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Publish yourself

ANNA BLOOM, Of the Record staff

Amy Fischer self-published "If I Knew Then," a memoir about shooting her lover’s wife, with iUniverse. In October of 2004, for one week, the book made the New York Times Best-Sellers List.

But "The Long Island Lolita" is an exception. As Jim Milliot, editor for Publishers Weekly, observes, she had a built-in platform. She was well known in the New York area, writing columns for the Long Island Press.

"That’s probably the biggest hit they’ve ever had," he surmises in an interview with The Park Record.

Milliot concedes that self-publishing is a growing industry, but it’s no threat.

"Big publishers are threatened by a lot of things, but self-publishing isn’t one of them," he says. "Book publishers are criticized a lot for moving slow in technology, but in this instance, they’ve been protected."

Unlike the music industry, books are seldom pirated off the internet. Readers still prefer a book in print, he says.

"There was a thought, once upon a time, that maybe some big-name authors or Grisham or somebody would say, ‘Look, I don’t need a publisher to market me, so instead of taking an advance or 50-percent royalty, I’ll do it myself," he explains. "But no one has really left, for no other reason than they do get the advance, which is guaranteed money in the bank."

Thus, aside from a select group of Fishers, the crowd that’s driving the self-publishing market is first-time novelists like Park City residents Milt Lynnes who recently self-published his novel, "The Ad Game" through everyonegetspublished.com, and Jan Jaworski, who published her autobiographical book, "Learning to Live, Laugh and Love Again after the Death of an Adult Child." And often, it’s after giving up on traditional avenues that they decide to self-publish. Jaworski says she sent her manuscript to 108 publishers before opting to do it herself at Xulon Press.

Cost-effective new technologies such as on-demand printing make it possible for authors to opt out.

"Before the Internet, self-publishing was called ‘vanity publishing,’ and it was expensive. They wouldn’t print it unless you ordered a couple thousand copies," Milliot says.

Today, for $599 to $1,000, iUniverse will turn a manuscript into a paperback with a cover design, provide an International Standard Book Number — an ID number to place the book in a central bibliographic database — then make copies available at Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and other online retailers.

Lannie Scopes, a Park City cowboy poet, is also seeing his books at the actual Barnes and Noble store in Salt Lake City. However, Scopes’ fictional narrative about a Utah man’s journey north during the 1898 Alaskan Gold Rush, "The Life and Times of Samuel J. Groo," received extra distribution. It earned iUniverse’s Editor’s Choice designation, which put Scopes into "higher-level programs and designations," including one month at Barnes and Noble. Awarded titles are selected by iUniverse management team, a group with editorial and managerial experience with traditional publishers such as HarperCollins, Putnam, Simon & Schuster and Holtzbrinck. The recognition deems the book as having "the essential editorial qualities of a professionally published book."

Scopes appreciates the creative control self-publishing gives him, yet he says he too, tried to pitch his book the traditional way beforehand. He sent more than 100 letters to traditional publishers and all came back to his mailbox. "I got discouraged and let it sit for a while," he says. "Then, a couple of years ago, the Internet had changed things, so I thought, let me check out self-publishing."

And while Scopes praises the experienced iUniverse management team that edited his manuscript, and the fast service provided by self-publishing, he still grapples with the issue of distribution.

"iUniverse doesn’t distribute or work with distributors," he explains. "Self-publishers don’t give a big enough discount to distributors to make it worth their while."

Scopes views his self-published book as a stepping stone. He plans to write a sequel to "Life and Times" and again approach the big-name, established publishers.

"The thing about self-publishing is that you can go as far as you’re willing to push and pay," he says. "You always hope that someone might see it If I write a follow-up book, I would go back and approach real publishers. I think having one book self-published might help me the second time."

Scopes says he gets updates on the sales of his books from iUniverse, but that he won’t look at the numbers in case he might get discouraged.

"I didn’t approach writing from a money-making point of view or as a career," he explains. "But if the opportunity presented itself, I would love it."


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