Writing a book: Self-publishing boom evident in Tucson | Books
Bill Finley special for the Arizona Daily Star
Has your neighbor been acting suspicious lately? Is the dim light of a laptop shining late at night? Does the UPS truck now make regular stops in front of his house? Does he look lost in thought when you wave your morning greeting across the street?
Your neighbor might be planning a job at the bank, but they’re much more likely to talk about it.
The number of self-published books in the United States has exploded over the past five years, and Tucson is no exception.
“It’s hard to put a number on this, but it’s safe to say that more people are writing books — and thinking about writing a book — than ever before,” said Sam Henrie, founder of Wheatmark Publishing. “A lot of people are writing now.”
Wheatmark was Arizona’s first service provider dedicated to self-publishing authors. Established in 2000, it is still one of the largest in the western United States. The company recently distributed 600 royalty checks to authors published by Wheatmark.
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All production costs were paid by the authors, making the books published “self” or “independently”.
“We’re kind of a one-stop-shop for people who want to publish a book but need help getting it done,” Henrie said.
The process begins with an evaluation of each project. How does the author envision the end result? Would the manuscript benefit from further editing? Do you need someone to design the cover and illustrate the text? How do you see the distribution of your book?
Customers can select a la carte services or request them all from Wheatmark.
Henrie caught the bug of books when he was young, from his parents. Her mother wrote a best-selling self-help book which was published by Penguin. Her father wrote novels but struggled to get them published.
Sam started his own career in technology, specializing in computer networking. While stationed in Amsterdam in the mid-1990s, he discovered ‘print on demand’ and online bookstores.
“I realized my dad could now publish his own book without needing a second mortgage,” Henrie said, and her vision quickly became Wheatmark.
Tucson has long been a hotbed of literature. Barbara Kingsolver and JA Jance grew up in the area. Larry McMurtry and Father Andrew Greeley wintered here. In 1990, there were more than 50 independent bookstores in a city of 400,000 people.
Henrie suspects that a number of Tucson readers were also hidden writers.
“At that time, he recalls, you sent your manuscript to 40 different publishers and agents hoping that one of them would like it. Who knows how many people were writing books that we had never heard of.
On the contrary, the chances of a newcomer being published by a Big 5 publisher are now longer than ever, Henrie said.
“Unless you know someone, your chances are pretty much zero, but almost anyone can publish their own book,” he said.
Wheatmark alone has 60 books in progress, and Henrie suspects there are hundreds — perhaps thousands — of partially developed books living in laptops across Pima County.
These projects range from autobiographies written for the author’s grandchildren to serious works of literary fiction.
Occasionally, a self-published author hits the jackpot. Lisa Genova self-published “Still Alice” in 2007. It went on to become a bestseller published in 20 languages and an Oscar-winning film for actress Julianne Moore.
Much more common are books that end up in boxes stacked in the author’s garage. According to tonerbuzz.comthe average self-published book sells about 200 copies.
“I don’t think anyone writes a book thinking it will become a bestseller,” Henrie said. “No one goes into this idea thinking it will make them rich. People self-publish books for the same reason they use Twitter or tell stories. If you think you have something to say, you want to say it.
Henrie said Wheatmark’s customers were generally older, well-educated, middle-class and up.
Tucson’s popularity among retirees and its long-standing appeal to academics make it fertile ground for would-be writers.
If you want to become one of them, it’s easy to start the journey. Simply turn off the lights, open your laptop and watch for UPS deliveries to your front door.
good news from The book stop, the oldest bookstore in Tucson: There is no news. The venerable North Fourth Avenue boutique is still open five days a week despite the death of co-owner Tina Bailey last June.
“We’re just taking it one week at a time, and we’ll see what happens,” Bailey’s business partner Claire Fellows said. Bailey and Fellows bought the store in 1992. Fellows now shares the keys with Bailey’s sister, Anne Lane. The Book Stop is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
the Martha Cooper Branch Library in Midtown will close for at least a year starting June 27. A major renovation and construction project will double the size of the library and create a large indoor-outdoor meeting and event space. Located on Catalina Avenue near Catalina High School, the library hopes to reopen in the summer of 2023.
The Pima County Public Library has expanded its hours of operation at a number of its branches. Many are now open on Saturdays. To check the branch closest to you, visit the library’s website: pima.bibliocommons.com/locations
About 1 million new titles were released in the United States last year. Half of them were published independently.
Book sales are on the rise in the United States, but studies show that’s because readers are reading more. Twenty-seven percent of American adults haven’t read a single book in the past year. Fourteen percent cannot read at all.