Sunday, July 27, 2003

Self-publishing proves better route for some writers

By Marcus Green
The Louisville Courier-Journal

LOUISVILLE - For aspiring poet Andrea Vance, making her book a reality became a matter of doing it herself.

Less than a year after she contacted Evanston Publishing in Louisville, her Holding On was published in 2001 by Chicago Spectrum Press, an Evanston subsidiary.

"I thought that this would be a better route for me ... to get my name out there and get my book and work out there," Vance said.

In a small basement office crammed with manuscripts and boxes of books, Evanston Publishing helps its clients build a reputation.

Evanston Publishing is a one-stop shop for aspiring novelists, poets and nonfiction writers. Self-publishing lets writers become authors - a distinction that has become increasingly accessible through publishers such as xLibris and iUniverse.

Dorothy Kavka founded Evanston in 1987 and moved the business from the Chicago area to Louisville six years ago, when her husband accepted a job here. Wanda Johnson-Hall, who had just started working for Kavka, made the move as well.

For most of that time, business has been steady. When the company moved from Evanston, Ill., many of its self-published authors remained clients. "People when they first publish a book get it in their blood," Kavka said.

Evanston's clients range from self-help writers to historians, writers of children's books to poets, many of them seeking their first published book.

Ask any published author: It can be daunting. In Kavka's eyes, the publishing world has undergone several metamorphoses in the last 15 years.

Self-publishing is one way for an author to build a reputation before climbing the ranks through small, independent publishers, but it's not cheap.

At Evanston, an author can get 100 books for $1,400. For a little more, writers get help marketing their books.

In the past two years, Evanston has captured more business from writers who want limited orders of their books, which are printed on a Canon laser printer and copier - slashing the cost of shipping to an outside printer.

Nearly one-third of Evanston's business this year has come from these small-run orders.

"Before that, I didn't feel that we could offer the quality," Kavka said. "And now we can."

"Self-publishing, especially for an author, it can be so lucrative," Johnson-Hall said.

But authors must be "willing to do the legwork, because selling books is all about word of mouth - I don't care what anyone says."

Maureen Holohan, a former basketball player at Northwestern University in Evanston, is one of Evanston Publishing's success stories. After publishing eight books herself, she was signed by a large publishing house. Holohan's series of books for young adults, The Broadway Ballplayers, is marketed to girls.

Evanston printed more than 100,000 copies of Holohan's books.

"She was told that nobody would be interested in books written about girls and sports," Johnson-Hall said.

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