Sunday, January 30, 2011

Face it, writing and printing your self-published book are relatively easy tasks, compared with all the other requirements involved. They 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.

It involves five serious factors:

1. commitment

2. time

3. money

4. selling

5. persistence

Naturally, it is going to cost you money to get your opus produced, so check the different options carefully. Any self-publisher who simply goes to some neighbourhood print-shop with a manuscript in hand to be transformed into a book is in for an arduous experience. That way, the hapless author must be prepared to do virtually everything for him or herself; all the design, editing, and proof-reading before, as well as the sales promotion afterwards.

A slightly easier route is via the better known print-on-demand service companies like Xlibris and FirstBooks or the scores of other similar companies. 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 steps that a conventional publishing house provides for its authors.

The marketing of a self-published book is such a drawn out, complicated procedure, it can virtually take over an author's everyday life for a while, so it demands a very strong commitment.

You alone will be responsible for buying copies, quality control, inventory, storing, publicity, selling, processing orders, accounting, packing, shipping, mailing, handling returns, invoicing, and bill collecting. Small wonder that many author-publishers commonly put in 80-hour work weeks.

Hopes of making pots of money from sales are most likely in vain. The fact is that very few, if any, first time author-publishers break even.

Hyped dreams of tapping the Internet for huge sales on-line are just that, illusions, and seldom materialize. Unless one is a "name" author, significant royalty profits are no more likely to occur on Web sites than in bricks and mortar bookstores.

For instance, even an early major player like Xlibris is reported never to have exceeded sales of 2,000 copies for any one title. (That's not particularly shocking, though, considering that the average total income of all fulltime professional writers is between $24,000 and $29,000 a year.)

Modestly scuffing one's toe in the dust has no place in a self-publisher's style. Unabashed publicity and promotion are vital to your book's success. Read John Kremer's excellent 1001 Ways To Market Your Books, Steve Weber’s Plug Your Book, or Jay Conrad Levinson's Guerrilla Marketing series. 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. Write 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.

Many authors are introverts, which can form a huge problem when it comes to self-publishing’s most important activity – personal selling. Until you set out with a box full of books to sell to every store available, you have no idea what a rocky road lies ahead.

If you have previously submitted your manuscript to conventional publishing houses, you doubtless experienced a lot of rejection already. But that was usually by e-mail, letter, or telephone. You will find being rejected by someone face-to-face is much tougher to take.

And believe me, you will get a lot of turndowns by book buyers.

You need to develop a certain thick skin when you tote your own book into a store. Responses can range all the way from apologetic refusal to stony-faced scepticism or even sneering contempt.

Even though many famous literary luminaries had their first book privately printed, there is a widespread conviction by booksellers and readers alike that if a book is self-published, it simply cannot be any good.

Naturally, you're convinced that your book is eminently well-written. Just don't expect bookstore people to even bother reading it to be so persuaded. Few bookbuyers feel the need to read any book from established publishers before accepting it for sale. (Come to think of it. you wouldn't expect the owner of a garden supply store to personally test every model of lawnmower she stocks, either.)

Nevertheless, in-person direct selling is about the only method you have to get your books onto store shelves. Encourage yourself by remembering that long before anybody ever heard of him, John Grisham used to sell copies of his self-published first novel from the trunk of his car. You need to be equally determined and imaginative.

Always offer to leave hatches of books on consignment, to be paid for after customers buy them. Keep up your selling efforts. come what may. Persistence is the one quality that every author needs more than anything else. It is what gets the manuscript completed in the first place, and stick-to-it-tiveness continues to be the only thing that builds your book's final success.

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