Blended Bits and Some Thoughts on Self Publishing

Since August, I’ve been working with the Teen Writing Club at my library to self publish an anthology of their poems and stories. We’re all proud to finally have the book in our hands, and we celebrated at a book release party last Thursday.

I did a similar project with a library writing class I taught a couple years ago. That time, I published through Lulu.com. This time, I used CreateSpace. Whether it’s a factor of the many changes that have occurred in self publishing over the past two years or a truly better service, I would go with CreateSpace again, hands down.

When I worked on the first anthology, Oh My Gosh, I Can’t Believe I’m Published!, I needed to apply for a grant to afford it. At the time, self publishing was cheaper the more copies of your book you ordered. So for the sake of affordability, I ordered more than I strictly needed, and still have some sad copies hanging around in storage hoping for a home. Now, with Print on Demand, I only had to order as many copies as I wanted, at incredibly cheap prices of less than $3 each. That meant I could get all the contributors their own copies for about $25, total. CreateSpace’s interface was easier to use than Lulu’s, and their ordering process was more straightforward. Most important of all, the final product looked more professional, thanks to the checks they have in place to catch formatting and other issues as well as the features they offer, such as a printed proof (which I used to catch a few lingering errors.)

The writing in the anthology is fantastic, too, reawakening a long-time dream I’ve nursed to open a press specifically geared toward publishing teens. Money from any copies of Blended Bits sold goes right back to the teen program at the library. It’s been so rewarding to work with dedicated teen writers toward more validation and recognition of their talent. Two of the teens in the program have even self-published through CreateSpace on their own (Darksabre by Talitha Black and The Past That Defines Me by Kayla Beth). And while I used to scoff at self publishing, I’m slowly changing my point of view — as is the rest of the culture. With the gate toward traditional publication growing ever more narrow, I’m glad another option exists — one that allows teens to hold copies of their own books in their hands. It’s a long way from the bulky “story binders” I used to cherish — and it costs about the same.

Although we’ll continue to battle lazy self-publishers who give the whole industry a bad rap, at least one group of teens is seeing there’s a different way to do it, as I ran them through rounds of revision and spent hours with the final manuscript to ensure our printed copies were error free. And that’s the sort of thing that can change an industry, one book at a time.

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