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Regular readers of this magazine are accustomed to opening the November/December issue and seeing a special section on independent publishing. (Actually, from 2001 to 2008 the September/October issue focused on that subject, but five years ago we decided to move the MFA Issue up on the calendar to better serve prospective students facing application deadlines in the fall.) Over the years the thread of independent publishing, knit into the fabric of each and every issue, has necessarily become more visible, expanding to include information about innovative literary magazines and small presses that are both products of a rapidly changing publishing landscape and forces behind tectonic shifts causing its transformation. In this issue we turn our attention to another important aspect of independent publishing, training our lens on what could accurately be called the most independent publishers of them all: self-published authors.
There was a time when you could draw a line in the sand, if you were so inclined, with the traditionally published authors on one side and the self-published authors on the other. No longer. As the writers in our first-ever special section on the topic make clear (page 59), self-publishing is now a legitimate and, in many cases, preferable method of getting one’s work in front of readers—or rather, it is a legitimate method of putting one’s work in a deliverable format so that, through a significant expenditure of time, effort, and money, it can be brought to the attention of readers. This point is worth more than casual consideration. Whereas a traditionally published book typically has third-party distribution as well as professional marketing and publicity teams behind it—or at least the structure in place for those teams, whose attentions are admittedly spread thin (83, 86), to be able to throw their weight behind it—a self-published book does not. Unless, of course, the independent author has, first, the money, and then the business sense to spend that money on building those teams for herself. Just don’t forget the editing (77), the proofreading, the design, and on and on. Yes, self-publishing has growing appeal, but it also demands a tremendous amount of work if you want to do it well. In this issue we try to shed some light on that work while underscoring the point of it all: No matter how you approach publishing, it begins and ends with you, writing.