Live & Learn: “The Write Stuff”

The following is an excerpt from “The Write Stuff” published in the Spring 2014 edition of Live & Learn, Excelsior College Magazine.

By Dana Yanulavich, Live & Learn

Photo from Live & Learn, Spring 2014

Self-publishing offers authors new options and expanded roles in the digital age.

…It may come as no surprise, then, to learn that in July 2013, four out of the top 20 titles on The New York Times ebook bestseller list were self-published titles.

Many people who are taking advantage of this trend have discovered that publishing is at their fingertips. Among them is Elizabeth Bewley ’85, who has several self-published books to her credit, including her most recent, “Not Your Grandmother’s Nursing Home: Demystifying Today’s Retirement Living Options.” Bewley is just one of many Excelsior alumni who have turned to self-publishing. She sought to reduce the turnaround time from manuscript to printed product and to retain a higher degree of editorial control over her work. “The technology has reached a point where it is possible to self-publish at a very low cost,” she says. Using a variety of online services such as Amazon’s CreateSpace, Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Press, or Smashwords, aspiring authors can literally publish their books, for free.

Authors as Publishers

This shift in responsibility, from author to writer and publisher, can be a doubled-edged sword. In the traditional model, the writer needs to primarily focus energy on crafting the content, putting word to page. Then, the publisher takes over, handling any number of tasks from copyediting, proofreading, cover design, printing, distribution, and marketing. But in the traditional model, the publisher also serves as the gatekeeper, controlling which works see the light of day, making judgments on quality and marketability. Now, as authors can publish their own works, it opens up the opportunity for a greater variety of content to be offered. On the flip side, however, are self-published works that may be of dubious quality both in writing and design. “The world of self-publishing is awash in mediocre books,” Bewley says. ”Because it’s so easy to self-publish, many people who don’t have the discipline or ability to publish a good book can still publish. Many self-published books are full of incoherent ramblings, grammatical mistakes, and typos.”

But, as with any issue, it’s not as simple as the black and white of the words on a printed page. “I think it (self-publishing) can be done, and I think it can be done well,” says Russell Davis, an Excelsior adjunct faculty member. While the majority of Davis’ large body of published work has been issued via mainstream publishers, he, too, is about to enter the self-publishing realm with a textbook. Davis, who teaches Excelsior’s mythology and Shakespeare courses, and developed the College’s Vampires in Literature and Film course, has more than 30 published works to his credit…

Read the full story on Live & Learn.