Top 10 Worst Self-Publishing Mistakes—Explained!

by Joel Friedlander on July 19, 2010 · 177 comments

Post image for Top 10 Worst Self-Publishing Mistakes—Explained!

I learn a lot from the comments readers leave on the blog. People have pointed out errors, shown me resources I hadn’t heard of, and made connections that had never occurred to me. It’s a big web out there, and one of the things I enjoy most is this sharing of knowledge, resources and experiences.

Two weeks ago I published Top 10 List of the Worst Self-Publishing Mistakes, a semi-serious look at normal mistakes newcomers to self-publishing might make. But a couple of people asked if there was going to be a follow-up article. They wanted to know the reasons why these were the so-called “worst mistakes” so they could avoid making them.

So here is the follow-up, the explanation for why you wouldn’t want to do any of these things when it comes time to publish your book. I’ve copied the questions from the earlier article and given an explanation for each.

Top 10 Worst Self-Publishing Mistakes—Explained!

“10. You thought you could re-use that ISBN you paid so much for since the novel you put it on last year isn’t selling anyway.”

Explained: You never want to re-use an ISBN, or even use it for another edition of the same book. The ISBN is known as a unique identifier. It’s intended to be assigned to one edition of one book. Your book’s information has been entered in book databases everywhere, and you will only create tremendous confusion between the two works, hurting sales for both, if you attempt to re-use an ISBN. Just don’t do it.

“9. Everybody knows the words to the song, so it’s okay to quote lyrics from it throughout your novel, right?”

Explained: Check out this blog post about using bits of songs in your writing. The author here found, after using only snippets of 60s songs in a party scene, that he had a liability of over $6,000. Just like paintings, poems, or any creative expression, people’s lyrics and music are protected by copyright law, and violations of this law can be expensive and very damaging. If you want to use it, get permission first.

“8. The photos looked fine on your screen, and that means they will look fine when they’re printed, it just makes sense.”

Explained: Graphics on screens are all displayed at a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi) in Reg-Green-Blue (RGB) colorspace. That’s just the way computers display graphics. However, when you go to print your book, your color photos will need to be 300 dpi in the Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black (CMYK) colorspace. So no, the image you see on your screen, no matter how gorgeous, may not have enough resolution to print well.

“7. I picked Arial for my book because the name reminded me of my middle school girlfriend.”

Explained: Many people don’t notice typefaces, typography, design, serifs, ligatures, and the other elements book designers take for granted, and why should they? But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter what typeface you use. The classic book typefaces, when used correctly, will produce a book that’s beautiful, readable, and reader-friendly. That’s why they’re classics.

“6. I know they’re charging me $6,000 to publish my book, but I get 10 copies, absolutely free!”

Explained: Well, $6,000 divided by 10 is . . . The point here is that if you want to publish your own book you may be better off using a plain author services company like CreateSpace or Lulu than a subsidy publisher. Why? The subsidy publisher makes its money from sales to authors–that’s you. If you use a service like CreateSpace you are the publisher and you use them as a printer. You pay only for the services you decide you need, and then you make your money from book sales.

“5. I thought it would sound more impressive if I wrote my memoir in the third person. All my sports heroes talk that way.”

Explained: By far the best way for most authors to present their information in nonfiction books is with a clear, active, straightforward style. Attempts to create unusual styles, strange viewpoints, exotic points of view almost always fail since they are incredibly difficult to carry off well. Both you and your readers will be well served by a natural conversational style that follows a normal and expected narrative. This will make your valuable information stand out, not an eccentric way of saying it.

“4. I really got the unit price down, but I had to print 10,000 copies. You have any room in your garage?”

Explained: Having a plan on how you intend to market, publicize and sell your book before entering into book production is highly recommended. The unit cost of your book is meaningless if you never sell any. Many self-publishers are using digital printing through print-on-demand distribution to minimize this type of risk. However, you have to plan your book, its retail price, and your method of distribution before going to press.

“3. Sure, I included an invoice with all the books I sent to book reviewers. Hey, they don’t care, it’s just a big company paying the bill.”

Explained: Although reviewers do usually work for larger companies, sending an invoice with a review copy will ensure that while you won’t get paid for the book, you won’t get a review either. The convention is that you are asking for valuable editorial time and space in a publication, and certainly the least you can expect is to provide a book to anyone gracious enough to go to the trouble of reviewing your book.

“2. It was cheaper to print my novel as an 8-1/2″ x 11″ book because I got so many words on each page.”

Explained: Although it’s true that you can save money in digital printing by creating a book with fewer pages, a novel printed full page on letter-size paper with small margins and tight lines to “get so many words” on a page is likely to be read by no one. Making your book difficult to read is a quick way to eliminate many readers. There is no economy in printing books that no one wants to read.

“1. What do you mean, I need a cover designer? Don’t books come with covers?”

Explained: Most author-services companies are only too happy to put a cover on your book for a fee, or to turn you loose on their cover creation programs. But it’s pretty easy to tell most of the books that have been “designed” this way, and it isn’t a pretty picture. If your book is worth publishing, and you want people to buy it, and you understand the cover is the primary way that people will identify the book wherever it appears, don’t you think it might be worthwhile to get a cover designer you can afford to create a cover for you?

Well, there you have it. If there was any doubt, you now know some good things to avoid when it comes time to publish a book.

Image licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, original work copyright by dinrao,

Be Sociable, Share!

    { 160 comments… read them below or add one }

    Shilpi October 7, 2015 at 3:45 am

    Great article! I am also planning to publish a collection of short stories and really would like to have a great cover for my book.


    Michael Young July 29, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Hello Joel/everyone,

    Hoping to revive an old thread here, so here goes…

    I am a prospective published author who would like some guidance on which route to take. I have looked into several self-publishing firms and have heard negative reviews on all of them. Can anyone give me advice?

    I am publishing a book of poetry and would like to know the following:

    Outskirts – What’s the low-down on them? I have seen excellent consumer reviews, but have also heard horror stories…
    (Of course, I have also heard bad things about AuthorHouse, CreateSpace, Lulu, and just about all of them!!!)
    Also, what about Kindle Direct Publishing from Amazon???
    Editing – I am pretty picky when it comes to correct usage and punctuation, and I am a phenomenal speller. How much editing do I need for verses of poetry which I have written years ago? (Also, like most poets, I tend to stretch the limits on certain rules…lol.)
    Book design – Perhaps Mr. Tiano can chime in on this one…not sure where to start, but I know what I THINK looks appealing.
    Marketing – My goal is to have a book that will reach the masses, and I am almost certain it will get rave reviews…if I can just get it out there.

