Step 6b: Self-publishing.The invention of the printing press with movable type changed the world because it made books affordable for a greater percentage of the population. We live in another amazing, world-changing time: the means of production are now available to the masses. Gone are the days when the power to publish was in the hands of the elite few who acted as gatekeepers of culture, who decided whose voices would be heard and left the rest to languish in silent oblivion. Now, anyone who has access to a computer and the Internet can make their work available to the whole world.
There are far too many options for self-publishing to provide an exhaustive list here. So instead I'll provide brief descriptions of a few options that I've either toyed with or plan to toy with. (Watch for more in-depth descriptions of some of these in future posts.)
Amazon - You can self-publish an e-book for free using Kindle Direct Publishing or use CreateSpace for print-on-demand hard copies. They take a percentage of each sale.
BookBaby - You pay a flat fee, and they push your e-book out to a bunch of different formats (Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.). There's an annual fee per title for having them continue to distribute. They also offer book printing and author website hosting.
HubPages - You create an account and use their templates to write original articles about (almost) anything you want. Some people also use it to self-publish their poetry. You get paid a percentage of pay-per-click revenue via HubPages Earnings Program and/or Google AdSense, depending on what you choose to do.
Blog - Blogger and WordPress seem to be the most popular blogging sites these days, though of course there are others. I prefer Blogger (obviously) because I find the interface much more intuitive, and it's flexible enough to suit my needs. I have heard that you can do more with WordPress than with Blogger, provided you know a little html programming. If you choose, you can "monetize" your blog by allowing ads; both Blogger and WordPress make this really easy.
YouTube - Create a digital story using a program like iMovie or Jaycut, or record a video of yourself using your computer's camera, and publish on YouTube. It's free to sign up and fairly easy to get the hang of the admin interface. (As a fun aside, check out Ze Frank's channel as an example of self-publishing your own work.) It's also possible to monetize your YouTube channel by allowing ads, and it's super easy to do so.
Website - You can self-publish on your own website either by creating a new webpage for your finished piece or by linking to a PDF. I know of people who've sold their PDFs through their websites, but I haven't a clue how to do this. Another way to make money is (again) to allow ads.
'Zine - Independent 'zines are popular in my town of Portland, Oregon. There are even resources centers to help you learn how to do it, like the Independent Publishing Resource Center. The basic premise is that you create your own little magazine or chapbook by hand and distribute it to independent shops like Reading Frenzy, Microcosm Distribution, or Powell's Books, who usually sell on a consignment basis. You can sometimes also donate copies of your zine to local libraries.
So there you have it! Seven ideas for self-publishing your work, and all of them with options for making some money.
The hardest part, in my opinion, comes after self-publishing: the marketing. I'm still figuring this out, trying to see how far I can get with social media before I need to invest some of my scarce financial resources. More about my adventures in marketing in future posts.
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Previous posts in this series:
Step 1: Write
Step 2: Share it
Step 3: Revise
Step 4: Edit and proofread
Step 5: Make some decisions
Step 6a: Going the traditional route