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Will publishers perish? Add to ...

There is a saying that ''everybody has a book in them,'' yet at a time when we find it more important than ever to communicate in print, it has never been more difficult to do so.

Many authors have become frustrated with conventional publishers, entrenched by market projections, annual styles and the unmentionable word ''returns.''

The alternative is self-publishing. Unfortunately, in the past, some vanity publishers have tarnished the idea of self-originated publications by overcharging and under-promoting. Rarely simple, self-publishing can require authors to print, distribute and market their own books, which usually involves a lot of expense and hard work.

But with recent developments in digital printing technology, small self-publishing businesses are starting up that are fast filling the void left by conventional publishers and previous tailored publishing ventures. Using low-cost digital printing methods that allow small print runs, known as POD (print-on-demand), it is now possible to publish a book for a fraction of the cost of a traditionally published book.

The digital book file is simply stored in a database, connected to a network of servers and every time the book is ordered, the file is sent to a digital printer, where it is printed and bound. Networks are being connected to a growing number of printers in different countries, allowing a book to created and marketed in one country but be printed and bound in another in a location closer to the customer. Ideal for books with limited appeal, book clubs or backlist books in print that only sell a few hundred copies a year, POD has allowed many small print houses to become rapidly popular.

UK Authors Press is one such company that grooms authors to produce their best work. A joint venture with KMS (Knowledge Mine Solutions Ltd.) that supplies the printing, distribution and marketing, UKA Press (ukapress.ukauthors.com/) deals with manuscript reading, selection, editing and design.

Writers send initial manuscripts following simple guidelines, clearly displayed on the UKA Press site, and if a team of readers accepts the work, the writer is provided with an editor to finalize the text and to arrange format, synopsis, biography, cover art and even ISBN number -- in short, everything, except the writing of the book.

One of the advantages of POD printing is that authors can create and market their books without any cost. Only when the book is ordered on-line is it printed and bound, and then the self-publishing business and the author share the respective percentages of profit, after incurred costs. UK Authors for example, takes 15 per cent of the profits, as opposed to mainstream publishers, which run at 8 to 10 per cent.

Marilyn Ross of SelfPublishingResources.com is an award-winning author, having self-published 13 books in 27 years, including The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, Jump Start Your Book Sales and Shameless Marketing for Brazen Hussies. Despite her successes, she says that with POD there can potentially be a lack of quality control. "Books are not always edited, some covers are uninteresting templates and the companies sometimes slap their own names on the books as the publisher. And the purchasing terms are structured in such a way that they don't conform to the 40-per-cent discounts for bookstores and no-returnable policies."

Ross agrees that in today's publishing climate an author must be dedicated to promoting his or her own book, whether self-published or conventionally published.

"Why do all the work for a paltry 10 to 15 per cent when you can make triple that or more? Authors today like to be in control of their own destinies. The thought of a big publishing house changing their title, dressing the book or rearranging text is unacceptable."

She is a firm believer that today, with the advantages of POD, a writer can have the best of both worlds. Publish a book, make it a success and then sell the rights to a major publisher. "We've done this with five of the 13 books we've published. With this approach, you remove the risk for them, yet leverage yourself to get a much better advance and have more clout in negotiating the contract."

Richard Brown, a published writer both conventionally and self-published, is currently working on a series of Canadian family histories for self-publication. He agrees that authors can retain all the creative control over their work, especially if it is created with a niche market in mind.

"Had there been print-on-demand only a few years ago, my last book would have sold even better, because I ran out of the second printing, but orders are still trickling in. There are at least 50 disappointed potential customers out there. With POD, readers and authors are satisfied and the costs can be contained and are easily calculated. Becoming a publisher is now easy."

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