Authors exercise their "write" to self-publish

Does that worry her at all? No, she said. "As a matter of fact, editors and agents are now looking at the Amazon bestseller list, and they're looking at the New York Times bestseller list, and they're looking for potential new authors, too. We've bought a couple of them."

But only a tiny portion of self-published books do make it big - mostly through word of mouth or the blogosphere, rather than mainstream reviews.

Time magazine book critic Lev Grossman, himself a published author, acknowledges that he pays more attention if a book comes from a traditional publisher.

"I get a lot of people sending me self-published books, and it's tough. When I am looking at hundreds of thousands of self-published books by people I've never heard of, I just don't know what to do with a lot of them."

But he dismisses the idea that publishers ALWAYS produce better books.

"I often look at traditionally published books and think, 'How the hell did this get published?'" Grossman laughed. "You know, a lot of stuff gets published on both sides that shouldn't."

Still, it seems that nothing trumps the will to publish - even in print! For those who still want a product they can hold, there's The Espresso Book Machine, which turns out bound paperbacks in places like Manhattan's McNally Jackson Books. Coordinator Beth Steidle says printing prices start at just $19, and she's seen a big increase self-publishing.

"In the beginning it was maybe 50 books a month; now we print on the average of 1,000 books a month," Steidle said.

The store even sells books it prints - a big thrill for Silver Krieger, whose romantic comedy was turned down by traditional publishers.

"My dream was just to see people in a cafe, sipping a cappuccino and reading my funny little book," she said.

And why not dream? There's plenty of precedent. A long list of successful authors self-published even before the current boom, including Rick Evans. And with 22 best sellers, and 15 million books in print, he is delighted that self-publishing is easier for today's fledgling writers:

"There's some powerful stories out there that may, that need to be heard," Evans said. "The cream will still rise to the top. There will be things that will gain traction and grow. So I'm all for it. I think it's wonderful."

And even big-time publishers, whose livelihood may be a bit threatened, give the do-it-yourself crowd a lot of respect:

"The fact that you have a channel for getting your book published and read, I think that's very good for authors," said Grand Central's Raab. "I applaud anyone who says, 'I'm not giving up, I've got to find a way.'"

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