Sharon Laborde of Cahaba Press
There are almost 500,000 books published in the United States every year. That astounding number includes all genres of fiction and non-fiction, including juvenile literature and books for children. It also includes all the independently published books, such as the cookbooks assembled by the ladies of your church, and the guy down the road who self-publishes a manifesto against certain dark forces that only he can see.
As an occasional bookseller, I often comment that the last thing the world needs is another writer. I don't really mean that, but I certainly wish--and know--that we need more readers. Fully half of Americans never read a book after graduating from high school, and even "avid" readers read only about 17 books a year. Sometimes it looks like there are folks writing books today that have never read one. I'm thinking especially of the many so-called political biographies that we see too many of.
That grumbling aside, there has never been a better time for writers to write, or for writers to attract an audience. Much of that has to do with the popularity of the internet, where just about anyone can start a blog or website--and attract an audience--and to print-on-demand technology that allows both established publishing companies and independent writer-publishers to avoid maintaining costly inventories of books that may never sell.
There is also the eBook revolution where the traditional hard cover and paperback book have been replaced by electronic (paperless) files of material than can be read on small hand held devices like Barnes & Nobles' Nook or, my preferred device, the Kindle. I download several (free) books each month from the Carroll and Madison County Library's Library 2 Go and have learned to enjoy e-reading.
The really interesting thing about eBook technology though, is that it is a tremendously cheap (affordable) way for independent writers to get their work into the hands and minds of readers. The cost of publishing and distributing an eBook is almost entirely reckoned in the man hours--sweat equity--required to meet the manuscript formatting challenges required by publishers such as Amazon's Create Space, or the really interesting ePublisher Smashwords. These publishers, among many, are extremely affordable ways to self-publish, if you can handle the formatting challenges.
Luckily, the publisher of my newest novel, Cahaba Press, handles manuscript formatting for both print and eBook formats. Publisher Sharon Laborde publishes a blog on Google's Blogspot, titled Writer's Cramp, that offers useful information for established writers, and self-published authors alike. This week's column, Formatting with Word without Screaming or Acts of Violence! is a case in point.
A final word of encouragement to writers. Don't worry that what you write--short stories, poetry, non-fiction, or full blown novels, what have you--will never find an audience, or that it simply adds to the clutter of being 1 among 500,000. Write for yourself, and go ahead and grow up to be a writer!