    Then again, if my works are so good, perhaps I should just submit them to a major traditional publisher and see what happens?????

    Any guidance anyone can provide me is most appreciated.



    Sheogorath July 29, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    Of course, I have also heard bad things about […] CreateSpace, Lulu, […]
    What’s so bad about print on demand companies? Please enlighten me.


    Michael Young July 29, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    I don’t know…that’s why I’m asking questions.


    Michael Young July 29, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Mostly I have read that they overcharge for their services and have poor customer support. Again, just reviews I read online….


    Jacqueline Simonds July 29, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Be aware that poetry is a very hard sell. Really, go into any bookstore and try and find poetry that is by someone you’ve never heard of.

    There are several good poetry websites. I suggest you post to those to build a following. You should also have your own blog/website to spotlight your work.

    If you already have a following, and you really, truly, want to do a book, then you should do CreateSpace for Print-on-Demand. I would do very little in the way of spending on book design, since you aren’t apt to make back your investment. Sorry, but that’s the reality.

    CreateSpace will accept Word files. This will keep your verses and poetry architecture in place. That way you can skip the typesetting cost.

    A cover can be problematic. Since we absolutely judge a book by its cover, you’ll want a good one. You can do an all-text cover.

    A cover with text and a picture is going to be iffy. You may know what you like – but that’s not the purpose of a cover. The purpose of a cover is to SELL BOOKS. A book cover expert knows your genre and what is likely (but not guaranteed) to sell. But you probably don’t want to shell out for that kind of high level work.

    However, if you work with an artist from a website like DeviantArt (which is NOT about deviance), you might get someone to create some artwork appropriate to your kind of poetry. Some even know how to design a book, and don’t charge much, as they are just developing their “chops.”

    You need to focus on how to sell your book (publishing is actually quite easy). Poetry is notoriously difficult to sell, since few read it any longer – let alone BUY it.

    The key for you is marketing. Know who your audience is (it’s not “everyone who likes to read” or even “everyone who likes poetry”). Know who they are, where they are, who tells them what’s a great read and target them (don’t be a spammer, either).

    I hope you publish and are wildly successful!


    Michael Young July 29, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    Wow! Such an in-depth and yet concise answer I was not expecting…thank you so much for your sound advice!
    (…and for your expeditiousness.)

    I will be checking out your webpage and may require your services in the near future. :)

    Thanks Jacqueline!!!


    Joel Friedlander July 29, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    Michael, I don’t think it’s realistic to look for an education in self-publishing and vendor selection in the comments of a blog post. There are articles on this site on most of your questions. I’ve written often on all these subjects. Here’s what I do: I go to Google and type “” into the search bar followed by what I’m looking for. Works every time. For example, I searched for “ subsidy publishing” and here was the top hit:

    Subsidy Publishing: Proceed with Caution

    Good luck on your journey!


    Michael Young July 29, 2015 at 6:38 pm


    While this is true I figured it would be a good place to start. :)

    I just read your article on subsidy publishing and I am already aghast at the litany of atrocities perpetrated on unsuspecting victims! Needless to say, I am disgusted at the callous greed of mankind and plan to wax poetic about it…at some point. lol

    In the meantime, you will be hearing from me soon, as I plan to utilize your services in the form of a private consultation.
    (Just let me catch up on some of your articles first!)

    Thanks and hope to speak with you soon!

    Michael D. Young


    Elizabeth Varadan April 13, 2015 at 7:51 am

    Great article. Very useful explanations. I’ve bookmarked this.


    KJD October 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Bang on – all ten. This is a must read for all wannabe self-pubbers.

    Thanks Joel. I use Createspace.


    Small Dog Alone August 12, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Hi! I LOVE 99 Designs and my cover contest is going on now — yay! Now that it looks so great, I was wondering how to get the page numbers off my title page and copyright page and final blank page…I really appreciate your help! Thanks so much — I am using Microsoft Word! Thanks again, Small Dog Alone


    Percy Chattey Books August 12, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    I have used this as a basis for numbering a section in Word. But there are others.


    Good luck, Percy Chattey (Thrillers)


    Sheogorath January 23, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    One word: HTML. Simples!


    Angela July 27, 2014 at 8:40 am

    If you want to keep all rights and really earn 100% royalties (eliminate the middle man), but still need help with design and formatting, hire a firm like


    Richard David Feinman July 27, 2014 at 4:16 am

    Great deal of valuable information but I expect to have a camera-ready, well-edited manuscript which readers tell me should maintain the dozens of color illustrations and assume that I will need color printing. I know how to market to my intended audience. Only thing standing in my way is having it printed and have some plan for fulfillment. Right off, since binding and paper stock are universal, what is the difference between digital production and printing? What does CreateSpace do that you can’t do by putting the camera-ready copy in the printer’s “in-box?” In other words, how can I go to a finished product without breaking the bank? I would say that I am not on a very tight budget in the sense that I am willing to pay for convenience but I don’t want the book to be so expensive that Amazon won’t pick it up. Apologies if 12 other people asked the same question and I missed it.


    viagra May 7, 2014 at 1:00 am

    Hi there to all, how is all, I think every one iis getting more from this web page, and
    your views are good in favor off new people.


    Sigrid Macdonald April 9, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Joel, this is a wonderful article. You’ve made so many excellent points that I don’t know where to begin, but the one that jumps to my mind as being most critical is having a marketing plan in mind when you’re writing your book. As a manuscript editor, every day I deal with people who want to either self-publish or approach traditional publishers. Very few of them have a social media presence or have devoted a budget to marketing! This will guarantee disaster.

    Even the small traditional companies now expect authors to promote themselves, and why not? We have the tools to do so. Many of us – I’m a writer as well as an editor – would prefer to write rather than advertise, but people aren’t going to buy a book that they’ve never heard of.

    Most of my clients think that if their book goes up on Amazon, suddenly everyone will know it’s there. That’s really naïve. Amazon is a jungle and the only way people know your book is there is if you have a very specific niche audience so that it can be located by a simple keyword search by topic, or if you have driven traffic to your page.

    My experience has also been that my clients are willing to pay for editing, but they balk at the thought of putting money aside for marketing. Mistake! And, of course, later they return to me saying how surprised they are that they haven’t sold many books.

    Thanks for this article (and for the fabulous feedback from the posters). I’m going to bookmark it and send it to my clients.


