own
email this pageprint this pageemail usDavid Lyons - PVNN

R.D. Lyons has written 3 novels, which can be purchased in Puerto Vallarta bookstores and at
In a recent Publisher's Weekly article by Rachel Deahl, several examples were reported of authors whose self-published books were picked up by major publishers. These Cinderella stories seem to be occurring with greater frequency.

From 'Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood' by Rebecca Wells, published in 1996, made into a film in 2002, to Kathleen McGowan's seven-figure deal with Simon & Schuster for her Mary Magdalene series in 2006, authors who have taken the 'Do-It-Yourself' route seem to be enjoying enhanced market share.

Are the traditional publishing houses beginning to look seriously at self-published authors, or are these authors becoming more adept at mass marketing? The answer would seem to be a bit of both.

A recent self-published phenomenon, 'The Shack' by William P. Young, sold more than half a million copies before it was picked up by a mainstream publisher. In trade paperback, it debuted on the N.Y. Times bestseller list at No. 1.

Another DIY author recently received $2 million for a 2 book deal, and an initial print run of 200,000 of her self-published novel. Self-published submissions may have been looked on with skepticism in the past, but senior editors are admitting that this is no longer the case.

As always, content matters, but authors who have shown sales of at least 1,000 copies on their own are beginning to find doors open which were once firmly shut. Of course, successful sales imply a successful marketing effort as well, and an author's proven ability in this area is a factor many editors seek.

One author achieved instant fame-and sales success for her book-as an excerpt of a technical talk she gave was uploaded to the Internet. The release of her self-published book by a major publisher was timed to coincide with her appearance on Oprah.

Despite the success stories though, the 'DIY' route is still far from a sure-fire introduction to the world of traditional publishing. Editors remain dubious, and most look for a threshold of about 4,000 sales before they consider a property to have potential.

In other words, self-published authors must prove themselves, much like a minor league player before being called up to the majors. But there's nothing wrong with this. With the Internet, the increasingly democratic world of publishing is literally providing a world of opportunity where none existed before.

Till recently, the Internet and other tools employed by self-published authors favored writers of non-fiction and it's not difficult to understand why. Non-fiction works-relationship advice, financial planning-just to use two examples, by their nature lend themselves to more precise characterization and linkage to specific interest groups, i.e. targeted buyers.

Listen to most of the so-called 'gurus' of self-publishing, and their marketing advice will strongly favor non-fiction, rather than fiction. But look at the examples given above; fiction is more than well represented.

How did they do it? Public speaking provides a great boost. The Shack's author claims much of the book's success was due to word of mouth. The fact that he is a theologian and speaks to large audiences on a regular basis probably didn't hurt.

The author of the technical book whose speech was uploaded to the Internet is another example. Yet another, a college professor sold 20,000 copies of a book written 'by' his dog. His book debuts under a major publisher's imprint next year. College professors are hardly strangers to public speaking. Without a doubt, Internet marketing is crucial, but the most primitive forms of advertising cannot be overlooked.

So, bottom line. Self-publishing is not just an end in itself, but increasingly provides a stepping stone to the world of traditional publishing. The self-published author who aspires to the 'big leagues' can make it by proving there is a market for his work. For most authors, that belief caused them to write the book in the first place.

A long-time resident of Puerto Vallarta, R.D. (David) Lyons is an accomplished author who has published 3 novels and contributes educational and entertaining articles to several local publications. When not writing, he can be found singing jazz standards to his own guitar accompaniment at several of the town's most popular venues.

Click HERE for more articles by David Lyons.

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