Sunday, March 19, 2006

A Self-Publishing Success Story

I enjoy stories about writers who manage to by-pass the traditional publishing gatekeepers and still achieve some level of success. I heard a good one this past week while at the New York teachers' conference I've been droning on and on about.

On Wednesday I met Gary VanRiper who, with his son Justin, has written a series of books called The Adirondack Kids. They approached a regional publisher after writing the first book. This publisher suggested they go the self-publishing route. The books have done well enough that the VanRipers have written six different titles, and, I believe, have more in the planning stages.

How did they manage to do this well? First, though they do sell the book directly, they also have a distributor. That means that some of the chain bookstores that won't touch self-published books will sometimes carry theirs because they can order it through the distributor. Second, the books are set in real places in the Adirondacks, which interested schools in New York. The books are used in a number of schools at the grade levels when students study their state.

I don't know exactly how successful they are, but get a load of the appearances they have scheduled for the next few months. They get enough requests for appearances during the school year that Gary has to make a lot of them by himself because Justin can't miss that much of his own schooling.

The VanRiper's story is interesting, but I don't know if it's typical. Not many self-published authors are going to find themselves with a distributor and an audience the way the they have. Every self-publishing success story I've heard involves a great amount of effort and a fortunate combination of circumstances.

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