Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Two Main Publishing Options for Therapist Writers

Mental health professionals are out there trying to make a living like everyone else. Most of them agree that getting a book published, which builds a therapist’s credibility, is good for business. But with all the publishing options available today, which is best?

Basically, you have two choices:  Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing. With traditional publishing (also called “New York,” trade, mainstream, or commercial), they pay you. With Self-Publishing (also called “subsidy,” “author service” companies, or “indie” publishing — all using print-on-demand [POD] digital technology), you pay them.

Gutenberg struggles with his printing press in the 15th Century. Today, self-publishing is a tad less strenuous.

Are you with me so far?

Now, if all you had to do was choose between “They pay you” and “You pay them,” then your decision would be obvious, right? Duh! But not so fast. Picking one of the “They pay you” options isn’t as easy or doable as it sounds. Nor is it necessarily the best choice for you financially.

Consider this: In today’s publishing environment, a new, non-celeb author’s chances of getting a book contract with a top “New York” publisher or one of their many imprints are slim — maybe 1-2%. Plus in most cases (not all) you have to get an agent first to arrange the introduction, which is a challenge in itself. It may be wiser to move on to one of the hundreds of small, independent (i.e., not under the umbrella of one of the majors) houses. But here again you still may need an agent. Ugh.

If this is what’s holding you back, then consider one of the specialty,  academic or university presses (listed in annual directories such as Writer’s Market or Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents 2011).  Some of these don’t require an agent, which is great. It cuts out a major gatekeeper. And, being smaller and publishing fewer books, they can give their author/experts more time and attention. But they can take ages to get back to you and be slow about putting your book out. This is frustrating if you have a timely topic or depend upon workshops and speaking engagements to make a living. You want your book available now for those back of the room sales.

All the more reason to start investigating the fascinating world of self-publishing – the option that many authors are going for first these days because they have more control, because there are no gatekeepers, and because they can make more money if they market their book well (which is the biggest challenge of all).

One option is to become your own publishing company and publish your book yourself (making you “indie” published rather than self published, a nice little distinction when it comes to any remaining stigma). In my state, California, becoming a publisher involves filing for a DBA and putting a notice in a local newspaper for four weeks. To publish, you can upload to a printer (such as Lightning Source) or sign up with an “author service” company, such as Amazon’s Create Space. Just be careful  not to buy expensive packages that contain things you don’t need. There are scams out there, so do your homework.

The more you DIY, the cheaper it will be. With Create Space, authors can buy their own ISBN number (, keep ownership of their files, and do (or farm out) their own editing, interior design, covers, proofing and marketing. And finally, don’t forget to arrange for an e-book version of your paper book. E-Books are hot and it’s another “income stream.” So therapists, do it. Publish that book. Just think — what if Freud had never published a book, where would we therapists be then?

(copyright 2011 by Sylvia Cary, LMFT)

Is Writing a “Lightweight” Profession?

Chunks of Marble on a Lorry in India -- Photo Credit: John and Sheila Squier's Travelogue

I know a woman who sculpts voluptuous nudes out of marble. They’re quite beautiful, many of them polished to a splendid sheen. When she showed me her studio in her garage, I saw huge, rough-looking chunks of stone just waiting for her to liberate the ladies trapped within. Now marble chunks like that aren’t so easy to come by.  When she runs out, she can’t just dash down to Target for more.  She often has to go where the stuff actually “grows” — to places like Italy, France, Greece, India or Vermont.  When she picks out just the right chunks in just the right sizes and colors, she has to have the darn things transported to a boat, slowly shipped to California, then lugged up her steep driveway to her garage. Once arrived, the freeing of the maidens can finally begin.  The whole process is almost too exhausting to think about. It makes me appreciate that I’m a writer, definitely a “lightweight” profession compared to sculpting. Of course, back in the day when writing meant chiseling words into slabs of rock, the two professions were closer in weight. But today, all I have to do is snap shut my tiny red notebook computer, slip it into my purse and trot on down to Starbucks where I can sit in my favorite orange velvet upholstered wing chair (if it’s vacant),  sip on my icy-cold blended mocha coconut frappuccino, tap-tap on the keyboard, picture my friend struggling with granite in her garage,  and be grateful that the Good Lord made me a writer and not a sculptor. Whew!

Borders, I Hardly Knew Ye

The Last Days of a Borders Bookstore

Like most writers, I love bookstores and hate seeing one close.  When there were plenty of them, I was picky.  For example, I was always more of a Barnes & Noble gal than a Borders gal because Barnes & Noble felt cozier — even after one local store removed their comfy armchairs and another started chaining their wooden armchairs together so you couldn’t move them off into a corner to read.  (Truly annoying!)  Still, I go back.

So even though Borders has only ranked #2 in my book (no pun intended), I’m  sorry to see it go bust.  As we all know, bookstores all over the world have been closing.  Sign of the digital times.  So last night, knowing that my local Woodland Hills, California Borders (one of the last 400 to get the ax)  would be closing in two days, I decided to go there to say goodbye.  I went with a little guilt in my heart — perhaps I never gave Borders a chance. Perhaps I should have spent more time in their coffee shop with my laptop. After all, unlike Barnes & Noble, they’d actually kept their comfy arms chairs for readers to sit in.  Had I been too harsh in judging Borders?

Looking for "Hot" Deals at the Borders Funeral

I also went there expecting some hot deals — like 75% off. As I walked in past hundreds of garish red, black and yellow “Going out of Business” and “Everything Must Go” signs, I heard a woman muttering to herself as she looked through the merchandise, “It’s so sad.”  I was sad, too — there were no hot deals!  Twenty to thirty percent off in this economy, and in this “last gasp” situation, is not a “hot” deal. That’s an everyday deal. I know this is like complaining about the food at a funeral reception — but I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth Borders expected to get rid of all that stuff (and there was a LOT of stuff) in just two days at only 20% to 30% off.  It made no fiscal sense — which in turn made me think that this might all tie in to Border’s larger financial problems — a certain disconnect with the surrounding realities perhaps?  But who knows? It’s not my area of expertise.  All I know is I said my goodbyes quickly, took a few pictures for this blog, and left without buying a thing.

I still love bookstores.  I’ll still grieve whenever one closes. But the new publishing realities (e-books, self-publishing, print-on-demand, becoming your own publishing company, online book marketing and even the Espresso Book Machine — see my July 31st post) have been knocking on the door for years and it’s time to answer the knock and learn how to love,  take advantage of, and profit from them — even if it means we have to buy our very own comfy arm chair to sit down in and read.