Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Self-publishing symposium: Bonnie Kozek

NP: How does self-publishing differ from traditional publishing?
BK: At its most elemental level there's no difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing: Either way, the writer's job is the same: Write a book. Beyond this essential there's a whole heap of difference—the biggest being time. How much time does it take to get your work published? In traditional publishing, excluding the rare exception, the answer is, years, decades, even lifetimes. (Henry Miller’s first novel didn't get published until he was 44 years old; Raymond Chandler's first short story didn't get published until he was 45 years old; Emily Dickinson's poems didn't get published until after her death.) In self-publishing, the answer is that your book can be published within months. When you move beyond the printed page into ebooks and digital, you can be published in minutes. Time is a tremendous factor in a writer's decision about which route to take, traditional or alternative. I personally found it to be a complex and difficult decision.

NP: How do you respond to the following statement?  “Self-publishing is not a serious way to get one’s work into print now and never will be.”
BK:  Well, it’s just a silly statement.  The fact is that writers are self-publishing, and they are getting their books reviewed, distributed, and into the hands of readers.  I belong to a collective of eight very serious writers, called Backword Books.  Our work has been reviewed by highly-respected literary critics and reviewers, and we have each achieved recognition in our varying genres.  So, to put it another way: There’s nothing “unserious” about self-publishing.

NP: Has the golden age of self-publishing already passed or is it yet to come?
BK:  The golden age of self-publishing has yet to come.  It’s still in its infancy. It has rattled, and radically altered traditional book publishing, and it will continue to do so.  It’s hard to predict what the book publishing industry will look like once the dust settles.  It’s also hard to predict when that might happen.  Until then, self-publishing continues an upward trajectory.  It has a cache of advantages over traditional publishing; technological innovation and infinite opportunity; unbridled creativity; and the excitement and energy of serious and committed individuals who have a love of books – be they reader, reviewer, marketer, or publisher.  When you add to that mix the willingness of professional writers to take control of their own destinies, well, it’s not hard to understand why self-publishing has so successfully breathed new life into an industry that had become both dull and stagnant. 

NP: What about the challenges posed to the self-published writer by having to promote and edit his or her own book?
BK:  It’s a tremendous challenge, no question.  In order to be successful, the self-published writer will have to wear many different hats – some which may not fit so well.  The writer has to become editor, proofreader, copywriter, blogger, marketer, maybe even distributor.  It’s a fulltime job.  On the other hand, the road to traditional publishing poses challenges no less daunting.  The writer has to become, primarily, a salesperson.  The writer has to shop the work around in hopes of finding an agent – which, even if one is secured, is no assurance that the work will be published.  The writer has to become, secondarily, a professional “waiter” – waiting for a response to an inquiry, waiting for acceptance or rejection, waiting for an agent to return a phone call.  Given all of this, it’s reasonable that a writer would choose to take on the challenges of self-publishing because the end result is not dependent on the judgments of agents and editors and publishers.  The end result is guaranteed: The writer will be published.

NP: Why is it that a self-published author has yet to emerge into national recognition as a self-published author? (As opposed to being given a mainstream publishing contract after a self-published book attracts attention.)
BK:  That’s an easy question: Writers want to write.  They don’t want to edit, proofread, market, distribute.  So, if a mainstream publisher came along and said, “You write, we’ll do the rest,” well, it would be an opportunity that most writers would find very hard to pass up.

NP: Has the experience of self-publishing changed the way you write?  (If you have self-published.)
BK:  No. 

Bonnie Kozek’s highly-acclaimed noir thriller, Threshold, is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Powell’s Books and other online sites.  The second thriller, Just Before the Dawn, will be published in 2010.  Learn more about her work at: http://www.bonniekozek.com or contact her at: bk@bonniekozek.com


CDinWV said...

It seems to me that you view the importance of self-publishing as I do. I believe as time goes on, the controversy of self-publishing and traditional publishing; will be a thing of the past as our Internet takes more precendanc over the publishing world to. Great reading. Thank you~

Bonnie Kozek said...


You're right. At one time traditional publishing was a behemoth of power and reverence. Those days are over. Today, traditional publishing is trying to catch up with the innovation, success, and creativity of self-publishing. At some point the power will shift -- it may already be teetering. I think this is very good news for serious writers everywhere. Thanks for your response.

mlouisalocke said...

Dear Bonnie,

I really enjoyed your comments. I particularly resonated to the issue of time. It took me nearly 20 years to publish my first book, (long story), but once I decided to self-publish it only took me a two weeks to get it uploaded and available to readers as both an ebook and a print edition.

On the other hand, unlike the traditional route, where success of a new novel is often determined in a few months at the most, I now know I have all the time I want to make sure that my novel (an historical mystery which gives it a long shelf life!) gets out there and read.

Bonnie Kozek said...

mlouisa locke,

Thanks for responding. I think that in addition to the "time" issue, there's also an issue of "purpose." A writer has to ask herself what her purpose is: to write for herself, or to write for others. If a writer, like yourself, knows that she's writing for readers, and has spent 20 years in the process, why wait to publish? Ultimately, it is the readers who will decide our professional worth. I wish you many many readers!