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Member Dispatch: DIY Publishing with Steve Almond

by Jim Ringel

I'd listen to what this guy says about ... well, most things.

I’d listen to what this guy says about … well, most things.

Okay. We’re all writers. Or at least people who aspire to being writers. Or maybe just people who aspire to having the IRS consider us writers so we can itemize the alcohol and cigarettes.

But what’s the moment when we actually convince ourselves we’ve become a writer?

For most, it’s when we achieve that elusive moment of publication. When we’ve actually created something of weight and heft and multiple pages that we can hand to our mothers and say, “Here, ma, the next time that Missus Mulveney at your nursing home mentions her son the doctor, smack her with this. That’ll get her thinking.”

That’s why we write–to get something weighty enough down on a paper that when we smack someone with it, it makes them think.

We just need a plan.

Luckily Steve Almond spelled one out at his Lit Fest session, Do It Yourself publishing.

Let’s set the backdrop.  Publishing no longer strictly resides inside the restricted neighborhood of New York City. Today’s technology has democratized it. The average author can now visit his local bookstore or print shop, and with the magic of a credit card and the push of a button render multiple copies of a freshly crafted manuscript suitable for distribution to readers far and wide.

But Steve brings home the lesson that self publishing’s accessibility should force the writer into a painfully honest self-inventory of why he or she writes in the first place. That’s how to determine if self publishing is for you.

First, start with the basics. How important is that your book be printed on paper, or electronically, or both? The decision the writer makes here dictates how the book is distributed and what audience it will reach.

Also consider, how important it is that your book be reviewed? Are reader reviews on personalized blogs your target, or is it important to you that you’re reviewed in newspapers and literary publications? And the big question – how much money does your published work need to generate to cover the expense of its publication, and perhaps leave a few shekels for investing in the writer’s Keough.

Second, as a DIY writer you are also the marketer and copyeditor of your work, so how confident are you that it’s ready? How do you know? How will you publicize it? A blog? Public appearances? Your mother at the nursing home? It’s up to the author – no one else – to  find the audience that he or she envisioned while writing.

Next consider the publishing process itself.  The Tattered Cover here in Denver has a “book making machine”, but is there one at your local bookstore? What’s your budget – both financial and time-wise? Who can design your book’s cover and inside pages, and what’s that going to cost? What resources do you have that can get you through this process?

And then bring it around full circle, back to your starting point. What readership and audience would you consider a success?  Like Steve says, “books are a niche at the edge of today’s culture,” and that’s a good thing, helping us to narrow down our audience to that small segment that reads.  Figure out who they are, and you’ve found your audience.

2 comments on “Member Dispatch: DIY Publishing with Steve Almond

  1. annablakegodbout
    July 24, 2013

    I need to know something here. Steve Almond, have you self published yourself? Having sold over 500 copies of my poetry book, with Tattered Cover Press as my printer and not doing the “expert’s advice” their way, I can easily answer the above questions with no problem. You bring up very good questions and thoughts; I greatly appreciate them as a self published author and publisher.

  2. andreadupree
    July 24, 2013

    Hi, there! I know he *has* published himself! When he comes through Lighthouse, he sells hundreds of copies of his little self-made books. (I’m sure he does this wherever he teaches or reads.) But he’s also gone through traditional publishing…

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This entry was posted on June 11, 2013 by in Delusions, LitFest, Member dispatches, The Scoop, The Write Idea, Writing.

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