    PS One question – you recommended against going with a font like Arial, and Steve said don’t use Times New Roman. What do you recommend? Verdana? Garamond? Courier?


    Ladia Jones March 22, 2014 at 5:28 am

    Mr. Joel Friedlander, it is because of you that I knew I wanted to self-publish my memoir. I have been following, studying you for years. This article is excellent. The advice and comments from your readers are invaluable. One of the things that helped me is that I studied self-publishing. Another thing I did was looked at every single memoir in the library. I spent hours looking at book covers, how the book is laid out, what should be in the front, the back; how the cover is designed. Then I went home and looked at the hundreds of books in my personal library, those recently published and books published decades ago. This was all while I was still writing. I know I have a great story but I wanted to put out an excellent product. At the same time, I wanted to self-publish. I hired an editor, a good editor. I hired a good cover designer. After studying everything I needed to study I did the interior layout myself. I also had a professional make-up artist professional photographer to take my author picture. There’s no sense doing all that work and short-change on the back of the book. It turned out pretty good after I adjusted some things. I’m very proud of the job that I did in publishing my first book “Overcoming NO!”. I did use lulu to publish the book but I only use them as distribution. I don’t sell my book on Lulu. The book is available on my website. Thank you authors, and contributors of this article. I spent a considerable amount of time reading the comments because they were just as good as the original article. I would have been here sooner, but I was finishing the book.


    Rodrex Matthew February 3, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    The mistakes and the solutions for it are very well explained. Self publishing is surely not an easy task as the author is responsible for each and every work. This article can be very useful to avoid the mistakes and make the publishing process a bit easier.


    Alistair McGuinness January 18, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    These discussions are so healthy and informative. Last year I completed my travel book manuscript and posted an advert in the local paper, asking for people to read it. I got replies from a retired journalist, a local school teacher and a local artist who wanted to draw maps all over it. I paid some in wine, others in vouchers and offered to mow their lawns.
    They didn’t know me, so they let rip with all their opinions. It was hard at first to see the results, but I got heaps of ideas and feedback (including using maps).
    I felt very comfortable” letting go” of my manuscript so that I could gain honest feedback from people that like reading travel books.

    It took me 6 months to go through their feedback and ideas, then I felt ready for a professional editor and proof-reader. This feedback took another 6 months to go through (at 3 hours per week)

    When it came to the book title, I spent hours researching the subject and then emailed everyone I knew with my top 5. There was a clear winner (plus it was also the one I liked).
    Hope this helps you on your journey. As a footnote, here is the amount of hours my book has taken to write. I started 3 years ago, with 3 hours per week. This equates roughly to 450 hours.

    Now the finish line is in site..with regards to writing the book. The real work seems to be with autor profile, branding and marketing. I think you can guess what my next “spare” 450 hours is going to be spent on?
    Best of luck and thanks for the great website..


    Stephen Tiano January 7, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Well, self-publishing is not vanity publishing in the sense that the author is the publisher in the case of self-, rather than a third-party publishing company that will publish anything at all if they get paid. Which, of course, isn’t saying that services shouldn’t be paid for. Just that the person paying for those services ought to be careful to research the background of the providers they use and the books they’ve been associate with.

    For instance, I always send out my résumé, which includes a list of all my book design/layout projects. And my website includes info on my background, samples of my work, and my blog, which gives a sense of my approach to book design. If you need an editor referral, contact me and I’ll provide.


    Yalontya Simmons February 12, 2015 at 7:55 am

    Hi. I am a new author. I have written at least ten books, six of them being part of a series. I have been approached by various self publishers who only wanted my money. And I have been rejected by at least one traditional publisher. I was wondering if you have any editors you can refer me to?


    Stephen Tiano February 12, 2015 at 8:19 am

    First of all, YOU would be the SELF-publisher. People who are not you cannot SELF-publish YOUR book, only their own.

    Sure, I can recommend some editors. But they would expect to be paid, as editing is the work they earn their livings with. You would have to pay what professionals charge. Is that okay?


    Richard Kindel January 7, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Hello, very interesting and informative blog & replies. I have some perspective as to why new authors turn to a subsidy, vanity, or self publisher (whatever people call them), from my own experience.

    I spent many years writing a few novels back in the mid nineties to 2000ish. I don’t even know how much money I invested in sending query letters to literary agents just to get rejected: hundreds of query letters. Eventually, I did get a literary agent, only to find out later it was a scam; I didn’t realize at that time that paying for a literary agent is an indication of a scam on their part. Needless to say, the agent never was able to get me a book publisher. Around that time, I stumbled upon Publish America, not realizing they were a form of vanity-press-scam. I did sign a formal contract with them, being unaware of the scam. But, after finding out about their scam, I broke contact with them and never submitted my manuscript. That was around 2002, IIRC. I do get emails from them periodically including one particularly nasty, threatening one a couple years ago that I saved. At that time, I was so frustrated with the book publishing industry, that I gave up on writing .. even though I’ve written around 500 pages of novel (three planned books) plus another 60ish of poetry (up to then).

    I felt like I did everything correctly:
    1) wrote to hundreds of agents & publishers (via query letters) to get my book represented .. but no positive responses. I did not know at that time that publishers/agents do not represent new authors (maybe 1 in a 1000).
    2) after finally getting an agent … scam.
    3) after cancelling the agent and resorting to self publishing .. another scam.

    What the hell! It seems like this industry (like many others) is just a minefield of corruption & scams. Seems to me, if you’re in already then your “in,” if you’re not, then you’re “not.” I’m obviously not going to get my book published through the “standard” system (get an agent who represents you to a well known publisher who then publishes your book) because I am a new author, unknown, poor .. traits which would do in every new author except maybe 1 in a thousand.

    I still would like to get my book published, hopefully before I die. :) At this point, I would just be happy to get a legitimate editor to do a legitimate, thorough, and comprehensive copy-editing of my book. I haven’t the first clue how I can do that without risking money on someone who is not a qualified, legitimate editor.


    Arlene Prunkl August 9, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Hi Richard,

    As a legitimate, qualified, scrupulously honest editor, it is extremely painful to me to hear of your experiences. I try to educate all my authors/clients about all the scams out there in the publishing world. Have you found an editor yet? I would be delighted to help you out. I’m booked into 2014, but I can recommend a few of my colleagues who are just as experienced and honest as I am.

    Please don’t think there aren’t honest, ethical people in this business. I know of hundreds. I’d be happy to guide you and set you on the right path. No author should have to go through what you went through.


