Thursday, August 1, 2013

Why I am Self-Publishing "I Am Your Brother": Short Story Studies"

The book I have just completed, “I Am Your Brother” Short Story Studies, is not the book I announced I was working on a year or so ago. I am still working on that book, tentatively titled Reading Short Stories or How to Read Short Stories (I haven’t decided yet.)  This book is a study of the short story form that I have been developing throughout my career and is largely made up of revised essays I have previously published.  I just thought it was time to revisit these pieces and see if they indeed had a unifying theme sufficient to make a book.

Why am I self-publishing this book using Amazon’s Createspace?  For the following reasons:

I have been retired now for seven years.  I obviously do not need credits on my resume to support advancement and promotion that juried publication by a commercial or university press might bring.
If I were to try to get this book published by a commercial or university press, I would have to undergo the tedious process of sending out proposals and getting rejection, and then sending them out again until I found a publisher that might be interested.  I am well aware that university presses are being financial squeezed these days, and I know that the short story form does not have academic interest among university faculty that still seem to favor cultural studies, social studies, and political studies of the novel.

Furthermore, even if the manuscript were accepted by a university press, it would take a year or more to see publication.  Then the press would only publish a few hundred copies and probably charge $60.00 or more per copy, sell it only to a few libraries, not have enough money to promote it, and pay me about 10 % royalties, that is, once they had sold enough copies to recoup their publication expenses.

By self-publishing this book with Amazon/Createspace, I can charge a nominal price--$9.99—making it quite affordable to my readers while still earning me a modest royalty. I can promote it myself by announcing it on my blog, Facebook, and Twitter.  It can be made available on Amazon on my author page within a few days of submission and format approval. The book will be what is known as a POD—publish-on-demand, which simply means that once Amazon has it on their data base, they can immediately publish, bind, and ship a copy as soon as it is ordered, and not before.  Thus there is no stocking, no returns, no discounted remainders, etc. A little later, I can easily convert it to an ebook version available on Kindle and other places.

There are some downsides to this decision to self-publish, as well as some unknowns. First, I had to learn features of Microsoft Word that I was not familiar with.  Second, I have to follow specific formatting procedures that will make the book acceptable for publication by Createspace, procedures which are still giving me fits when things don’t turn out the way I expect. 

 I have had to design my own cover, and I am still not sure how it will look when it is printed. I have to do my own promotion, which, in spite of the interest shown in my blog, may not be sufficient to get the word out to teachers, professors, students, and general readers who might be interested in the short story, but not familiar with my blog. I have no effective way to distribute review copies to academic journals, magazines, and websites, and I will have to bear the expense of review copy distribution myself. Furthermore, I have no way to make the book available to bookstores, other than Amazon, or to libraries.

As soon as I finish the final editing and indexing and submit it successfully to Createspace, I will provide more information here on what the book covers, complete with a table of contents and brief summaries. The book is not based on material I have posted on this blog, but rather on my essays and articles that are not easily available elsewhere.

If anyone has any cautionary tales about self-publishing with Createspace, Smashwords, or other companies, I would appreciate hearing them.  Suggestions about getting the word out about the book to interested readers would be most appreciated. Expressions of interest would also be encouraging as I labor to complete the final editing in the appropriate format that will make this a useful and professional contribution to the study of the short story.


Richard L. Pangburn said...

Such self-publishing is indeed the most realistic form of publishing today. Authors everywhere seem to be catching on to it now. Even popular thriller authors are beginning to go that route.

One of them, Barry Eisler, broke down the economics of his novels on his blog.

Authors and bookstores are enduring tough times in general, but as you must be aware, there has never been much money in scholarship--although now the irony is that works of scholarship sell better on the internet than fiction, speaking only currently and generally.

You are certain to have a customer here, even if some of your essays have been previously collected or have appeared here on your blog.

Charles E. May said...

Thanks, Richard. I appreciate your interest and support.


Dorothy Johnston said...

I think it's interesting that you've made the decision to self-publish, for some of the same reasons i have. And I echo Richard's comment. I look forward to buying and reading your book once it appears on Amazon. My experience of self-publishing a collection of stories, (after many years of being published in print by a variety of publishers), has been a positive one so far. I have found Goodreads a useful forum for reaching potential readers.

