Assessing Your Future in Self-Publishing
By Patricia Fry
Publishing is not for the faint of heart, the short-sighted or the introvert. It’s a commitment that demands courage, risk-taking, planning, energy, creativity and assertiveness.
Note: I’m speaking here of true self-publishing—establishing your own publishing company.
Before entering into the realm of self-publishing, consider the following:
- Is there an audience for your book?
- Are you willing to take the steps necessary to establish and operate a publishing business?
- Do you have the funds available to pour into your publishing project?
- Do you have room to store boxes and boxes of books?
- Do you have the time and inclination to promote your book(s)?
I know hundreds of authors who have self-published their books. Some have a book or a series of books they produce while working full-time jobs, others have one book that they self-published and marketed until their stock ran out. But most of them are like me: They set up a publishing company in order to produce numerous books. To date, I’ve self-published about a dozen and a half books and I have five with traditional publishers.
I’m often asked during a workshop or other presentation which I prefer—going with a traditional publisher or self-publishing. Truth? I like the ease of having a traditional publisher who handles the business end of the project and pays quarterly royalties. I like not being responsible for storing the books. Since I’m still involved in promoting the books, however, I actually prefer self-publishing. I like being in control of the project. When I self-publish, I choose the title and the cover design. I decide what chapters stay and which ones go. But this also means that I have total responsibility for promoting the book.
Certainly self-publishing is not for everyone. I respond to writers’ questions for writing/publishing-related newsletters for Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network (www.spawn.org). I got a question last week from someone who yearns to be published, but doesn’t want any kind of paper trail leading to her. She doesn’t want to do anything involving public interaction. She probably would not be a good candidate for self-publishing.
Elderly people may want their memoirs published, but may not relish the hassle of self-publishing—setting up a distribution company, finding a cover designer and printer, promoting the book, taking orders and shipping books, etc.
Someone with a full-time career and who writes a book as a sideline, probably doesn’t want to get involved in operating a publishing business.
Anyone on a small income will find it difficult to finance a self-publishing venture.
I often coach authors who want to start their own publishing company and have observed about a fifty-percent success ratio. Those who succeed have built a business around their project and they take that business seriously. They have goals and they evaluate their goals regularly. They give their project their full attention. If they lack skills in a particular area, they hire someone to take up the slack.
I know one author, for example, who spent two years operating quite a successful campaign on behalf of her book. Her book was reviewed in major newspapers all over the country. She traveled far and wide giving demonstrations and selling books. When she ran out of steam, energy and ideas, she hired a publicist and book sales absolutely soared.
I don’t do page layout and design, so I hire someone to perform that task for me. I find shipping and handling large mailings rather mundane and time-consuming. So I hire my grandchildren or neighborhood children to help with these projects and we do them outside of regular business hours.
You get interesting responses when you tell people that you have a publishing company. Some ask you where you keep the printing presses, “In the garage?” Others want to discuss having you publish their grandmother’s memoirs. Still others call or stop you on the street to say, “I’m thinking about writing a book, how do I go about publishing it?” It was this question multiplied by dozens that prompted me to hang out my shingle. I now charge for consultations.
The discouraging thing is that most people are looking for a shortcut to publishing success. It’s after I map out the well-traveled course that the serious authors are culled from the wannabes.
Are you serious about self-publishing? Do you believe in your project enough to put in the effort and time? Or are you looking for a get-rich-quick scheme?
Enter into the world of self-publishing with a viable project, an open mind, creative ideas and a willingness to learn. You will experience success in equal measure to what you ultimately have to give.
Patricia Fry is a freelance writer and the author of 27 books, including, “The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book,” revised 2nd edition, 2007 and the accompanying “Author’s Workbook.” www.matilijapress.com/rightway.html. Contact Patricia at firstname.lastname@example.org Visit Patricia Fry’s informative blog often: www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog.
Which Publishing Method is the Right One? (continued)
After months or years of writing, you’ve finally finished your book. You’re ready to sign up with a publisher. But which one? What’s the best publishing option?