    Richard Kindel August 10, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Thanks for the replies. I didn’t even realize I had some replies to that post … I need to check my other email account more often, LOL. Since the last time I posted, I had a literary critic review my book (from another literary-type website). She read the first page and said something to the effect that my book was slightly worse than the lowest quality novel that gets published, occasionally, from year-to-year (something to that effect, anyway). I have no doubt that she’s right, but in my own defense it was the first novel I ever attempted to write. Prior to this, I had written only poetry (if you could call it that, LOL). I tried to learn how to write novels by reading dozens of those “how to write,” type books. I guess it didn’t work out too well. :( Anyway, I’ve more or less lost interest in my novel … Even if I could get it edited & published, it probably wouldn’t do well, and I would rather not have it published if it stinks. Like I said, I spent all those years (roughly 95 to 02) working on my novel, but I guess I just fooled myself … Maybe I overestimated my ability to write a qualitative novel & get published. I don’t know. I worked a late second shift during those years (2pm to 10pm, IIRC) before my company relocated to Mexico, which was perfect for writing … I got home at 10:30pm and wrote until 2 or 3 am. Everyone was asleep, no interruptions. It was a perfect p/t daily writing schedule. I even brought grammar books (review type books like the most recent Harbrace & the Chicago Manual of Style) & how-to writing books to my late 2nd shift lunch, so I’d be prepared for my writing session that night … My coworkers commented all the time during our lunch-dinner, “What are you reading????”

    I went back and got my MS degree in 2009, but when I took the GRE test in 2006 I scored a whole 10 points higher on the verbal section than the math. I’ve ALWAYS scored higher on the math than the verbal by at least 8 points or more on those type tests. I was incredibly surprised! I know it was due to those many years that I’d worked on that novel: reviewing over & over & over again grammar rules in an attempt to improve (and edit to some extent) my own writing … So, I did get something out of my novel even if I never get it published (or never get anything else tangible out of it, like money).

    Anyway, I guess I’m just rambling, getting a little off-topic here. I’ve traded one project for another, though the new one does involve writing. I’ve started a “Kickstarter” project (or at least I will when I’ve finished) on a card game. I’m still doing the card artwork now, but when I’ve completed that I’ll need to flesh out the rules, then get the game playtested, and when that’s done (completely) finish the finalized rules & get them edited. So, I’m still writing, but it’s taken the form of a non-fiction rules type document (probably 15 to 30 pages with illustrations) instead of a 400 page novel. For those of you who don’t know what kickstarter is, it’s basically a way of funding creative projects. When I finish my card game, I’ll post my project on kickstarter, and people will either donate (if they like it) or pay in advance (for my proposed card game). If I get enough donations & pre-orders to cover the cost of production, then I’ll get the final product printed & published (which will include rules, box, & cards).

    I’m just going to put my novel on the back-burner for now, hopefully my card game will have better success, though I will (eventually) need an editor for that too. It probably won’t be for another .. hmmm .. I’m estimating 8 to 12 months. There are too many variables, such as how long the playtest period takes, to predict 100% how long it will take.

    Thanks very much for the replies Arlene & Stephen. You two will be the first people I attempt to contact when I finish my card game. I’m assuming it’s going to be much easier to edit a 30ish page game-rules type document than a 400ish page non-illustrated novel. I’d like to know how much editors go for these days; one of my good buddies is a lawyer … I hope it’s not in the ridiculous $200/hr range that lawyers charge, LOL.

    Take it easy,


    Percy Chattey Thriller Books November 16, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Hi. I liked your free guide so much I put a link on my blog ( ).
    Thanks for a great site. I intend to look over quite a bit of it. I am new to blogging and my website has been done by a designer, so it’s all a steep learning curve.


    Joel Friedlander November 16, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks, Percy, I really appreciate that. Your site is quite good looking. Check here under the Author Blogging 101 topic for a lot of articles that will help you get going with your blogging. And remember to have fun!


    Elizabeth June 14, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    This was really helpful, thank you!


    Cathi Stevenson September 30, 2011 at 6:29 am

    I often have to find story editors, copy editors, proof readers and people to do interior layout (print and eBook) in a hurry. I have a list of regulars that I’ve been recommending for years, but as is the way with the best, they’re often too busy. I have had great success using the freelance listings at Media Bistro. With the publishing world and economy the way that it is, you’ll be surprised who you’ll find on there looking for work:


    Joel Friedlander September 30, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Hey, thanks Cathi, I haven’t tried that one.


    Ian September 10, 2011 at 11:45 am

    In regards to #9, does that include movie references? A character quoting a movie?


    ISOKARI FRANCIS OLOLO September 1, 2011 at 4:28 am



    Austin Briggs June 14, 2011 at 1:42 am

    Hi Joel,

    Thanks for your tireless pursuit of relevant info. Is there a discussion here on your site on self-publishing printed copies vs. e-books? I’m now producing both, but have been really intrigued with J.A. Konrath’s way of going with e-books only. Would love to see your perspective, since you seem to have a different point of view from him.


    Joel Friedlander June 20, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Thanks, Austin. I don’t think we’ve had that discussion on the blog, but it’s a great topic. Although I come from a long print background, I don’t see why you can’t do both. There are some clients I’ve recommended go straight to e-books, and it would be interesting to explore.


    Valerie Douglas June 13, 2011 at 10:39 am

    What I am surprised about is the complete lack of discussion about e-books – the fastest growing market for books. Even more so because it’s so easy AND FREE to set up, either through Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon), PubIt (B&N), or Smashwords. Few print books do well in self publishing, but many e-book writers are at least making enough to offset their costs.


    Joel Friedlander June 13, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Hi Valerie, thanks for your comment.

    While I would have to disagree with the idea that “few print books do well in self publishing” since I’ve been helping authors self-publish print books since the 1990s and many have done exceedingly well, I do agree that the momentum these days is with the rise of e-books. You might be interested in these posts:

    Top 10 Best Resource Guides for e-book Authors

    Fiction vs Nonfiction E-book pricing in the Kindle Store

    15 e-Book Covers: Success and Failure in the Kindle Store


    Joel Friedlander April 26, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Lena, glad you’re finding something of value. If you’re on Twitter, I have a list of 27 editors I follow here:

    JFBookman Editors

    Hope that helps


    Stephen Tiano April 26, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Lena, one good place to ask around about copy editors is the self-publishing group on Yahoo. You might also try the Freelancers group maillist on Yahoo, as well as asking around on EmpireAvenue, the new social media stock market sim. Then, too, I always recommend my first choice–I’ve worked on books that she’s copy edited and made better: Katharine O’Moore-Klopf of KOK Edit.


