Book publishing: The choices for writers are daunting these days. With the contraction of traditional publishing houses, the rise of fee-based presses and the explosion of new digital options for self-publishing, the opportunities (and pitfalls) for authors have never been greater — or more overwhelming.
On Saturday, June 7, Southern Oregon Willamette Writers will host a "Publish or Perish!" panel discussion from 10 a.m. to noon at Central Point City Hall. Portland author Marni Bates and Ashland authors Molly Best Tinsley, Cheryl Colwell, Ken Goddard and Midge Raymond will share their diverse publishing experiences and help writers weigh the many options. An afternoon workshop on online marketing with follow.
Traditional publishing houses offer quality, prestige and no financial outlay for the author. However, as Tinsley notes, it's difficult for new writers to gain access.
What: Book Publishing Panel Discussion and workshop
When: Saturday, June 7. Panel discussion will be from 10 a.m. to noon. Brown bag discussion will be from noon to 1 p.m. Workshop is from 1 to 3 p.m.
Where: Central Point City Hall Council Chambers, 140 S. Third St., Central Point
Cost: Panel discussion is free for members, $10 for visitors. Workshop is $10 for members, $15 for visitors (or all day for $20)
"During the era of corporate mergers, business people took over publishing and it changed completely," she says. "Today, the industry plays it safe, wants guaranteed profits."
Tinsley's work has won her the Oregon Book Award and the Sandstone Prize. Her early books were published by Houghton Mifflin and Ohio State Press. Her current memoir and spy thrillers are products of Fuze Publishing, the independent press she co-founded.
Midge Raymond also made the transition to independent publishing. As co-owner of Ashland Creek Press, Raymond cites the benefits of smaller presses, including personal and editorial attention.
"With large publishers, you have to be a top author to get the attention you can get with a small press," she says.
Nominated for several Pushcart Prizes, Raymond won the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. Her stories have appeared in American Literary Review and Los Angeles Times magazine.
Marni Bates prefers the distribution system large publishers offer. "They got me in Barnes and Noble. ... That's a big deal," she says. "I still do lots of outreach, but I'm not responsible for getting that book in the store."
After publishing her autobiography at age 19, Bates received a multi-book deal from Kensington Teen. Her debut novel has been translated into four languages and optioned by Disney for a television film.
In addition to choosing between large and small presses, writers must decide whether to offer physical books. Although New York Times bestselling author Ken Goddard has published with Bantam, Random House, and Simon and Schuster, his latest crime suspense novels are e-books.
"Having your book physically on the bookshelves is a tremendous advantage," says Goddard, "but publishers are leery to make books out of paper anymore."
With the emergence of e-books and print-on-demand options, many authors have turned to self-publishing. The costs and risks are their own, but they receive a larger percentage of sales profits.
Notes Bates, "I know a lot of people making a lot more money in self-publishing. ... If you are strategic, it can do amazing things for you."
Cheryl Colwell spent seven years mastering self-publishing. Her contemporary suspense novels are working their way up the Amazon charts and have been included in the anthology Taste and See.
"Seven hundred books are published each week," says Colwell, "which sounds like a lot, but there are 1.2 million potential books out there and not enough places for them. Indie publishing is here to stay."
No matter how an author publishes, book marketing is primarily his or her responsibility. After the morning panel discussion, Colwell will present a workshop on building an online presence using "Web-Org," a free program and e-manual she developed.
"The program helps people collect all their marketing data in one place, and the e-manual tells them how to do that," says Colwell. "It saves me hours."
Participants are encouraged to bring their computers to the afternoon workshop, which will be from 1 to 3 p.m. A brown-bag discussion will fill the lunch hour from noon to 1 p.m.
All presentations are at Central Point City Hall Council Chambers, 140 S. Third Street, Central Point. Cost for the panel discussion is free for members, $10 for visitors. The afternoon workshop costs $10 for members, $15 for visitors (or all day for $20).
Kate Hannon is a freelance writer living in the Rogue Valley.