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July 11, 2011
By Calvin Reid
While the range of experiences and career differences between the authors is vast, the opportunity to publish and distribute their books—and, most importantly, control the process—is what unites them.

If anyone is still unconvinced that attitudes toward self-publishing have changed, an informal meeting with a group of Amazon CreateSpace authors during BookExpo in May offered still more evidence. The three authors we encountered at the CreateSpace booth showed that whether you're a businessman looking to document your entrepreneurial history, an artist investigating a new medium, or a more conventional writer just hoping to break into book publishing, self-publishing can be a viable option.

Invited by Amazon to stop by and meet its authors, PW didn't know quite what to expect, but we came away impressed. Among the self-made authors at that table was a genial and humorous gentleman who turned out to be Bill Rasmussen, the founder of ESPN, who self-published a new edition of his 1983 book, Sports Junkies Rejoice! The Birth of ESPN. Sitting next to Rasmussen was a woman who seemed vaguely familiar. Indeed, she was Tanya Wright, a highly regarded film and TV actress best known these days for her role as Kenya on the hit HBO TV series True Blood. Wright had published her novel, Butterfly Rising, through Amazon CreateSpace, and it was awarded a debut novel prize at last year's Brooklyn Book Festival. She earlier had written, produced, directed, and starred in an independent film, also called Butterfly Rising, which she turned into  the book. Seated next to Wright was Maria Murnane, a former public relations professional consumed by the writing bug, who quit her job, moved in with her parents, wrote, and eventually self-published her comic chick lit novel, Perfect on Paper: The (Mis)adventures of Waverly Bryson, through Amazon Create Space.

While the range of experiences and career differences between the authors is vast, the opportunity to publish and distribute their books—and, most importantly, control the process—is what unites them.  Rasmussen, a legendary figure in sports media, was able to publish a new edition of Sports Junkies Rejoice, the story of how he started ESPN and its rise from a crazy notion in the late 1970s to a multibillion-dollar international sports broadcast powerhouse, thanks to encouragement from his son. Since Rasmussen self-published the first edition of his book nearly 20 years ago, the self-publishing landscape has changed tremendously. His son suggested he look at CreateSpace. After his experience with the company, Rasmussen said he was most impressed by "the great support you get, how fast they are able to get the book into print, and when you need them, there are real people available to talk to you!"

Asked why she chose self-publishing, Wright said "I know how big entertainment machines work," emphasizing her years working in film and TV, "and I wanted an intimate publishing relationship, something I could control." She is acquainted with published authors, some of whom told her "I'd have to promote myself anyway." She acknowledged that, being on a popular TV show, "I know I can get my foot in the door." Butterfly Rising is the story of two Southern women who take off on a road trip. The film began as a screenplay written by Wright, but after shooting the film she began to read about "transmedia"—recreating a property in different ways for different media—and thought the film would make a great book; so she wrote one. While the movie focuses on the road trip, Wright explained, the book is about the lives of the two women over the course of 70 years. Wright thinks big; she's got her own company, Omnimedia, set to produce a variety of stories in multiple media channels, and she plans at least two more films based on the book. "When people tell me they've read my book, it's the most incredible feeling," she said.

Like a lot of writers, Maria Murnane thought she just couldn't get a break. Publishers, she said, often liked Perfect on Paper, her comic novel about the dating problems of a single professional woman, but told her the market was saturated with chick lit. "Seven publishers turned it down and my agent dropped me," she told PW, "by e-mail!"

Rewrites and more rejections followed, but she didn't give up: "I got great feedback from focus groups and I believed in my book." She didn't want to self-publish, but her father convinced her to try CreateSpace. After a year of grass-roots marketing, Amazon Encore picked up the book (she is quick to note she's not self-published anymore) and released a new edition. Perfect on Paper has subsequently been published in Germany by Random House, and there's a Hungarian edition as well. In November, the sequel, It's a Waverly Life, will be published by Amazon's new general publishing division. "I always knew it would happen," she said about her dream to be a published author. "It was like a dream come true when I got the phone call. Never give up on your dreams."