Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Embarassment and Glory of Self-Publishing

I am self-publishing my memoir.  I hate to tell people that.  It reminds me of the stigma of vanity presses, the idea that you alone, in your delusion, think your book is worthwhile and so you pay someone to publish it.  In fact, the reality today is a little different.  I had submitted my book widely and received some interest.  It was "in the queue" at a university press for over two years.  Then they pulled the plug.  But why not keep submitting it?  I responded to my desire to let women know right away that they can "have it all," balancing family and a career in science.  I responded to being invited to give talks on my life in science, the reality that people were interested right now to hear more about it.

And I found a great variety of choices.  PublishAmerica, where I would pay nothing, would format, create the cover, and publish it, but they would decide the cover style and price. The price, considering its length, was probably going to be $26.  That was one end of the spectrum for me.  The other end was Lulu.com, also willing to charge me nothing, but asking me to do all the design work in formatting the text, designing the cover, etc, albeit with their wizards to help. Lulu's advantage was that they let me set the paperback binding and the cost, $14, to make it affordable as a supplementary text for a course in women in science, one use I'd always envisioned for the memoir, because it's an existence theorem that you can have it all as a woman in science.  These companies are very matter of fact and deal with authors with fast responses.  I found them quite businesslike and didn't feel like a creep with shiny teeth turning to them to publish my book.  But every now and then, when someone asks if I self-published, I fall through the floor into that abyss of self-loathing and mumble, "yes."  I should steel myself to say "yes, but today self-publishing is not so bad.  Authors cross the line between publishing and self-publishing in both directions these days."  That's the way it will be more and more, it seems to me.