I just read a brilliant blog by Jane Friedman called There Are No Rules - My Big Rant on Self-Publishing. I highly recommend it as a good and informative read.
Here's my story and my take on it:
As a writer who has both been self-published (well, subsidy published to be more precise, since I am not the publisher of record, although...I did do all the writing, page layout, cover design, etc. myself for my book) and small press published via the e-book model (with a possible print version in the coming year), I really appreciated what Ms. Friedman had to say.
As she states, the face of publishing is indeed changing. With writers having to do much of the promotional work themselves to get their book 'out there' in the public view, because writers must be the ones to generate interest (and, hopefully, sales!) on their own, and with the new technologies moving in a total fast-forward - and only gaining in momentum, (not to mention a sluggish economy), it was (and is) an inevitability.
Do many writers still use as the benchmark being published by a big NYC publishing house? Yes. And, to be honest, I'm no exception. I still have some projects I'd like to see accepted there. It's a kind of validation. I admit it. It's why I go to conferences and mentor programs such, and try to build up my name recognition via the social networking sites. But is it the be-all and end-all anymore? No. At least, not always.
In the case of Mugging for the Camera, I chose to self-publish (all right, all right - subsidy publish) because I had actually submitted it around to an assortment of well-researched markets, but I receiced a less than successful outcome. At least, from my prospective.
A good chunk of the poems in the book had been previously published in an assortment of journals, and a number of them had placed in (or even won) contests. I had a small following at readings, too.
After submitting, I eventually heard from all but one of those publishers. (The 'one' is another blog post for later on.) I received some truly nice and at times fantastic comments from most of the publishers to whom I sent the book. Unfortunately, in the end, they all declined to take on the project, because, as one publisher succinctly put it, they didn't know how to market a quirky, humorous poetry book.
I decided that I was going to do it anyway.
I knew that poetry, in the main, isn't a top seller, and I knew that I didn't have the business acumen or background to become a book publisher per se. Yes, I could have come up to speed on this with a lot of work, but that was not the direction I wanted to focus on at the time.
I did debate the merits of it, however, as well as the cost issues both financial and personal, and I read and researched a lot of postings and writings by people like Dan Poynter, Shel Horowitz, Pete Masterson, John Culleton, Irene Watson, Marion Gropen, Walt Shiel, Aaron Shepard and experts like them.
I joined the Yahoo groups about POD publishing, self-publishing and the Independent Authors Guild, just to name a few. These sites helped guide me, too.
Finally, I also started looking into the POD companies, also called (yes, sigh!) subsidy companies. I did this because I didn't expect that MFTC would be an outrageous success, but it was something I really wanted to do, and this kind of business model would probably work best for what I wanted to do.
I found several sites which gave a lot of background and info on the various POD companies. I reviewed Dehanna Bailee's list of POD companies and An Incomplete Guide to POD Publishers among a whole host of other resources on this topic. I also asked friends who had gone this route as to their opinions and experiences.
And then I checked out individual companies websites, too. When I finally made my choice for Mugging for the Camera (Virtualbookworm.com), I did so knowing full-well about what I was getting into. And I'm glad I did exactly what I did. Would this be right for everyone? Well, no, but my advise is to do your homework.
As for Penny Wishes - that was a different story. I had hoped to be published by a party other than myself. Again - that pesky validation thing, right? So, I researched publishing companies which I thought would be a good match for my story. I figured that a small press might be the better way to pursue this - and I found a company from my online search which I thought would be a good match. As it turned out, I was both right - and very lucky.
Lilley Press was the first and only place I submitted the book! This does occur sometimes, you know! As it happens, they specialize in e-books, with the potential (and possibility) to go to a print version later on. PW went through acquisitions and the reader process there, just like any book under consideration. After it was accepted, I worked with an editor who helped me to polish the book and bring it into its current form and reality. Having imput with the cover designer was a nice final touch (and probably more common to small press publishers than with the bigger operations.)
Anyway, I think, in rather wordy fashion, I've made my point. (This is why I work with a writing group - to rein me in! And also, why I usually write in poetic form, because it's far more succinct and to the point!)
In this day and age, pretty much anything can and will work, but you need to do your homework and due diligence.