Writing For Money

 

Business Tactics - Robert W. Bly

 

Self-Publishing: Do you dare?

Many writers I've met swear by self-publishing. The problem is, an equal amount swear at it.

In self-publishing, you are the publisher as well as the author. You pay to have the book typeset, designed, and printed. You are responsible for storing the inventory, shipping, distribution, sales, marketing, and promotion. As publisher/author, you get to keep all of the revenues generated from sales (less expenses) vs. the 6 to 15 percent of sales a mainstream publisher would pay you.

 

If your goal is to hold in your hands a nicely-designed, printed book with your name on the cover, self-publishing is relatively easy. Anyone can have a manuscript typeset, take it to a book printer, and pay them to print the books.

 

If you want to sell a lot of copies of your book, self-publishing requires a long-term commitment on your part. You are your own warehouse, shipping department, accounting department, sales force, publicity department, marketing director, distributor, collections agency and secretary.

To write a book and have it published by a traditional publisher means you can concentrate on writing, which for many of us is the part we like best. Self-publishing your book requires that you fulfill all the functions of author as well as publisher. In essence, it means you have to form and run a "mini-publishing company."

Decisions, decisions

How do you make the choice between self-publishing vs. regular publishing? Unless you are dead set in favor of one particular option - traditional publishing or self-publishing - here are some guidelines to follow.

Go to a mainstream publishing house when:

You feel your idea would have wide appeal to a mass audience.

Yours is the type of book that would sell well in book-stores.

You want the prestige and status that come with selling a book to a "real" publisher.

You do not have the time or inclination to be in business as a small publishing house and

would prefer instead to concentrate on writing.

You want to establish your reputation as a professional writer.

You do not have the skills and expertise to self-publish (e.g., book design, marketing,

distribution, desktop publishing) and do not have the desire to acquire them.

Self-publish when:

Your idea appeals to a specialized narrow target market - parachutists, chiropractors, car

wash owners.

Yours is the type of book that would sell well through direct response advertising

(magazine ads, direct mail, catalogs, the Internet).

The idea of self-publishing appeals to you.

You have the time, talent, and inclination to handle all aspects of the publishing business

- distribution, promotion, administrative - in addition to researching and writing the

book.

Your book is not a "one-shot" idea, but rather, you plan a whole line of books and related

information products (seminars, audiocassettes, videos, special reports, etc.) to educate

your chosen target market on various aspects of your topic.

The "snob appeal" and status of being published in the conventional method is not

important to you, and you won't be bothered by comments from those people who look down on self-publishing.

You have been turned down by the major publishing houses, yet believe in the book so

strongly that you are willing to act as publisher to see the book get into print.

You are impatient and want to get the book out right away, rather than wait the nine to 18

months it normally takes to write a book and get it published when going through a

conventional publisher.

 

Factories, or fame & fortune?

Many proponents of self-publishing (and some are valued colleagues and personal friends of mine) are highly critical of mainstream publishing. They like to promote self-publishing by being negative about big publishing houses. You've heard it before, of course: Big publishing houses are book factories; they are more concerned with making products than marketing; they destroy your work in the editing process; they don't do a proper job of promoting or publicizing your book; most books don't sell and most authors don't make money.

 

But what they don't tell you is the flip side, which gives you a more balanced picture: Namely, that many authors who publish through traditional publishing houses are happy and satisfied with their publishers - at least some of the time. Their books bring them fame, prestige and visibility, as well as enhancing their careers. Many have become rich (even millionaires) from royalty payments when their books hit the best-seller lists.

 

Mainstream publisher or self-publishing? It's your choice. Let me know what you decide.

Bob Bly is the author of 40 books including the just-published Secrets of a Freelance Writer: Revised Second Edition (Henry Holt & Co.). For a free catalog of Bob's books, tapes, and reports for writers, contact. Bob Bly, 22 E. Quackenbush Avenue, Dumont, NJ 07628, phone 201-385-1220, fax 201-385-1138, e-mail Rwbly@aol.com.