Friday, July 12, 2013
What Makes a Self-publisher Run?
Not so long ago, "self-publishing" meant "vanity publishing." There were companies out there who prayed on novice writers, gladly taking thousands of their dollars to print their books with no guarantee of success.
A great example was the person who had been misaligned in some way. The following scenario was all too typical: A widow, whose husband had died at the hand of surgeons, is out to tell the world about the incompetencies of the medical profession. She decides to write a book and spends as much as $8,000 to have it “published.” In this case, published means printed. She’s a terrible writer and seeks revenge for her husband’s death more than anything else. In the end, she ends up with 5,000 copies of a book no one wants to read.
On the other hand, there’s the story of a young food writer who desires to write a book on Moroccan cooking. She does so, has it printed in Morocco—it was cheaper there—then ends up with 3.000 copies stacked in her bedroom. Instead of sitting on those books, she began to peddle them to gourmet food stores in high-end retailers like Nieman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s. Her book is a success and five additional books later, she’s a success. But only because she was not only a good writer but a savvy businesswoman.
Vanity publishers ran ads in magazines for writers—the ones only beginning writers read. The chances of your book, so printed, reaching much of an audience at all are slim. In most cases it will end up collecting dust in your attic—if you still have one after putting up the cash to have it published.
Today, the advent of ebooks and POD (Publishing on Demand) books makes it possible for you to self-publish your work without shelling out thousands of dollars. And the market is constantly growing. These days more books than ever are being self-published—fiction, nonfiction. poetry, art, design, crafts, guides, etc. While some are amateurish in their production, others look professional—as good as any commercially published book. They, like any book brought out by a large publishing concern with a list of hundreds, can bomb, or they can break the bank. As a self-publisher, you’re the publisher, as well as the designer, salesman, distributor, and publicity agent of your book. Fortunately, you’ll also collect all the proceeds from its sales.
How do you start out if you're going to make a profit? First, plunging into self-publishing without ever having published anything is as bad as writing a book and sending the manuscript around to endless publishers. Many beginning writers have the mistaken belief that they should start out by writing a book—the hardest type of project they could tackle. They have no idea what they’re doing and thus, end up with a poor product. But self-publishing after you’ve had quite a bit of work published, especially books, makes sense.
A mystery writer, who already has four published books under her belt, decided to convert some short stories of hers into shorter books and publish them on Kindle. While she’s not making tons of money, her book sales have been steady. And that’s because she already had a following. Her readers wanted more and she gave it to them. Now she’s experimenting with a POD book—a republishing in paperback form of one of her ebooks—for readers who don’t use Kindle. In the end, she’ll be successful because she’s plotted out her book market as well as she plotted out her mysteries.
What you need to start in self-publishing is a sound, well-researched idea for a book that appeals to a wide audience. After you write it, you need to get it professionally edited. You’ll also want critics, experts, etc., to endorse your book so your promotions will have credibility. And you get those by previously following the traditional published route.
Self-publishing is an affirmation of your belief in your own best efforts, because no publisher will care quite as much about your work as you do.