In 2014, it’s a new world for self-publishing

In 2008 when I got serious about publishing a novel, there was a time-honored method of meeting that challenge. Write a book, query a literary agent, and, once you find agent representation, sit back while he or she works the magic of landing a book deal (and advance) with a New York publishing house. One deviated from this path at one's peril.

"Self-publishing is the kiss of death," I heard more than one literary agent say at seminars that year. "Once you go that route, no agent will even look at you."

By 2012, I was hearing the exact opposite. For instance, Alan Rinzler, book editor for such greats as Toni Morrison and Clive Cussler, advised that self-publishing these days is "an honorable and increasingly successful way to avoid the frustrations of trying to find an agent. ... The book business is having an even more difficult time than usual, so most agents and publishers are risk averse, looking primarily for authors who have an established track record or are celebrities."

Rinzler was right, I did have difficulty finding and agent, but in the end was able to find a publisher (Seattle's Coffeetown Press) without one.

Self-publishing may be honorable, but it presents its own list of challenges. You may have a brilliant book in hand, but it's just as essential to be sure it has proofreaders, a great cover design, a user-friendly web page, and top-notch promotion.

New publishing models are sprouting up to help address these needs. If you have even a modest budget to invest in your publishing dream, the local start-up ( can make your book a reality. What is An online marketplace "connecting writers with the people they need to create their books and get them sold." Founded by Kelsye Nelson and Abigail Carter, provides a site where writers can find cover designers, proofreaders, and the like. Or, purchase "Star Services" to have pull together the professionals needed to publish your project.

Another opportunity, especially if you don't have the funds, is the local Booktrope service. Launched in 2011 by Katherine Sears, Seattle-based Booktrope is an online "team publishing" approach. First, authors submit their manuscripts for review ( Then, editors, marketers, cover designers and the like sign on to polish and sell a finished product. There is no cost up front because everyone shares in a percentage of the profits (so a team is easier to enlist when a project is perceived as marketable).

You have no doubt figured out that and Booktrope are not only great places for writers, but also for freelance editors, marketers, artists and the like. Whatever your ilk, with self-publishing in 2014, opportunities abound.

Islander and author Claire Gebben is a columnist for the Mercer Island Reporter.


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