Barnes & Noble's official launch last week of PubIt, its self-publishing digital platform, makes the bookstore chain the latest industry player to offer some sort of service for the rapidly growing self-publishing market. PubIt will allow authors and independent publishers to load e-books into its system for free; the e-books will then be available for sale in the B&N eBookstore and on devices compatible with the Nook. There is no startup fee, and royalties will range from 40% to 65% of list price. E-books priced at or between $2.99 and $9.99 will earn a 65% royalty; e-books under $2.99 and e-books over $9.99 will get a 40% royalty.

One of the companies PubIt will compete with, as well as work with, is Smashwords. Launched in 2008, Smashwords lets authors supply it with files that Smashwords converts to different e-book formats and then distributes the e-books to a variety of e-bookstores, including the B&N eBookstore, which carries about 11,000 Smashwords titles.

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, was a panelist at the recent Self-Publishing Book Expo and said Smashwords now has 9,000 authors and 20,000 e-books. The company is growing rapidly internationally (serving about 30 countries), and Coker is in the middle of a speaking tour with stops including Brazil and Australia. Sales have increased steadily each month, and the company is now modestly profitable, "seven months ahead of plan," Coker said. In the just concluded third quarter, a Smashwords author earned about $15,000, Coker said, and is a good example of how an author can build his or her sales over time in the digital marketplace.

Approximately 450 authors and exhibitors turned out at the SPBE, held October 2 at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers in New York, said organizer Karen Mender. Panels included speakers from major publishers, such as Simon & Schuster senior v-p of marketing Liz Perl, and Sheryl Stebbins, editorial director at Kaplan Publishing, as well as authors talking about their do-it-yourself approach. Exhibitors included Amazon, which took tables for both AmazonEncore and CreateSpace. The director of author and publisher relations for Amazon, Jon Fine (former counsel for Knopf), was on hand and moderated several panels. "Digital publishing," Fine said, "has democratized the means of production and turned what was once called vanity publishing into self-publishing."

Other exhibitors included PW, which promoted its PW Selects service, and Blueink Reviews, a new Web site that will launch later this fall offering paid reviews of self-published books for $395 and $495. AuthorSolutions, Vantage Press, and Outskirts Press had tables featuring their self-publishing programs, while Bowker promoted its Manuscripts Submissions service.