Unlike many authors who turn to self-publishing, Ivester didn’t receive a host of rejections from publishing houses. He didn’t send his manuscript out to agents. In fact, he never looked for representation of any kind. He simply didn’t have the time.
After his first year of business school, Ivester decided that instead of getting the traditional summer internship, he wanted to write lol... OMG!—a handbook for students about managing online reputation, digital citizenship, and cyberbullying. And he wanted to write, edit, and publish the book that summer: in just a few months.
“My decision to self-publish was largely driven by timing,” Ivester says. “I decided to write the book [in] March [of 2011], and I really wanted it to come out in time for this school year. I knew that meant I didn’t have time to find an agent and shop it around. Even to self-publish it was an incredibly intense time line. Traditional methods weren’t really an option.”
And while Ivester was in a hurry to publish lol... OMG! his reasons for writing the book date back to 2007, when he launched juicycampus.com, a now-defunct college gossip Web site and anonymous message board. Soon, JuicyCampus was mired in controversy over its content, which was described by critics as degrading, abusive, and hateful.
“I was glad to have the chance to take my experience with JuicyCampus and do something really positive,” Ivester says. “Last year there were several suicides as a result of cyberbullying, and I wanted to do something constructive to help prevent such tragedies.... I realized I was in a unique position to be able to help.”
The first steps for Ivester were researching the self-publishing process and speaking with company representatives. After comparing his options, he decided to go with Amazon’s CreateSpace.
And while CreateSpace offers everything from editing to marketing, Ivester only used a handful of the company’s services—since he found his own editor, research assistant, and designer—in an effort to keep costs down and speed the process.
“The coolest part about their service is that I don’t have to keep any inventory,” says Ivester. “They receive an order, and then print the book that day and ship it out the next.”
And Ivester says that since self-publishing lol... OMG! in fall 2011, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. “It seems that the book has filled a real void in the marketplace,” he says.
But despite the speed and ease of the self-publishing process and the book’s warm reception, Ivester admits that self-publishing is not without its problems: “I thought writing the book would be the hard part. But promoting the book is every bit as difficult.”
To meet that challenge, Ivester worked with a public relations firm to launch the book. The firm issued a press release, helped create a Web site, set up author interviews, and sent out copies of the book to media.
Ivester’s efforts are paying off. Through a connection at Intel, he promoted the book as a free download on Amazon in honor of Data Privacy Day. Over the course of a single weekend, more than 20,000 people downloaded lol... OMG!
Still, Ivester admits traditional publishing opens some doors more easily than self-publishing, specifically doors into bookstores. And even with CreateSpace’s expanded distribution service—which lists titles through major distributors, giving bookstores the ability to order them—he’s still found it difficult getting lol... OMG! into stores and onto shelves.
“That’s something traditional publishers do really well,” he says. “The biggest problem for bookstores with self-publishing is there’s no return. Bookstores are hesitant to buy books on a no return policy.”
And while Ivester acknowledges there’s still a stigma associated with self-publishing, he thinks it’s beginning to matter less. Would he be open to a traditional publishing deal? Of course. But he stands by his decision to self-publish.
“I’m really glad that I did it, and incredibly proud of the impact that it is having,” he says. “As more and more books are being sold online, directly to readers, the publishing house’s brand plays less of a role in those sales.”