    Lena April 26, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    This is a fabulous host of information. Thanks for sharing the knowledge with all of us on this publishing journey. I have been lurking on this site, taking in a plethora of tips for the past two hours. I was under the impression that self-published meant anything not traditionally published, but I see there is a great distinction between self-publishing and vanity presses. And perhaps someone can share where to find reputable copy editors? Thanks again for the information.


    Leslie August 31, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I have been a book designer for 20 years. Sometimes self-publishers ask me about my services and I always say, “before you contract a designer, invest the money on working with a good copy editor”. I actually think the editor brings a lot to the process and can make an average book into a wonderful book.


    Joel Friedlander August 31, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Leslie, I agree wholeheartedly. Even as a designer myself, I would advise a client to spend their money on making their manuscript better first and foremost. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.


    A Critic August 27, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Wonderful site! Most helpful.

    I’ve begun my first novel and was planning on doing all of the editing, design, and publishing myself. Bad idea? I am an autodidact & polymath with very critical standards…so the warnings against DIY shouldn’t apply, right?


    Stephen Tiano August 28, 2011 at 1:31 am

    It all depends on what you can actually do, not necessarily what you know or are capable of learning, or even how many different things you’re into.

    I’ll assume you can write well about something readers give a whit about. I’m not a big fan of authors doing all their own editing, as they’ve lived so long with their manuscripts that a second set of eyes is really a good idea. For one thing, you’re staring so long at the same thing, it all starts to look the same; for another, most authors get that feeling that they’re married to their work and it’s already just right.

    Design’s a whole other thing. You need proficiency with the correct software, page layout software (InDesign, QuarkXPress, some form of TeX)–NOT Microsoft Word, which is only a word processor. And, depending on whether you’ve got photos or illustrations to put in your book, you may need to learn Photoshop and/or Illustrator (or similar software).

    Once you know how to make the software run it’s time to think about the best way to present your words and apply a design aesthetic.

    That’s all if you want to make a book that’s more than just a container for your words. Perhaps a container will be adequate. But I tend to think so many books are being published, you need to give readers a reason to pick your book up, so that your work can grab them. But don’t count on some generic-looking MS Word pages giving your book any kind of chance at being looked at by prospective readers.

    A choice to self-publish is a choice to go into business as a publisher. You can certainly do it cheaply. But cheaply almost always looks cheap.


    A Critic August 28, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Thank you Steven for the response. I found it very helpful to define and emphasize in my mind what I must do.

    I think I have two advantages compared to most people doing their own editing: fanatically high standards & a memory disorder that makes my own work look new every day.

    For design I am planning on using TexLive and other Linux programs…price is right and the documentation seems good. Since this is only for a novel with only one cover picture the workload should be minimal.

    As for people do things cheaply and getting cheap looking results – I’m firmly convinced the problem is that they believe they can save on money by not paying someone to do the work AND believing that they can save on labor by not doing the work themselves. I’m a quick learner and fast worker but my guess is that it will take me at least one to two months worth of full time work to do the design work to my satisfaction (and about the same for editing). It most certainly would be faster to hire out the work but then I wouldn’t be learning the skills I want to learn…and I wouldn’t be able to get it exactly as I want. I’m hoping that I am an exception to the sound rules & advice you and others wrote.

    I’m a complete novice to publishing but the notion of using MS Word for design work makes my stomach turn.

    Stephen Tiano August 28, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Well, the thing with any TeX tools–unless you use something like Scribus which gives a WYSIWYG front to TeX–is not getting any typographic feedback as you work, unless you stop and print. If you’re not an experienced typographer, you may not have a clue as to what makes professional-looking typesetting (which you should be shooting for if you expect people to pay for your book).

    Likewise high standards and memory have little to do with editing, if anything. You do, however, need to be able to read like someone reading it for the first time–excuse my shouting–AND NOT FAMILIAR WITH THE STORY YOU’RE TRYING TO TELL. See, it may all make sense to you, but an unfamiliar, objective eye will give you a substantive edit to tell you whether it all hangs together. Maybe you can do a perfect copy edit for spelling and grammatical consistencies, correct punctuation, etc., but an unfamiliar eye, I think, is critical to the substantive thing.

    See, statistically, most self-published books don’t sell more than the 100 or so copies family and friends buy. So you really need to give yourself a chance to hit the ground running. Again, it’s a choice to go into the publishing business–even if just for a single book. And businesses require proper capitalization. Total DIY is theoretically a fine idea. But it works, at best, 1 in 1,000 times. At the most optimistic.

    A Critic August 28, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Thank you Stephen (I realized I misspelled your name in my last post, my sincere apologies).

    I understand that learning and executing the art of typography will be a challenge, but that is why it appeals to me. I do have an excellent library of typography and design books which should be more than enough to provide me with a sufficient level of understanding to proceed. I’m planning on keeping everything very simple which should make a quality product a reasonable and attainable goal. When I get to producing my pictorial coffee book I may very well be in need of professional assistance although I aspire to grow my skills to do it well on my own.

    I have the unfamiliar eye every new day, my own writing seems new to me.

    Out of the DIY failures – how many bother to read a single book on typography or design? I’m guessing the number approaches zero. I personally would advise people to either hire a competent professional or put at least as much work into the other aspects of the book as they have the writing.

    I definitely understand where you are coming from – but my plan for this book, and my life for that matter, is to be 1 in 7,000,000,000+.

    Betsy Gordon July 30, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Sunny has been active on a number of sites for several years — also facebook, and now Twitter He had done designing and formatting for quite a few writers, and he also wrote poetry (in English) and cookbooks… he has a ton of energy! I met him through a site called Rent-a-Coder (now Virtual Worker); he was looking for someone to edit a group of poems he wanted to submit to a Canadian competition, and I bid on his project. We became friendly while I was working on the poems (one of them won second prize in the competition!), and then I edited his pizza cookbook… All that time, Sunny kept up his online contacts, and they were the first folks with whom we worked together. Our first PG site seemed to attract people who were just Googling, looking for help with their books. Some of those authors have gone on to do second and third books. We’re hoping that with the new website, and the expanded services, and with (hopefully) getting some backlinks from jumping onto people’s blogs with comments, we’ll pick up more. Because we say right up front that our focus is on quality, not everyone is going to want to go through the professional editing and formatting process, and they’ll go elsewhere. But we hope to grow, not so fast that we can’t handle the volume, but fast enough to add to our group of satisfied clients, and for word of mouth to kick in.

