With the bad economy, it seems like more people have more time or inclination to write and are thinking about publishing a book. At the same time many big publishing houses are doing poorly, so many aspiring authors are considering self-publishing. I am a member of many online publishing discussion groups, and every day, I see questions roll by from people who have decided to publish a book without doing any research on the business of publishing. Just because you know how to write a book does not mean you know how to publish a book.
Most people who start a business have some familiarity with that industry. For example, before starting a restaurant, most people have at least worked in one. Or visited their local Small Business Development Center for information on restaurant operations. Or read every book in the library on how to be a restaurateur. Or maybe even just talked to someone who has owned a restaurant before.
Yet many writers forge ahead and fall prey to get-rick-quick schemes and purchase “self-publishing” packages that are not in their best interest. Just because a company comes up first in Google is not a good reason to work with them. To be successful, you need to do two things.
1. Educate yourself. Go to the library or surf to an online bookstore. Successful publishers are also readers. I think every aspiring self-publisher should read at least the following books:
- Self-Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter
- Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Tom and Marilyn Ross
- Well Fed Self-Publisher by Peter Bowerman
- 1001 Ways to Market Your Booksby John Kremer
At the risk of promoting my own book, if you plan to use print on demand, you may also want to read my book Publishize: How to Quickly and Affordably Self-Publish a Book That Promotes Your Expertise. In particular, I’d like you to please read it before you sign up with a subsidy press like iUniverse or Lulu, so you understand what you are giving up when you go that route.
2. Outline your goals for your book. After you understand more about self-publishing, you can figure out the right approach for your book. For example, if you want to see your book in bricks and mortar bookstores, you may not want to self-publish it. You might want to sign with a traditional publisher. (In that case, you need to get an agent and learn about doing book proposals.) It’s much more difficult to get self-published books into bookstores. It’s even more difficult if the book is printed on-demand.
If you want to use your book as part of a larger business strategy, self-publishing may make sense for you. Many people make more money self-publishing than they would if they went with a traditional publisher. You definitely make more profit per book than if you go with a subsidy press.
However, if self-publishing sounds way too hard and you really only want to produce a book for friends and family, the simplest thing may be to go through a subsidy publisher like iUniverse.
The key is to understand what you do and do not get with each publishing option. By taking the time to educate yourself about the publishing business, you can make intelligent decisions and avoid expensive mistakes.