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Friday, February 5, 2010

To Publish or Not to Publish

As a writer your options are endless. Too often, we fixate on the goal of finding a commercial publisher for our work. Your goals may dovetail nicely with those of a commercial publisher. When that’s true, traditional publishing is an ideal way to get your work out into the world. In other situations, different approaches will serve your interests and goals better.

Some writers write for themselves only. A person who keeps a journal or diary may not want to share their work with anyone else. A journal is a good place to solve problems privately. If you keep a work diary, you may use it to figure out how to improve your performance. This is not something you would want to publish. As a potter, I keep an artist’s notebook overflowing with sketches, drawings, glaze formulas and reminders about firing particular kilns. As valuable as this notebook is to me, there is no reason I would want to publish it.

Some writers have a small personal audience for their work. A family history or a collection of personal essays fits this category. This kind of writing benefits your family and friends but may not have a larger audience. A private printing of 100 or fewer copies using a print-on-demand service or a short-run book printer makes sense in such cases. Personally, I find this type of writing and publishing very satisfying.

If you work as a teacher, workshop leader or consultant, you may write materials to support your work. It may make sense to print and market these materials yourself. If your professional activities bring you into contact with a large number of people who could benefit from you writings, you may want publish your work on a larger scale.

If you sell a large number of books on your own, you may attract the attention of a commercial publisher. Alternatively, you may wish to become of commercial publisher yourself. In either case, you have increased the visibility and profitability of your writing.

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