    Any ideas? My problem with the comments-on-blogs thing is that I get so involved in the ones I really like that I sort of forget I’m supposed to be searching out new sites! I’ve really appreciated the links you offer, and have explored quite a few of them. This is still my favorite new site (new for me, that is) — I do seem to keep coming back! Thanks, Joel.


    Betsy Gordon July 30, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Oh, good grief — I forgot the period after “Twitter” in the above reply! What kind of editor would do that? My apologies!


    Barbara Barth April 26, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    You are a GREAT editor, Betsy! Got me turned around. B


    Betsy Gordon July 29, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Why, thanks for taking a look at the website, Joel! In Publishing Gurus Version 1, which was just my partner “Wicked Sunny” and me, the editing of each book took place here in Southern California (me), while the subsequent formatting, design, and illustration took place in India (Sunny). For just over a year we were two independent contractors, each doing what he or she was best at, and essentially working closely as a team of three with the writer to get a book ready for self-published print. (It’s still amazing to me how this could have come to be, thanks to the Internet, and have worked so smoothly. Sunny and I will probably never meet in person, but we’ve worked productively together for a year and a half now, and have a lot of happy authors to show for it.)

    This spring, Sunny did what was necessary to have PG recognized as a publishing house in India (we are now able to issue our own ISBNs, for instance). He incorporated there, and hired two young tech-whizzes of his acquaintance to take care of the coding and other magical Webmaster-type details. I continue as Editor-in-Chief, on an Independent Consultant basis, but expect that soon I’ll need an Assistant Editor here in the U.S. My problem is finding somebody who is as picky as I am! And we now have a woman here in San Diego, a former colleague of mine, who is amazing at Marketing and Sales, also on an I.C. basis. I help her out — in fact, all three of us help each other out when necessary. We created the website material together, I edited it (except I think Sunny is still in the process of putting the last couple of pages in, with my fixes), and we are now offering more services, including really good targeted marketing support, to our authors.

    So that’s the long answer to your question. The short answer is, the website maintenance, the formatting, and the design take place in India; as well, Sunny is responsible for the printing. Editing, marketing and sales, and fulfillment of orders are based in the U.S. Most of our authors are in the U.S., a couple in India, and one in the Dominican Republic (so far).

    From your website I’ve learned the subtle differences between “vanity” presses, self-publishing, and indie publishers. I guess Publishing Gurus would classify as an indie publisher, right? (Hope I got an A on that question…)

    Thanks for asking!


    Joel Friedlander July 29, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Very interesting. How do you find prospective authors who might want to make use of your service?


    Betsy Gordon July 29, 2010 at 11:00 am

    @Barbara — Finished the book, and I really enjoyed it! I did notice something you might want to consider when you get those “few typos” fixed up: there’s a difference in the subtitle on the spine from the one on the cover. The spine says “Fragmented Memoirs ON My First Year Alone,” and the cover says “OF”. If I were picking one, I’d pick OF; but either way, it would be good if they matched, right?

    Can’t imagine what the problem is with our website, except it may be that my partner in India is presently working on it — adding something, or making editing corrections. The site is still a work in progress! I don’t know if that would affect the functioning of the SUBMIT button. I am so non-techie, it is pathetic.

    Why don’t you phone me this afternoon at the (858) number listed on the website’s Contact Us page? I would love to talk with you, and answer your questions too.

    @Joel: I just want to comment on the general “personality” of your blog. You offer so much valuable information on self-publishing — and you always respond to everyone who makes a comment. Your responses are friendly and kind, without exception. I am really impressed! Not everyone takes the time or makes the effort to do that. I find myself coming back and back again, to learn something new or see what people are saying to each other. Thank you for sharing your expertise with us, and for doing so in such a pleasant way.


    Joel Friedlander July 29, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    That’s awfully kind of you Betsy. I think you can tell how much I enjoy it, and the interaction the blog makes possible. And that’s some website you have for Publishing Gurus. Does most of the work take place in India? That’s interesting!


    Barbara Barth July 29, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Betsy – thanks for pointing out the cover error – missed that. I would love to talk to you. I will call tomorrow if that is OK. Actually got out today for some fun. Don’t know what the law is on driving in a sling – but I was ready for anything! Looking forward to chatting. Thanks for the offer to call. Now I am going to eat pizza – totally bad today. Barbara


    Betsy Gordon July 29, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    @Barbara — That’s what I love about editing: I can be as nit-picky as I want, and it’s only for the better! Hope your day was as much fun as anticipated, and the pizza too — and that you drove safely, sling or no. Sure, call me tomorrow; but I will be out from 1 pm to 3 pm PST, so morning, later afternoon, or evening would be best. Am having a problem setting a voice mail message on the STUPID new phone system, so it just has the recorded lady saying “This… is… a… voicemail… message.” Once again, technology defeats me! Looking forward to actually hearing your voice! — Betsy


    Barbara Barth July 29, 2010 at 6:20 am

    Betsy – thanks for enjoying my book so far and your nice words. I went up on your web a few minutes ago, filled out the contact form and had a few questions. Hit submit but did not get a notice it had been sent. If I don’t appear let me know and I will try again, Barbara

    And Joel – thanks for the compliment. Easy to look good when you have a dog or two kissing your face making you laugh! B


    Betsy Gordon July 29, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    @Barbara — We checked the Contact Us form, and it seems to be working. There are several other forms on the site, though — which did you try? Sunny can fix it if we can determine which one is not catching people’s questions.

    Alternatively, you can still phone me!


    Stephen Tiano July 26, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Thanks, Joel. Obviously, I’d like the traffic. But the truth is, I also get a kick out of portable conversations. A tasty subject should be capable of having a life in a number of venues.


    Stephen Tiano July 25, 2010 at 4:56 am

    Joel, you inspired me to extend the conversation to my own blog. I think it’s a discussion worthy of involving as many other interested readerships as possible.


    Joel Friedlander July 26, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Thanks for the link, Stephen, I hope people click over to share their thoughts.


