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Self-Publishing thoughts

03 Jul

A colleague recently introduced me to Salon.com, a news & entertainment Web site, but forwarding a link to an article about how internet self-publishing opportunities will affect not only the publishing industry but also the experience of readers. (Article at http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2010/06/22/slush) In “When anyone can be a published author” Laura Miller, a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review, points out that without the editor’s function of wading through reams of manuscripts to find the worthwhile ones, readers will be faced with that daunting task themselves. In the end they will rely on various online sources to steer them towards worthwhile reading. In other words, if traditional publishing does disappear, as some believe is inevitable, the same functions will be performed by a different set of people. Whether the result is better or worse is still up for grabs.

My first experience with non-traditional publishing came from my family. Somewhere in the family archives I hauled back from Arizona is a copy of my grandfather’s self-published book that trained his photofinishing employees to produce the best possible prints for Cunningham Studios. He used the most innovative training technique of the time, self-paced instruction, in which content is broken down into small increments and learning is reinforced through frequent questions on recent concepts. This self-published training manual served its purpose, meeting the needs of his business.

My father, too, has self-published, most notably the various volumes of his cruising guides to the Sea of Cortez (a.k.a. Gulf of California) still available at www.gerrycruise.com. Dad was not one to sit around waiting for someone else to believe in his ideas. He was willing to put forth the money and effort to do it all himself, including marketing. For years he and Mother had their regular annual circuit of West Coast boat shows and other sail gatherings where they manned the Gerry Cruising Charts booth and gave slide shows and talks about the Sea of Cortez. The most challenging part of this endeavor was dealing with printing costs. When the business started Dad would pay for a printing run, paying up front, and then hope to make enough money selling that stock to order a new print run. Any corrections or adjustments had to wait for the next printing. As computer technology became more sophisticated and came down in cost he enlisted the help of friend David Parker and later my brother Peter to do more of the layout and printing himself. Had they only been dealing with the 8 1/2 x 11 cruising guides it would have been simpler, but their printing operation also had to handle the larger format charts. Making a profit was a struggle, but self-publishing enabled Dad to share his passion for cruising the Sea of Cortez.

Tomorrow: Publish on demand using Blurb.com.

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