LITTLE ROCK — When Glenave Curtis put together a book of her favorite recipes and devotional writings she didn’t bother seeking a traditional publishing house. The great-grandmother from Judsonia hit the Internet in search of a self-publishing company. She found Author House, a division of Indiana-based Author Solutions, Inc., one of many print-on-demand companies ready to help aspiring writers attain their dream of publishing a book.
Curtis, 79, had a lifetime’s worth of recipes from her days as a home economics teacher and as a mother and grandmother. Family members and former students urged her to write a cookbook and she worked on it off and on for several years. The completed book, Recipes for Body and Soul, is a hefty 400-page paperback - a legacy for her family. Iteven includes the first recipe she ever made - chocolate drop cookies at age 10.
“Cooking has been a great joy to me in many, many ways,” Curtis said. “All this time I was gathering recipes and I have a huge collection and after a while I thought, ‘I can do this.’”
But Curtis didn’t want the book to contain only recipes. She wanted it to nurture the soul, as well, so she called upon her years of Bible teaching and study and shares some of her own reflections and devotionals in the book.
“Recipes for the soul were much more important even though I have many more recipes for the body,” she said. “When I write, it’s what’s on my heart. They mean a lot to me.”
Curtis said it’s wonderful seeing her recipes and writings in book form and credits her family and her late husband, Dean, for inspiring herto complete the task.
“It’s a testimony to the family,” she said. “We had 57 years together and I have such wonderful memories. I smile a little bit and cry a little bit but I remember. I have four children and 12 grandchildren and so far I have 14 great-children and we are expecting four more.”
The new author didn’t want to say how much money she invested in the book. Her publisher, Author House, offers publishing packages for paperbacks and hardbacks starting at $599.
“Most authors will invest around $2,000,” said Keith Ogorek, vice president of marketing with Author Solutions. “What that gets them is a custom-designed book, some ancillary services, a copyright and a number of books to use for promotion or to sell themselves.”
Most importantly, Ogorek said, the books are listed withonline retailers, such as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Borders. Customers can also order the books through local bookstores.
Ogorek said this typeof self-publishing has been around since the late 1990s and really took off with advances in print-on-demand technology.
That means costs have dropped, Ogorek said.
It also means that publishers can print books one at a time as they are ordered, rather than mass printing hundreds or thousands of books that may or may not sell.
“Trees do not have to perish until someone orders a book,” Ogorek said.
Print-on-demand or “indie” publishing is a fast-growing industry. From 2008 to 2009, the publication of nontraditional titles increased 181 percent, according to Bowker, an organization that issues International Standard Book Numbers for all U.S. published books. Printon-demand or self-published books fall into that category.Last year, Author Solutions alone published almost 21,000 titles.
Cost is a big draw, but so is the control writers have over their work. Other than hate speech, pornography and libelous material, Author Solutions accepts all manuscripts customers are willing to pay to publish.
“You control the content,” Ogorek said.
The self-publishing trend has also opened the market to all sorts of genres, and faith-based books are a popular choice for authors and readers. Author Solutions, for example, partnered with big-name Christian publisher Thomas Nelson in 2009 to create WestBow Press, a self-publishing imprint. Other companies have similar operations.
Self-publishing companies offer a variety of options for customers. Some offer help with marketing and with editing and page design, while others offer do-it-yourself templates. That’s how the Benedictine sisters at St. Scholastica Monastery decided to publish a book of poetry - Joyful Gifts. Using Amazon.com’s CreateSpace option, the nuns compiled the poetry and photographs, designed the pages and ordered a production-size proof, allfor about $25.
Maryanne Meyerriecks, communications director for the Fort Smith monastery, said the sisters had published books in the past and decided to try self-publishing for the poetry collection.
“You’re never sure what the market will be,” Meyerriecks said. “The cost for us was quite reasonable.”
Meyerriecks said a committee from the monastery selected the poetry and photographs. Using CreateSpace templates online, they designed the book and the cover, which is a picture of the nuns from the monastery’s 125th anniversary celebration. A calculator on the site shows the cost for various sizes of books. The sisters selected an 8-by-10-inch format to accommodate black-and-white photos inside.
“It’s been a wonderful, affirming experience for the sisters,” Meyerriecks said. “They did a beautiful job.”
Because it was made on CreateSpace, the book is also automatically listed and marketed on Amazon.com. A search for Joyful Gifts will reveal a listing for the book along with the option of looking at a sampling of pages inside.
“Of course, we are a very low priority, but we’re there,” Meyerriecks said.
Most of the books, about 225, have been sold by the nuns through word of mouth to friends and graduates of the monastery’s old academy. But they have sold five books through Amazon and have received some royalty checks for about 45 percent of the sale.
Each book costs $18.75. Of course, when the sisters order and sell the books on their own the profit margin is higher. But profit isn’t why the book was published, Meyerriecks said. Sharing their poetry in a permanent form was the goal.
The sisters have been so pleased with the project that Meyerriecks said they are contemplating re-publishing their early history book so it will be available, too.
Quinn B. Dodds Sr. of Little Rock published his book,Against All Odds With Jesus Christ, through another selfpublishing group, Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc. of Pittsburgh. He chose a more deluxe package that cost about $9,000.
“I went with the highest level,” Dodds said. “They print it and put it out nationally.”
The package calls for a printing of 300-500 books. If more books are ordered by customers, they are printed on demand, which takes a week or so to be delivered, Dodds said.
Dodds’ story focuses on his own life and discrimination he says he encountered as a black man while working in West Virginia. He chose selfpublishing in part because, as author, he had control over the content.
“They don’t change what you’ve written,” he said. “And mine is a true story.”
Dodds writes about being unemployed and how he even had thoughts of revenge.
“But God blocked it. It was like he was talking to me through the Bible and He said, ‘You have to believe and trust me,’” Dodds said. “I began to start forgiving them for what they’d done.”
The book is $9 and proceeds go to Operation HOPEY (Helping Other People Especially Yourself), which is located in Pine Bluff, where Dodds was born. The organization hopes to build a shelter for the homeless. Dodds has been so pleased with the experience, he’s already working on a second book about faith and love.
“It’s not about me,” he said. “It’s about helping someone else, to show them and open their eyes. I was blind to a lot of things.”
Ogorek said print-on-demand books are the “democratization of publishing.”
“You control the content, you own the content and you have the speed to market advantage,” he said. “For a small investment you can get a book into the marketplace and validate whether it’s any good or not. The barriers to getting your work into the hands of potential readers have been removed.”