    Barbara July 24, 2010 at 6:12 am

    I am happy I found this site. A link from Michael mentioning my book got me here in lightening speed. Have already voiced one comment. Great info here for a gal who is doing it all on her own and my brain is exploding with info ……or maybe that was last night’s Margarita. The one thing I’ve noticed is that self publishers (and of course now I add this phrase so I don’t get jumped again….vanity press which it seems no one will let me forget) really get a bad rap. The local shops I have hit on do not feature self-published authors and most of them are not aware of who the publishers are – just that I paid to get it done. Yet online marketing and reviews have been excellent. The end of June was my big event – a book signing silent auction for my favorite dog shelter. Raised a lot of money in three hours. My next step was to market locally then I fell and had shoulder surgery. I am back online marketing and putting together a media kit to send out. Thanks to my virtual blog tour with Women On Writing I have many good reviews to add. I agree there is alot of dribble out there but I find dribble looking at the big publishing houses. Seems once you have a name it is not as important what you have to say. I blog almost daily on many sites and I read other blogs. I am amazed at the writing talent I find there, rather than in a good book by a famous author. Fresh, snappy dialog is my preference and it is out there if you look.I think it is a shame that so much emphasis is put on how bad self published authors are. So many that no one wants to go through them to find a gem is a sad statement.Personally the first page either grabs me or it doesn’t. That is how I choose my books. I think there are some gems that could be discovered if everyone would stop slamming self publshers, vanity presses, etc. I am an old antique dealer (not in age but in time on the hunt) and it is a major high to find a treasure wading through trash. There is such good advice to be found on this site I just wish there was a kinder gentler touch on presenting some of it. But I am hooked now and will hang around. And just so you know who you are dealing with I will buy any book that has a dog on the cover. Typing with one finger in the metro Atlanta area, Barbara


    Jeff Rose-Martland July 24, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Barbara, congrats on your success and sorry about your shoulder. I broke my wrist in Januaru, so I know exactly were you stand in your work: behind in everything! ;)

    @GeoMurph: you just summed up the biggest industry bias out there; the one which has started the cracks in the walls of the literary castles. The automatic assuption that most self-published (or indie) material is crap and that this is a problem. I’d like to draw a parallel to the music business.

    First: sifting the pile does not take long. I worked commercial radio and one of my jobs was selecting new music. The guy next to me was music director for the ‘all local content’ station. We went through our respective piles together. I had the commercial releases, professionally produced. Rejecting a song took about 5 seconds of play. Accepting a little longer. I could do a stack of 30 in about half an hour. Next to me, Tony had a pile twice as big, about 30% professionally produced, the rest ranging from garage recordings to bands who had their own studios. Time it took him to reject? 1-2 seconds. So he did twice as much as me in the same time. Point being, you can reject a badly written book in about the same time: scan front, scan back, glance at first page. The unreadable is obvious and gets binned. The ‘interesting’ takes a little longer to sift, perhaps 10 secs. All in all, unless you are getting hundreds of books every day, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to sort.

    Which brings me to issue #2 with your ‘no self-published’ policy. What does your review offer your readers? As a reviewer, are you saying “This is a great book you should read?” OR are you saying “Here’s what I thought about this latest commercial release”? Because these are two very different intents and your public should be clear on which one you intend.

    Back to the industry comparison: in the late ’70’s, musicians ran in to the same problem facing many authors now: can’t get a look in. So they started releasing their own albums. They self-recorded. Witness the birth of Punk, New Wave, Alternative Rock, Rap, and Grunge. All of those musical forms began as DIY jobs and some continue that way. Was a lot of crap produced? Yes. But the public found what they wanted and discarded the rest. The public was fed up with the same-old-thing from record companies and with being told what they should listen to (see the Death of Disco). Now, Independant Records have respect from musicians and the public.

    Where is the difference between that and self-publishing? It’s early days, but already there have been self-published who have won major literary awards or done massive sales; writers who could not get publishing deals. What the industry needs to decide is should they be doggedly defending their old business model or should they find a way to embrace the self published?


    GeoMurph July 26, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    @Jeff and @Betsy: The prohibition does not include small indie presses — we review lots of books put out by small houses, particularly ones of local interest. We tend not to review many best sellers, because there’s plenty out there already on those. We mainly look for good books that our readers might be interested in — fiction, nonfiction, even poetry. Sometimes the books turn out not to be good, and if that’s the case, we don’t shy away from telling readers that.

    I think the model is changing and I’m sure we’re going to have to change with it. We actually do give most self-published books that come in the once-over glance, and occasionally one gets a first-few-pages read. But with no full-time books person (we all have other jobs at the paper and review because we love books), time is at a premium — some weeks none of us have even an extra hour to sort the pile. And so it’s easier to tell an obvious hack pestering us by e-mail to review his self-published biblical paranormal thriller-romance that we have a blanket policy than to waste our time and his postage/review copy.

    As the industry shifts, if the overall quality of self-published books improves — and I hope it will — there’s no way we can ignore them. Or maybe they’ll decide they can ignore us! :)


    Joel Friedlander July 26, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Thanks for the feedback, GeoMurph. Booksellers are also well aware of what their customers are looking for, and mainly those are books from traditional publishers because those are the authors that people know, and many of the books are promoted. It’s just really difficult to create any sort of national market for a self-published book.


    Barbara Barth July 27, 2010 at 12:41 am

    So GeoMurph – anyway to get you to read/review my chick flick widow memoir that includes death, dating, rescue dogs, messages from beyond, sex with dogs (my teaser), lessons learned and a 79 stingray as the best comeback to those questions you hate to answer? I have free review copies for anyone interested. Barbara


    Jeff Rose-Martland July 27, 2010 at 5:59 am

    And I won’t waste my time or my review copy/postage, as the lack of publisher logo on the spine is a dead giveaway. So i’ll keep my award-winning, geo-political media thriller about the US invading Canada away from your readers.

    Betsy Gordon July 27, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    @Barbara — Your book arrived today from I’m already halfway through it. It’s a quick read, it does include almost all the highlights you list above, and it’s both funny and moving. But it could, as Michael pointed out awhile back, certainly use some editing! It’s more than a “chick flick widow memoir,” that’s for sure. I like it, I like the YOU it reveals, and I wish I looked half as good as you do on your website!

    See what good things come of checking out The Book Designer? Thanks, Joel: you provide such a great forum for discussion, and for learning more of the niceties and necessities of the self-publishing life. Glad I found this site!

    Joel Friedlander July 27, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    That’s awesome, Betsy! So glad you are enjoying yourself.

    Joel Friedlander July 26, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Barbara, I hope your one finger holds out! Your enthusiasm is one of the things I really enjoy about self-publishers, and the determination it takes to get a book out into the market and “do right” by it.

    The number of bad self-published books seems pretty irrelevant to me. Most of them will disappear without a trace.

