This is the 10th instalment in our Ecology of Books series, examining the complex interrelationships that comprise Canada’s publishing industry — from small-press proprietors to the country’s biggest houses, from booksellers to book bloggers to book reviewers. Today, Mark Medley explores the changing face of self-publishing.
When Terry Fallis sits down at his desk, he’s reminded of how far he’s come. Four of his book covers are tacked to a nearby bulletin board. In the top right is the mock-up cover for his novel, The Best Laid Plans, which never saw the light of day. To its left is the cover of his self-published version, which Fallis released in September 2007. Below it is the paperback edition published by McClelland & Stewart after the book won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. And to its right is the cover of his forthcoming novel, The High Road, which will hit stores this fall.
“It’s kind of like you’re playing in the minor leagues,” he says, “and you get called up to the Stanley Cup finals.”
In 2006, Fallis began his search for a publisher the traditional way, sending sample chapters to agents and publishers across Canada. He was “greeted with a deafening silence.”
“It was a pretty easy decision — although a last resort — to move down to self-publishing,” he says.
After researching his options, he signed on with iUniverse, where a publishing package currently costs $599 and $4,200. He spent $3,500, which paid for cover-design advice, an editorial review of the manuscript, a publishing assistant whom he worked with by phone and e-mail, copy editing, proofreading, 10 paperback copies and one hardcover — as well as a listing with online book retailers. Because it was an iUniverse Publisher’s Choice, hard copies were placed in one Indigo store for eight weeks.
“It was a positive experience for me,” he says — though he later adds, “I still consider it to be a spasm of self-indulgence to publish your own novel.”
For writers who can’t find publishers, going it alone has long been a last resort. Hundreds of thousands of authors self-publish each year (the Association of Canadian Publishers doesn’t keep track). But what was once called “vanity” publishing is seeing a pronounced up-tick these days that is threatening publishing’s longstanding business model. And why not: An author can now go from manuscript to book in a matter of minutes — easily and more lucratively than has hitherto been possible.
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