Writers’ rebellion: Options abound to publish own books

Local authors turn to Internet, ‘indie’ publishing

In his new novel, Lawrence resident and writer Frank Lingo (yes, that’s a pen name) reveals a little-known and even embarrassing fact from the history of American women.

His novel, set in the late 19th century, centers on women’s struggle for equality with men.

The story begins with orgasms.

“The Orgasm Rebellion” though fictional, is based on medical history. Doctors at that time treated any mental or emotional condition in women, including normal mood swings, by inducing orgasms with that period’s latest technology — an electric vibrator.

Indie book recommendations

A summer sampler of Lawrence independent authors:

“Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dimentia” by Larry Day

“Day Dreaming” is a collection of humorous, 700-word essays on subjects from “Hometown Folks” to “Government” to “Alien Encounters.” Available online at Smashwords.com and Lulu.com.

“Kaw Valley Boys” by Bart Altenbernd

In this humorous and nostalgic memoir, the author recounts his days growing up on a small farm just outside of Lawrence in the early 1960s. Available at the Raven Book Store and Pendleton’s Market. Also direct from the author by emailing bartaltenbernd@gmail.com.

“Farewell My Free Bird” by Carol Noe

This true story details the tragic murder of the author’s daughter, and the faith that saw her family through. Available at Signs of Life in Lawrence and online at Amazon.com.

Recommendations from Heidi Raak, owner of Raven Book Store:

“Paradise Cafe and Bakery Cookbook” by Missy McCoy (a former Raven Book Store owner); “River Memoir and Other Stories” by David Hann; and “Voices of the Great Plains: A Collection of Short Memoirs” edited by Jerry Masinton and Nicole Muchmore.

E-book questions and answers

How much does publishing an e-book cost?

It depends on a lot of different things. There are different platforms with different formats, plus the optional but recommended and highly differing processes of editing, layout and cover design. Self-publishing a physical book requires buying an ISPN; e-book publishing does not. There’s promotion and other overhead costs (even for the DIYer). The blog Be A Better Writer warns the budget can quickly inflate to several thousands of dollars.

How much can a self-published e-book expect to make?

Profit, of course, depends on costs and sales. Amazon.com offers two contract options for the publisher (in this case, also the writer) — a 70 percent royalty that includes the right for Amazon to list lower than the original list price and give 70 percent of the sale price, or a 35 percent royalty guaranteed on the publisher-declared list price. A fair chunk of the e-book market is priced at between 99 cents and about $15.

How much is the e-book market worth?

A lot. A lot more than e-book publishers will ever make. Tech industry watchdog Giga OM predicts the industry could be worth more than $5 billion by 2016, up from $2 billion in 2011.

“I’d say three-quarters of today’s medical profession never heard of this,” says Lingo, a former columnist for The Kansas City Star. “The doctors who do know the history are probably embarrassed about it.”

The novel, based on historical facts, addresses serious issues with a sometimes irreverent and even erotic touch.

“It’s not for everyone,” Lingo says. “Some readers are appalled at the sex scenes. Others find the story fun and interesting.”

“The Orgasm Rebellion” is a tale Lingo felt needed to be told, so he published it himself in November, after queries to about 50 agents came back negative. He currently offers the e-book edition for free at Amazon.com.

Even for a professional writer, it’s hard to get fiction accepted by mainstream publishers, Lingo says.

It only took two rejections from Kansas-based publishers before local author Bart Altenbernd chose self-publishing for “Kaw Valley Boys,” a memoir about his childhood on a farm just outside of Lawrence. Altenbernd, a retired teacher and school administrator, says he waited months before the publishers he queried told him his book was not right for them.

Indie-publishing rebellion

Authors like Lingo and Altenbernd can bypass traditional publishers because independent or “indie” publishing is easier and more economical than ever. It costs authors nothing to publish and distribute an electronic book for e-readers such as the Kindle and Nook.

One popular and free electronic publishing service and sales platform, Smashwords.com, boasts more than 70,000 author-published e-books on its rolls, with more coming daily. Amazon.com also offers free e-publishing and sales. Many authors place their books at both.

Amazon’s Createspace.com, and Lulu.com “print on demand” services help authors publish and sell print books without waiting for the green light from agents and publishers.

Their fees, which begin around a few hundred dollars, are generally cheaper than traditional vanity press charges, but books don’t get printed until customers ask for them.

Altenbernd considered those services for “Kaw Valley Boys,” but decided on the more expensive route. He paid Out On A Limb Publishing Company, in Tulsa, Okla., to help him prep his memoir for printing by Kansas City, Mo., printers The Covington Group.

Altenbernd paid the printer for 300 copies of the 104-page soft-cover “Kaw Valley Boys.”

The process cost more than the online alternatives, but gave him more control over the book’s appearance and sales, he says. The publishing company worked closely with him on the design of “Kaw Valley Boys,” including its custom cover.

The cover shows a man and small boy standing in tall grass, contemplating a rustic barn and an old tractor.

“It really sums up the book for me,” Altenbernd says. “Kaw Valley Boys” sprang from the tales he told his son over the years about his childhood on the farm.

“I enjoyed the whole process of publishing these stories,” Altenbernd says. “It’s been a labor of love as well as a learning experience.”

Altenbernd says he’s sold 60 to 70 copies since picking them up from the printer in May.

Lawrence has quite a few authors who, like Lingo and Altenbernd, have taken the plunge into self-publishing, says Heidi Raak, owner of Raven Book Store, 6 E. Seventh St. Her store carries 75 independently published titles.

“Part of our mission is to represent local and regional authors to the public, self-published authors among them,” she says.

Raak says she welcomes the freedom for authors brought by the self-publishing movement, but as a bookseller and a book reader, content remains king.

“I’ll always support Lawrence authors,” she says. “And I’m always ecstatic to read a good book.”


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