Charles E. May said...

Thanks for the suggestion about Goodreads, Dorothy. I know what you mean. I have published nine books with both commercial and university presses, but at this point in my life, I don't need the aggravation of trying to "sell" a book idea to publishers that just aren't interested.

Anonymous said...

Please consider this an expression of interest! If it was $60 I'd ask my Uni. library to order it - at $10 I'll buy my own copy - and may well ask my students to buy copies as well. (I am both student and TA.) Very much looking forward to reading it.

A. J. Ashworth said...

This sounds like a must-read for short story enthusiasts. I know of one place who may wish to feature the book in some way - Thresholds (the international short story forum): Booker-longlisted Alison MacLeod is involved with this and is a short story writer herself and keen supporter of the form. The journal Short Fiction in Theory & Practice (edited by Ailsa Cox) may also be able to mention it in some way perhaps?,id=196/ Best of luck with it - I'll certainly be interested in a copy myself (if available in the UK).

barbara renel said...

Brilliant news. I think you'll find that in Britain the word will spread. Looking forward to its release. I'm assuming we'll be able to purchase a copy if we are in the UK?

Joe Melia said...

Great news, Charles. There are lots of websites and blogs over here in the UK and elsewhere that would be interested in seeing/reviewing it - The Short Review, Thresholds (as mentioned above by Andrea Ashworth),Robaroundbooks,the website for the new Rhys Davies Short Story Conference venture in Wales (hope they've invited you!!), Chris Power (via Guardian or twitter), The European Short Story Network //,

Best of luck with it.


Charles E. May said...

Thanks very much, Joe, for these great suggestions. I appreciate it and will follow up on all of them.

dan powell said...

You have a definite customer here. Will there be an ebook version available too?

As A.J. Ashworth says, Thresholds would certainly be interested in featuring the book. You could also try The Short Review, a UK based site run by Tania Hershman:

Looking forward to reading the collected essays.

Charles E. May said...

Thanks for your support. As soon as I get the paperback version up on Amazon, I will convert "I Am Your Brother": Short Story Studies to an ebook version, a few dollars cheaper than the paperback price.

Joe Melia said...

...also, Charles, do you know the excellent The Short Form : ?
Apologies if you do. A recent discovery but a very happy one!



Charles E. May said...

Thanks, Joe, yes, I have that site bookmarked. I appreciate your suggestions.

Lee said...

I too will be ordering a copy. This is a boon, since university press publications are often too expensive for my budget.

I do have a suggestion: if you can afford it, get a professional whose work you are confident about to design the cover (I speak from experience, since I will definitely do this next time round. It makes an enormous difference. Similarly, a professional copyedit may be helpful.

Charles E. May said...

Thanks for the support and the suggestion, Lee. I don't expect to make any money on this book, but at the same time I don't want to spend any money on it either, so I will stick with my own cover just to see how it comes out. I know the picture's resolution is not high, but I like it, since it depicts the hands of my daughter and granddaughter. Besides, I don't expect this book will ever be displayed in any bookstore, so cover appeal is not that important. Thanks for your interest, Lee. I always appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

A wise decision. My experience of publishing my debut novel with Create Space and Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing and several short stories as ebooks has been extremely positive. I would recommend The Short Review and Library Thing (which has a more literary leaning than Goodreads). Blog reviews and online reviews are a good way to spread the word and I believe you already have many interested readers. I look forward to hearing about the release. I will be speaking the the International Conference on the Short Story in Vienna next year. I would be happy to promote your work there if you wish.

Charles E. May said...

Very good to hear from you, Ms. Malby. I just submitted my book to Createspace, after much formatting angst. I hope for the best. Thanks for the suggestions; I was not familiar with Library Thing and will check into it.

I also have been invited to speak at the 2014 Short Story Conference in Vienna, but am not sure I can make it because of a previous commitment to do the keynote at a Canada conference on Alice Munro next summer. Thanks for offering to put in a word about my new book there. I hope it is worth your interest.