Terrific, fantastic, wonderful news - our own founding member Jack Shackley's "Confederate War Bonnet" has been awarded the gold medal for historical/military fiction in the 2009 Independent Publisher Book Awards! That's the IPPY Awards, for those of us who speak cluent Acronymish. Yay, Jack! Yay, for Independent Publishing! And yay us ... for over the last couple of years, many of the IAG member writers seems to be picking up a lot of those solid and meaningful awards!
Apropos of that, fellow member Lloyd Lofthouse sent a particularly cogent essay about writing and publishing through the email discussion group that deserves wider circulation: here it is, in full -
Self-published books start out untested, which means the book hasn't run any gauntlet like agents and editors that traditionally published books have to suffer to get into print. Yet, traditional publishing is a flawed system and good books don't get picked up all the time but what human system (corporate or government) is perfect?
Also, do not forget that traditionally published books go out to bookstores with a guaranteed buy-back if they don't sell. Why should a bookstore or a library take a risk on a self-published book that hasn't been vetted by agents, editors and reviewers before it is even available just because the author believes the book is good? There is only so much self space and most of it is already taken.
That's why the shelf space that is available goes to traditionally published books. The bookstore would rather take their chance on the book that comes with a guarantee from the publisher than one that has none.
So, there is no way to prove that a self-published book that just came out is worth shelf space in a library or bookstore unless that self-published book somehow proves that it is worthy of further attention. That's where the real battle begins.
It is up to the self-published author to prove that the book he or she wrote is worthy of further attention by gaining reviews, etc that can be used during the promotion. In other words, get noticed as often as possible until people start paying attention.
Sitting back and waiting for lightning to strike is not going to bring the vast majority of self-published books to the attention of the buyers when there are several hundred thousand new titles each year.
Who has time to read them all? Book store owners and librarians have more to do than read endless books from self-published authors, most of which may be of a questionable quality making it more difficult for those that are up to traditional standards to get noticed--like a rusty needle in a hay stack the size of a ten story building.
It may be easier to win a state lottery than getting a self published book noticed if the author sits around waiting to be discovered.
The best places to get started are close to home by becoming a salesman and taking a copy of your book into the local brick and mortar bookstores while also mailing out copies to the best reviewers you can find that will give the book a chance. One example is PODRAM. There are others.
If a writer doesn't have the confidence in what he or she wrote to send it to those reviewers that will give it a chance, why are they writing in the first place. Stick your neck out. Take a chance. Grow a thick skin. You might be surprised. You may also need to return to the drawing board or change directions to some other dream while holding down a crappy day or night job that doesn't pay much or one you would rather not be doing.
In the end, writing should be a passion. The passion may keep you going even when it seems dark and forbidding out there. If writing is your passion, at least on that day you draw your last breath, you can say you gave it your best shot.