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Reporting back on new directions in self-publishing: A summary of challenges, opportunities and resources

Editors Toronto paired with PWAC Toronto Chapter to present a panel on self-publishing. The following post is from the PWAC Toronto Chapter blog,  Networds. Thanks to editor Suzanne Bowness for giving BoldFace permission to share the post.

by Suzanne Bowness

PWAC Toronto chapter president Karen Luttrell introduces the panel

If you’re one of the unfortunate PWAC members who couldn’t make it to the self-publishing panel held on March 27, which was co-organized by PWAC Toronto Chapter and Editors Toronto, you’re in luck: I took notes for you. It’s not quite the same as being there, but here are a few tips and images to give you a flavour of the event.

If there were a quote to summarize the evening, perhaps it was one of the first to be projected on the big screen in the University of Toronto (U of T) lecture hall, where we all gathered:

“Self-publishing used to be a scar; now it’s a tattoo.”

That’s from Greg Cope White, author of The Pink Marine: One Boy’s Journey through Boot Camp to Manhood. I forgot to take a picture, but the quote still sticks in my mind days later.

Helpful slide of panellists’ names!

If the evening had a theme, it was how much has changed in the world of self-publishing, even in the last five years. Seriously, most panellists said those exact words or similar.

Hosted by the Creative Writing program at the School of Continuing Studies, U of T, the panel consisted of four industry pros, who all did a great job of dividing this big topic into digestible sections, providing a helpful mix of new information and personal anecdotes, which allowed their talks to flow together nicely. You can read the panellists’ biographies here, in our original post advertising the event.

Publishing models as summarized by Nina Munteanu

Nina Munteanu, who began the talk, is a Canadian ecologist and author of eight novels, including Darwin’s Paradox and The Splintered Universe Trilogy. She started the evening by providing an overview of the traditional publishing system and options available to writers/authors. Munteanu discussed the ways in which self-publishing has become increasingly accepted as a form, including recognition by chain bookstores and literary prizes.

She talked about the advantages of self-publishing, particularly the ability to get a book to market more quickly than the traditional publishing route, and the ability to have more control over the end product. Munteanu also addressed the inherent challenges, including the need for the author to wear many hats and deal with the audience and the industry directly, instead of having the buffer of an intermediary.

Covers of books edited by Stephanie Fysh

Next to speak was Stephanie Fysh, a Toronto-based freelance editor of fiction and non-fiction for both publishers and independent (indie) authors. She discussed her personal journey over the past 20 years editing self-published authors. Fysh also mentioned that there’s less reluctance today than even five years ago (there’s that timeframe!) for authors to invest in editing and other services that make their books shine and sell.

The importance of communities like Wattpad.com for helping support indie authors was covered, as well as the fact that some authors need her help to think about publicity and marketing, while others are already savvy and prepared with ideas, platforms and sales strategies. She also described the trust relationship needed between author and editor, and that authors tend to return to her serially for editorial services once she becomes “their person.”

PubLaunch talk

Following Fysh was Meghan Behse, president of PubLaunch Inc., a new online marketplace and crowdfunding platform for writers, readers and other publishing professionals. She provided the audience with an “alternative publishing overview,” showing how the field has changed from 2011 to now.

After discussing her path as a publisher and an editor, and some of the changes and challenges to self-publishing along the way (especially the ever-changing book distribution model), Behse walked us through the newly launched PubLaunch.com business and its potential for authors (“Connecting you to the people you need to make the book you want.”), as well as for editors, designers, publicists and other editorial professionals who are interested in joining their publishing team.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre on the author’s role

Speaking last was Mark Leslie Lefebvre, who represented the author’s perspective, as the publisher of fiction and non-fiction in traditional and non-traditional publishers. He self-published his first book in 2004, was an early adopter of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program and created Kobo Writing Life, a self-publishing tool.

Lefebvre discussed issues from the range of types of authors and incomes in self-publishing to the pros and cons of different publishing methods and the importance of going your own way and making project-based decisions. He also recommended The Creative Penn podcast and has recently started his own podcast, Stark Reflections, at http://www.markleslie.ca/podcast.

After a short Q&A session—and a lengthy raffle giveaway that saw many lucky audience members leave with coveted prizes, including myriad self-published books—all in attendance left with a broader understanding of the current self-publishing landscape, as well as a lot to think about, including regrouping for PWAC Toronto’s next event, our Boardgames and Beers social on April 19


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