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Self-publishing: the new frontier of literature

Entrepreneurial spirit and smart marketing has propelled several self-published books onto the bestseller list, including John Javna and Julie Bennett’s 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth, John Roger and Peter McWilliams’ Life 101, and Richard Bolles’ What Color is Your Parachute?, according to the New York Times. To some in the literary industry, self-published books had a stigma of amateurism, but today that attitude is very much a thing of the past. Certainly in the publishing hubs and within the traditional literary industry this stigma may remain, but it’s quickly becoming a wake-up call for trade houses, agents, and writers alike.

Helen Gallagher, a local expert on everything from computers and web-based technology to ins and outs of self-publishing, says that many writers don’t realize how beneficial self-publishing can be as a means of making timely material available to the masses. “Writers don’t like to think their books aren’t good enough to get published, and they think their work is too good for print-on-demand. Many think POD is a last resort when in reality it is the quickest way to publishing success for most authors, especially first-time authors,” she explains. It can be a tough decision for many writers who want to try the traditional route first: approaching an agent, waiting a while for a response, and potentially dealing with rejection.

Gallagher aims to educate those interested in self-publishing while empowering them as well with marketing ideas, promotion strategies, advice on building a platform, and guidance to maintain a long life for the book. She has self-published twice and her second book, Release Your Writing, was recently featured as a finalist in the National Best Books 2008 Awards sponsored by USA Book News, in the Writing & Publishing category – it’s all about how to successfully self-publish a book and create a sustainable life for it in a very competitive literary marketplace. “It’s up to authors to give their books life and drive,” Gallagher says. “If a book isn’t selling, the author isn’t trying.” This is a statement equally true of traditionally published books. Trade houses are increasingly tight on their budgets, leading to less publicity funds and more reliance on authors to self-promote an create their own visibility.

The bottom line is that self-publishing is a very viable means to achieving a successful book career. In the midst of a changing literary industry, trends thus far indicate that self-publishing may just be the proboscis on the new face of literature.

Helen Gallagher is a publishing consultant based in the Chicago area. Her next publishing workshop will be at the Book Stall of Chestnut Court in Winnetka, IL on July 15, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. For details, and to learn more about her work, visit her online.


  • jim duncan 5 years ago

    In my opinion, self-publishing only is viable to writers who have the time, energy, know-how, and money available to them to invest in making it work. Many, if not most writers do not have all of these things.

  • Marguerite O'Connor 5 years ago

    I found self publishing to be remarkably affordable. Helen Gallagher helped me to launch two books: Griefstruck: When a Death Changes Your Life, to help people cope with grief (, and Leading Change and Navigating Success: Bridging the Gap, to help people cope with change. ( Both books continue to sell because I continue to market them.

  • Todd Rutherford 5 years ago

    I believe subsidy publishing is a better solution for many authors. All the benefits of a traditional publisher with all the benefits of self-publishing. It is also much more affordable than many people realize. publishingguru dot blogspot dot com

  • Peter's Page 4 years ago

    Look at the stunning example set by Author, self-publisher Peter McWilliams. He was writing and publishing his own poetry and musings back in the 70s, long before the Internet, before the instant gratification of blogs. He founded his own Prelude Press and even tried to encourage other writers to self-publish. You're missed, Peter.