Saturday, October 09, 2010

by Sidney Allinson.

Face it, writing and printing your self-published book are relatively easy tasks, compared with all the other requirements for marketing it successfully. The selling process can be so daunting, you need to be sure first whether you are even cut out to be a self-publisher.
So most importantly, ask yourself: honestly, what is your real reason for publishing a book? Is it to make a lot of money, or for public recognition, ego gratification, a need to communicate an important message?
Identifying your motivation up front can either dissuade you from taking the plunge or help you enormously to succeed. The emotional and creative satisfaction of producing your own book can be uniquely satisfying, so long as one realizes in advance what the process entails.
Expect it to involve five serious factors:
1. commitment
2. time
3. money
4. selling
5. persistence
Any self-publisher who simply goes to a neighborhood printer with a manuscript in hand to get a book produced is in for a long and arduous experience. That way, the hapless author must be prepared to do virtually everything for him or her self; all the cover design, text-formatting, editing, and proof-reading before, as well as the sales promotion afterwards.
A slightly easier route is via print-on-demand service companies like Booklocker, Lulu, Xlibris -- or the 100s of other POD publishing service firms readily available on line. Even they are still technically not publishers; being actually just printers, producers, and distributors of writers' works. It is their author-customers themselves who must still perform every one of the necessary sales-promotion and publicity actions that conventional publishing houses provide for authors.
The marketing of a self-published book is such a drawn-out and complicated process, it can virtually take over an author's entire everyday life for a while, so it demands a very strong commitment. You alone will be responsible for every step -- print quality control, buying copies, inventory, storage, publicity, selling, processing orders, accounting, packing, shipping, mailing, handling returns, invoicing, and bill collecting. Whew! Small wonder that many author-publishers commonly put in 80-hour work weeks.
As for hopes of making pots of money, the brutal fact is very few, if any, first time author-publishers even break even. And all the hyped dreams of easily tapping the Internet for huge book sales on-line with minimum effort are just that - dreams - and seldom materialize without the author getting out there to personally SELL.
Unless you are a "name" author, significant royalty profits from printed books are no more likely to occur on Web sites than in bricks and mortar stores. For instance, even a major POD player like Xlibris is reported to have never exceeded sales of 2000 copies for any individual title.
So, as all sales depend on you, modestly scuffing your toe in the dust has no place in a self-publisher's style. Unabashed publicity and aggressive promotion are vital to your book's success. By necessity, you'll soon learn how to blow your own horn, mainly because nobody else will do it for you. Study the sort of people who are your most likely prospective readers, and devise publicity that will appeal to them.
Pave your way by writing brief half-page news releases about your masterpiece and distribute them to appropriate media. Offer to speak on radio call-in shows, and try to arrange readings at local bookstores and libraries. You'll likely be pleasantly surprised at your own ingenuity and the receptiveness of people you approach for free publicity.
For some other useful hints about low-cost promotion, read John Kremer's excellent "1001 Ways To Market Your Books," or Jay Conrad Levinson's "Guerilla Marketing" series.
Nevertheless, in-person direct selling is about the only reliable method you have to get your books onto store shelves. Which means making personal sales-calls on bookstores. And be aware in advance that many bookstores have an inherent reluctance to accept self-published titles -- sight-unseen.
But encourage yourself by remembering that long before anybody ever heard of him, mega-bestselling author John Grisham started out selling copies of his self-published first novel from the trunk of his car. Be equally determined and imaginative. Always offer to leave batches of books on consignment, to be paid for after discerning customers buy them.
Keep up your personal selling efforts, come what may. Persistence is the one quality that every author needs more than anything else. It's what gets the manuscript written to completion in the first place, and stick-to-it-ive-ness continues to be the only thing that builds your self-published book's final success.

Copyright © Sidney Allinson 2008.

Sidney Allinson is a professional business writer and novelist, with over 30 years' experience as an advertising copywriter, and was creative director at Ogilvy & Mather International. He is author of six published books, plus countless advertisements, TV commercials, and direct mail campaigns.


Solveig said...

Any ideas for e-books?

Sidney Allinson said...

To create a popular and profitable ebook, simply follow the oldest guideline in business -- "find a need and fill it."
-- S.A.