But already having a following makes a big difference.
Witness new author Eve Yohalem. More than a month after self-publishing, she has grossed about $100 in sales— after incurring costs of $3,400. She said she's in no rush, though. There's plenty of room for optimism -- look at the runaway success of Darcie Chan's self-published debut novel, The Mill River Recluse.
As Trachtenberg also points out, the current situation has changed. "Vanity" publishing was considered just that, a reflection of a rejected writer's ego. But now, self-publishing is perfectly respectable. The question that taxes would-be self-published authors is not whether they'll be viewed as literary outcasts, but how to go about it and what it will cost.
And there is the huge advantage that eBooks are not remaindered, and they aren't pulped after a short six-month shelf life.
"One of the big differences between e-books and print is the sales cycle," says Ms. Yohalem. "It's almost inverted. A chain store buyer makes a decision as much as six months before the book is published, and then it has no more than six months on the shelf. At that point your sales cycle is over. But with e-books, it's completely the opposite. It's often six to nine months before your book takes off, and you never take it down."