Answer: It depends on you and it depends on your project.
Ideally, before you start writing your book, you will consider your audience and your promotional plan. But most first-time authors don’t think outside of their need or desire to write that novel, children’s story, memoir or reference guide until the book is written. Then they ask, “How can I find a publisher for my book?”
I frequently tell hopeful authors that publishing is not an extension of your writing. While writing is a craft—a heart thing—publishing is a business and your book is a product. What does this mean? It means that when you decide to publish your book, it is time to shift from creative mode to business mode. And the best time to start making this transition is before you start writing the book.
- Understand your publishing options and select one.
- Unless you plan to self-publish, choose a few potential publishers even before you start working on the project. Why? A publisher could drive your project—prompt you to include aspects and features that will make it more salable.
But okay, you didn’t do any of that—you followed in the footsteps of most first-time authors and you went ahead and wrote your book. So what is the best publishing option for your book? Again, it depends on you and it depends on your project.
Traditional Royalty Publisher
For most newbie authors, a traditional royalty publisher is a good choice because he takes care of all technical and legal aspects of your project—final editing, page layout, cover design, choosing a title and some promotion (inclusion in their catalog, a web presence, a few reviews and, perhaps, space in bookstores) and they pay the expenses. Your only responsibility is promoting the book from your end—perhaps arranging for speaking engagements, radio/web interviews, book festivals, book signings and so forth.
What most new authors don’t realize is that there are hundreds of small and medium-sized publishers who don’t require agent representation and who are hungry for good books to produce.
I would advise seeking a traditional royalty publisher for a niche book such as one featuring haunted houses in Arizona, cycling for ultra-fitness, the history of railroads and trains, vintage cars or how to build a covered bridge, for example. If you can find a publisher who specializes in your topic, this is probably an excellent choice. Why? Because this publisher is already marketing to your audience. He knows where they are and how to reach them. If there’s money to be made with a book like yours, he probably has a better chance helping you make it happen.
Tip: Use Writer’s Market and similar reference directories to locate appropriate publishers. Visit real and virtual bookstores to locate books similar to yours. Find out who published these books and contact these publishers.
Question: When is a traditional royalty publisher not a good choice?
Answer: When you have a business book or a highly specialized book within your realm of expertise and you have a solid platform. If you have a following within your field, when you are living a lifestyle conducive to promoting this book (you conduct seminars worldwide on this topic, for example), you’re better off self-publishing.
Now, when I say self-publishing, I don’t mean signing with a fee-based, POD “self-publishing” companies. I mean establishing your own publishing company. Self-publishing is, in my opinion, the best way to produce a book that you know you can sell. Why settle for royalties when you can collect all of the profits?
Fee-Based POD Publishing Companies
If your book would be of interest to a relatively small segment of readers—a memoir featuring your pregnancy, a self-help recovery book for cigar smokers or the story of your great uncle’s eccentric behavior during the depression, for example, and this is the only book you’ll ever produce, consider going with a fee-based POD “self-publishing” company. If you are like many one-time authors and have no interest in promoting your book, I’d recommend not publishing at all. But if you insist on moving ahead with the project, turn it over to a POD—pay to become a published author, sell a few copies and then go on with your life. Most likely, you won’t recoup your investment, but you will accomplish your goal of getting this book published.
If you are serious about entering the competitive field of publishing and you desire success, I can tell you how in two simple steps.
Before you start writing the book,
- Study the publishing industry.
For help with both of these important tasks and many other facets of writing, publishing and selling a book, order your copy of The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book AND the accompanying Author’s Workbook TODAY. www.matilijapress.com/rightway.html.
Patricia Fry is a full-time career writer, author, lecturer. She is the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) www.spawn.org. And she is the author of 27 books, including ten related to writing and publishing. Her hallmark book is The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book www.matilijapress.com/rightway.html. Order it with the accompanying Author’s Workbook and save.
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