Self-publishing is not a dirty word anymore. Although still lacking the street cred of indie musicians or filmmakers, self-publishers have been growing stronger this past decade.
And with them has risen a new market of the usual publishing accoutrements - editors, marketers and consultants - indie style.
The rise has even caused the Writers Union of Canada to vote unanimously to recognize self-published authors as professionals worthy of membership this past June.
To respond to this growing demand, Lansdowne Centre is hosting a new book festival, Raindance: A Festival for Self-Published Authors, next Saturday, Nov. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. "Authors come into the store constantly to ask what they can do to get their books out there," said Connie Smith, manager of Black Bond Books, which is a co-sponsor of the festival. "Publishing has always been hard. A writer can send in copies and copies without getting one response."
The festival includes a book fair, as well as, workshops and personal editorial consultations for emerging authors looking to selfpublish.
"Many new authors are people who have a story, but have no idea what to do next," said
Lynn Duncan of Vivalogue Publishing, another festival sponsor.
Vivalogue emerged in 2010 after identifying this need to help new authors. Its mandate is to provide support to writers whether it is through marketing, pricing, or ordering copies.
In a similar vein, a new Richmond-based publishing house, Pulp Literature Press, wants to provide a platform for emerging writers through a quarterly anthology that focuses on short fiction and excerpts from longer novels.
The anthology, Pulp Literature, is expected to launch in December and also includes big names such as CC Humphreys and JJ Lee - as long as they write outside their comfort zone.
"We realized there aren't a lot of places that publish short stories," said Jennifer Landels, who runs the press along with Susan Pieters and Melanie Anastasiou. "The idea is they can either self-publish or publish somewhere afterwards. We're a small press, it's intimate and hands on."
The company will also hold workshops on how to self-publish and market oneself, and provide developmental help for emerging authors submitting manuscripts.
"We won't just send manuscripts back, but we'll give them editing suggestions and help them improve," she said. "Even if authors aren't self-published, they need to know how to market themselves because big publishing houses don't have the resources for that anymore."
Pulp Literature has been crowd-sourcing funding through a Kickstarter campaign that ends on Nov. 5.
New role for bookstores With the rise of self-publishers and publishing consultants, independent bookstores such as Black Bond Books has a new niche to fill as well.
Making customer service and the local community its priority, the family-owned, independent bookstore has managed to remain a David against the Goliaths of Indigo and other big box stores.
Now, with self-publishers, it can develop a mutual partnership with authors, both pushing for community support.
"It's more of a service to the community," said Smith, who has worked at Black Bond for 16 years. "Authors aren't making much of a profit and neither are we, but I believe authors have the right to get their work out there and their voices heard.
"We just have to keep pushing for it and that starts with the local community. The
same thing happened with independent films and now there are many festivals out there." Self-published author Bill Engleson, featured at the festival, recognizes his new relationship with bookstores. He personally went to them with copies of his first book, Like a Child to Home, a fictional account of his experiences as a social worker.
He's gotten into about four or five bookstores so far. Although breaking even, his larger purpose is to get the word out there.
"Bookstores are under assault right now," said Engleson. "They need to - and that's the same with self-publishing or emerging authors - start building a market locally. The two can support each other and create a niche of regulars."
Black Bond currently holds about 20-30 self-published authors, according to Smith. They generally stay on the shelves for about 30-40 days, and if they do well, they stay in
the store longer.
At the same time, in the absence of a publisher, bookstores become the gatekeeper for authors. Without a reputable publisher to stand behind them, stores need to be more careful about the quality of work they accept.
"We have to be choosy," Smith said. "If they haven't been edited properly, they get turned away. We aren't editors, but we have to hold the books to a certain standard, as they represent our store."
Amazon, diluting quality "I'm in two minds about selfpublishing versus going through an established publisher," said Engleson.
"I would have liked to have a book worth circulating, but it's not all that simple anymore. Sometimes you get it out there first, and then people see its worth."
Engleson points to author Terry Fallis who self-published because he couldn't find a publisher and went on to win the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour.
Instead of being challenged to get their work published, authors are now being challenged to stand out and prove themselves. Publishing is no longer the main obstacle.
In April, The New York Times wrote, "Selfpublished titles made up roughly one-quarter of the top-selling books on Amazon last year." Books published online to websites such as Amazon, used to be scorned with an "anybody can do that" mentality. Now, however, Amazon is challenging bookstores as more authors take the cheaper option by publishing ebooks.
Duncan, of Vivalogue Publishing, sees the change as a product of the times and the Internet.
"An author once told me that Gutenberg created a whole society of readers, now the
Internet has created a whole society of writers," she said. "The world is changing so fast, the idea of documenting and recording your life is becoming stronger."
Even Vivalogue emerged after the owner's mother wanted to publish her memoir, a common practice amongst the aging population. However, Smith and most in the book industry believe there's room for both the publisher and self-publisher, printed book and e-book.
"Amazon has impacted us a lot, but a true book lover will always come in and buy a book," she said. "There's an emotional attachment to it, they like to leaf through the printed pages. There will always be room for both."
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