What belongs on the shelves of a bookstore? Sure, there is fiction and non-fiction, but what about the spaces among those overly broad areas? I happen to be “in charge” of part of the Fiction area in my bookstore, but each day is a constant struggle over what should go on the shelves, due to space limitations. Most goes to the “big name” authors who have established careers with the largest publishing houses, but what about the many abundant smaller, independent presses?
Both of my novels, one of which was honored to be read by Marie on the Indie Beginning Podcast, were published by a small independent press here in Minnesota. North Star Press has been cranking out books from Minnesota authors for over forty years, and yet customers will very rarely see their books on our shelves
(definitely not mine). There is only so much space.
I want to compare and contrast my book with Marie’s and see how they shake out. As I said, mine was put out with the support of a local independent press: they handled the editing, distribution, cover art, and ensuring I had books for my events. Marie’s was made through CreateSpace, which is owned by Amazon (as is GoodReads). She had an artist friend of hers create the cover, and she told me she’s never had an issue getting the book into stores and libraries in the New York area. This is a part of the country in which I thought it would be hardest to break into the literary scene, but perhaps it is not.
Here we have two different options for authors just starting out, and I’m not going to tell you which one to choose. All I can do is describe the process for each and let you decide. I had to send NSP the first thirty pages of my manuscript. Once they decided based it was worth publishing, I worked with their editor to get the book into shape. This meant some back and forth over the galleys and the cover art. Once it was ready to go, they were able to place it into every bookstore that I traveled to, whether that was in Minneapolis, Buffalo, or Stillwater. But it still came down to me to flog the book and get it into people’s’ hands, and that meant doing events and reading in front of the few people who would show up to them.
I’m going to let Marie tell you in her own words about CreateSpace:
“The process is simple-you upload the edited final of your manuscript, or for a price they’ll edit (I use my own editor) that is after you choose the book size, print size, page color, etc. etc. You then can either upload your own cover work or you can go through their library of cover art, or for another price, work with one of the Create Space specialists (graphic designers) who customize a complete cover for you. After everything is loaded you can digitally view the book (not the cover), make sure the pages look right, there is not weird cut-offs, no haphazard pages, blanks, anything you can think of. Then you adjust the original file and go through it again. You then order a proof of the book before CS will allow you to click the market and go live button. You have to look at the entire thing in your hands, cover to cover, adjust if needed or go to marking. Marketing puts you on Amazon, B&N, makes your book available to schools and libraries, puts it on Kobo, Indie Bound, Google Play, and about 10 other wholesale booksellers. You set up your Kindle, three clicks and boom you’re done.”
She also adds: “CS also emphasizes they are not your agent, or publisher-they are solely your printing company so they are not to be named anywhere on your book-hence ACNBooks being born as an actual business entity.”
Sounds simple enough, right? I have to admit I when I was looking at publishing my first novel I turned my nose downward on an option like this, but Marie has since convinced me that this outlet has made strides in what they can accomplish for authors.
This brings me back to my original topic: do independent/small press books belong on the shelf next to those published by the “big” houses (Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and those in Minneapolis like Graywolf)? It is my opinion that they do. In fact, the way the “big” publishing industry works is so bizarre and insular I sometimes wonder why authors even go that way at all. A lot of the books I see come into my used book store were popular for about six months, and then no one seemed to care anymore. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people walk in stacks of old Pattersons and Roberts, which again once they’ve traveled their life from hardcover to soft do nothing but lose value. Is this what you are looking for as a writer? I would hope not. As writers, our goal should be to produce stories that last, that shape the literary world, that affect people. While you can do this with a larger press, it isn’t mandatory.
So how do we get our books put up there with the “big names?” I’m not sure, but I would like to explore this topic more from this column.
***PLEASE NOTE*** since this article was written a statement from CreateSpace has come out stating that they will soon be merging with KDP, becoming a KDP service. For more information please read this article from KDP detailing the merge and changes
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