Ten years ago, I cringed when the words self-published were uttered in my office. These stapled or occassionally stitched-together books were often amateurish memoirs, badly constructed novels, treacly poetry or bizarre accounts of the occult. The authors weren't much better. Many were wannabe writers who scorned editing, were embittered against the publishing process that had rejected them and thought they were entitled to the royal treatment at the bookstore.
My, how times have changed. Opportunity, community and publicity are the first three things that come to mind when I see a self-published book nowadays. Many of the writers are established professionals in the community with something to say and a waiting audience. The quality of the writing has improved. A cottage industry of freelance editors and designers contributes their expertise to these projects. Also, self-published local authors often draw bigger and more passionate crowds to book signings than nationally known writers.
Thursday night's signing by Cindy Morris, of her new book Priestess Entrepreneur, is a perfect example of this changing dynamic. Morris, who owned a local flower shop for ten years and has an ebullient personality, was basically told she had no chance of getting a publisher for her book. "You are no one," an agent told Morris when she shopped her idea. Boy, was that agent wrong. Morris has a great deal to say about running a business, trusting your intuition, and how to acheive success on your own terms. As an independent business woman, she also has the credentials to back it up .
I must admit that I went to the event as a bit of a lark. My mother-in-law is in town, and I thought the book signing might provide great entertainment. I knew that music, played on a few bizarre instruments, including a monochord and a crystal ball, would be performed before the reading and that the word "priestess" in the title might bring out some of Boulder's more eccentric characters. Well, the crystal ball turned out to be a sweet-toned crystal bowl and the priestess, Morris, was eloquent, humorous and full of excellent advice.
My mother-in-law, who runs a fledgling non-profit with her husband, was extremely impressed and bought the book. She has since read half of it and is enjoying Cindy's multitude of stories and reaping the benefits of the business ancedotes already. She even commented on the book's easy-to-read layout.
To see that a sure winner like this can't find a home at a publisher makes me wonder just what else the major houses and agents are missing. I waded through hundreds of upcoming Simon & Schuster books for seven hours over the last two days and can honestly say that Morris' book was more saleable than 80 percent of them. Simon couldn't have squeezed in a book like this and taken out one of its endless array of cookie-cutter chick lit books?
Even better than banal chick lit, Simon and Schuster's March, 2007 list included a true winner: the "erotic thriller," Thong on Fire. As wonderful as this book sounds, I have a feeling that ten years ago, it would have been the self-published book and Priestess Entrepreneur would have had the backing of a major press.
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