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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Kate Duffy on Self-publishing

This past April I drove five hours to the Writer's Jubilee Jambalaya in Houma, Louisiana. This is a nice sized day long writer's conference, not small but not so big you get lost in the crowd. The cost is reasonable and includes a critique by either an author, editor or someone in the writing profession. While the critique was helpful, what I learned later made the trip worth the cost many times over. And most of my learning was done at the end of the day in a workshop featuring Kate Duffy, Editorial Director at Kensington Publishing Corp. This workshop consisted of a "cold read" of the first page of your novel, then comments by Kate as an editor and Molly Bolden as a book seller.

During the day, I had the pleasure of meeting Kate and chatting with her. I knew by time for the workshop she wasn't the type to say what she thought you wanted her to, just to make you feel good. And her blunt, honest comments sure stung, and I sulked four of the five hours on the drive home.(I'm so glad the reading was anonymous!) Then I got over it, and started figuring out how to improve on the problems she and Molly caught. Yes, they were needed work. Seems I started in the wrong place:--)

When we started planning the issue on self-publishing at WOW I knew she would be the perfect choice to get the "editorial" opinion of self-published books from someone who worked in the industry. She graciously answered my questions. So, pull up a comfy chair, prop your feet up and enjoy.

And, thanks Kate. For the interview and for your comments on my first page.


WOW: Self-published books seem to get no respect by the mainstream publishers. What do you see as the main problem with self publishing?

KATE: I don’t think we are as quick to judge anymore. Self publishing was equated with vanity publishing until African American authors, in particular, finding themselves with few alternatives, turned to self publishing out of necessity.

WOW: We hear stories of self-published books such as Eragon getting picked up by the "big" publishers and this is something a lot of publishers push. Does this happen often and should it be something an author of a self-published book counts on happening to them?

KATE: No, it doesn’t happen very often but it does happen. The self published author has to judge whether the book is of regional or national interest.

WOW: Does having a self-published book influence an editor when considering a later work by an author?

KATE: I wouldn’t think so. But then again, many self published works seem to be one shot events.

WOW: What, if any, place do you see for self-published books?

KATE: Regional interest can spark an audience for a self published book. There are stories and topics that might interest a particular group of people but may lack the resonance to achieve a wider readership.

WOW: Do you think there will come a time when having a self-published book will be as impressive or as respectable as publishing with one of the "big" boys?

KATE: I don’t think so simply because of the limits of marketing dollars available to the self published author. Individual works will certainly continue to break out but overall the odds don’t favor this.

WOW: If a person is set on self-publishing, what advice would you give them?

KATE: Think very carefully. It can be financially challenging as well as a lot of hard work to produce, market and distribute.

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