A few years ago, I began writing a book. It’s about the lives of the people who signed my great-times-three Aunt Mary’s autograph/friendship album. Aunt Mary was the daughter of Scots-Irish immigrants and lived in a coal town in northeastern Pennsylvania. The Civil War, massive coal mine strikes and disasters, and the 1918 flu pandemic all happened during her lifetime, and were reflected in the lives of the album signers. The more I learned about them, the more determined I became to tell their stories.
As my book began to take shape, I started to think about getting it published. As I looked around online for publishers that might actually accept my manuscript, I came to the realization that it was difficult to define, would likely have a limited audience, and I that had literally no online presence at that point (a large social media following is required by some publishers). So I began to realize that self-publishing on Amazon was my most likely path to getting my book into people’s hands. And, as I continued to write, I also realized that it is freeing, not worrying about what might not suit an editor’s preferences.
Two months ago, I finally finished my book. Then, following Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) guidelines, I formatted my book for a Kindle version, then for a print-on-demand version. And, after hitting publish twice (once for each version), my book was published. While it’s still hard for me to believe sometimes, it really did happen (I check it on Amazon every now and then, just to make sure I’m not imagining it). There’s a book with my name on it out there. It became even more real when I recently got an email with this subject line:
I was thrilled to see that magical word–royalty–in an email sent to me. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a royalty as “a payment to an author or composer for each copy of a work sold…” But am I really considered a published author? While I have my doubts, family and friends insist that I am. I wrote a book and it’s on Amazon, so I am a published author, as far as they’re concerned.
I’m dubious. Before a manuscript is accepted by a publishing house, it’s often rejected first by several others. And when it is accepted, it’s often done with the caveat that revisions will have to be made. There is a contract to be signed, future work negotiated, and deadlines to deal with. They spend money on marketing, and those royalties, which often start with an advance. An advance that reflects the confidence that the publishing house has in a manuscript to become a successful book.
When I Googled this topic, I found an article: “Are Self-Published Authors Really Authors or Even Published?” It was written by an author of 14 books, 4 of them self published. He argues that “…there is a difference publishing and self-publishing and between authors and book writers.”
I’m interpreting this to mean that, to the writer of this article, a self-published person like myself is merely a book writer. There are probably self-published authors who would argue this. I might have, myself, a few years ago. But I find that I’m comfortable with it, with the idea of introducing myself with “Hi, I’m Melanie. I’m a book writer.” Because, as I work on book number two, I realize that is what I am–a writer of books.
But what about you other writers out there–published, self-published, and not yet published–what do you think? Is a self-published author really an author?