    Thanks for your contribution, and I hope you feel better soon.


    Novena Forbes November 1, 2011 at 6:18 am

    Hi Barbara,
    So, You buy any book with a dog picture on the cover? I’m currently preparing to self publish a children’s book about Bo Dog who lived under the freeway with a one hundred year old homeless veteran. It’s a true story. I’m considering putting a picture of the dog on the cover. Maybe this is true of many buyers? What do you think?
    Peace, Novena


    Peggy January 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Hello Barbara,
    I have been reading the interesting exchanges here. I am in the process of getting a book I have written edited. Next comes self-publication which is daunting to me.
    The book is about my dog (Ika) who is a friendly Pit Bulldog whose mother was a rescue from a dog fighting ring. The book is intended to educate people who have the conception that all dogs of this breed are dangerous. I love the fact that you have five rescue dogs of your own.
    I have learned so much from the exchanges here. I can’t wait to learn more.



    Barbara February 13, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Hi Peggy – I just found your e-mail in my inbox. I have so many e-mails coming and going on promoting my shop, I get lost. Would love to hear about your dog book. I have many friends who rescue Pit Bulls and have linked to many sites on F/Book for such. Please drop me a note if you want to chat more. Barbara


    Betsy Gordon July 24, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Well, something certainly went wrong with that quotation from GeoMurphy! I meant to say: I do see your point when you say, “we just don’t have the time to wade through them all in search of one possible gem.”

    Sorry about that! The rest of my comment stands.


    GeoMurph July 23, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    As a book reviewer for a midsize newspaper, I can’t stress enough the importance of editing. The books editor at the paper has a firm policy that we don’t review self-published books simply because of the sheer volume of dreck that comes in. Yes, many mainstream books are crap and some self-published books are good. But for every good self-published book, we get dozens, maybe hundreds, that are poorly written, poorly edited and poorly designed. Some of these writers can’t even construct a coherent paragraph. Some of these books have typos and/or grammatical errors on the cover. And we just don’t have the time to wade through them all in search of one possible gem. Writers, ensure your writing is clear and smooth, and free from mistakes and typos — best done with the help of an editor (not your spouse), whose fresh viewpoint will spot things you can’t. If you don’t respect your readers enough to make your work the very best it can be, then don’t expect them to spend money buying your book and time reading it.


    Betsy Gordon July 23, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    This comment at once delights and frustrates me! GeoMurphy’s last two lines made me laugh out loud and high-five my cat: an entire manifesto for new writers, condensed into just a few words. I wish I’d written them myself.

    And then there’s the frustration. I’m betting that you, GM, consider “self-published” to include small non-traditional publishing houses that conduct their business online. You probably would glance at the copyright page and toss the book out, if you didn’t recognize the name of the publisher. Oh, I do see your point when you say <> There is so much sheer garbage out there masquerading as literature! But in that case, how does a small new publishing house that is truly dedicated to publishing only properly edited and properly formatted books ever manage to get a book reviewed?

    It’s hard to stick by our rule that we publish nothing that our very demanding Editor (that would be me) doesn’t pass on, or alternatively, edit till it’s as good as it can be. It’s hard, because new writers so often want to get their books out cheaply — not because they’re miserly, but because they’re usually unable to afford the fancy packages offered by a lot of the companies whose sites I’ve visited. And now, I learn that it’s probably going to be impossible to get an objective review of any of our books, just because our name is not yet recognized as synonymous with good quality.

    Is this an impossible situation, or do you have some suggestions that might offer some hope? Thanks for anything of the sort!


    Joel Friedlander July 26, 2010 at 9:11 am

    GeoMurph, that’s interesting. On a productivity basis I guess I can understand eliminating all self-published books but, like Betsy, I find it a bit depressing also. Although the ratios are probably very different, there are plenty of bad traditionally published books and a good number of good self-published books. How to handle this situation is going to become even more difficult if “name brand” authors start looking to reap the rewards of publishing themselves. I wonder what your books editor will say when that happens, or if “exceptions” will be made.

    In any event, your comment was much appreciated, thanks for being part of the conversation.


    Jeff Rose-Martland July 23, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Regarding #9 – quoting lyrics

    This is absolutely a massive mistake for most people. Even for those of us who know where & how to look for licenses, it can still be thorny. In my novel, I started with 13 quotes to kick off each chapter. By the time I went to print, I was down to 5 permissions without cost, all from indie musicians. Record labels prices are ven higher in North America. They charge by the size of the print run, only agree to a certain number of prints after which things must be renogotiated, and charge even higher fees than the ones cited. One licensing site says boldly: our prices start at $1000 for obscure artists and go up from there. Don’t bother us if are not willing to pay.

    Which is not to say quoting lyrics is impossible. It just requires authors to know what they are doing. It is easy to locate the big music publishers (check your cds) and they have searchable databases. If cost is going to be an issue, then look to independant artists. Most of them feel you pain and are will to grant permission without cost as it helps promote them as well. Some artists have a blanket policy of granting permission. Then again, some artists can’t even find out who holds the rights to their song.

    What is crucial if you are heading down this road is to know why you want to quote lyrics. Are you simply being lazy and wish to use others’ words? Are the lyrics themselves critical to your story? Can you use a different song or no song at all? Whatever you decide, do not start approaching people until you have that bit of your MS written, because they may want to read it. Not only do you need these answers, the copyright holders want to know.

    Finally, here’s some tips for cheaping up:
    1 – indie artists. Like you, they are usually struggling to get noticed and are looking for free publicity. They are also usually easy to find: websites on the cds, ‘contact us’ on their website, ‘managed by’ listed everywhere.
    2 – public domain material. Most national anthems, church hymns, marching songs, etc, are not bound by license and can be freely quoted. General rule: if there is no stated author, if the author has been dead for over 75 years and no publisher owns rights, or if the rights are held by a government body, you can probably use them without issue. Note the ‘probably’. If there is anyone you can contact about the lyrics, better do so.
    3 – Lapsed copyright. A lot of blues music falls into this group. Story is, singer signs over rights to record company. Singer fades into obscurity or dies. Company goes under. Rights are never transferred. Since no one holds claim on the lyrics, you may quote away. As usual, you will want to list the artist. Finding lapsed licenses is tricky, since you need to look for who DOESN’T hold the rights. Generally, if the record companies don’t and the songwriter’s associations can’t tell you who the royalties go to, then it’s probably lapsed. Final note on searching: you may find what you think is lapsed rights, but check that the artist is dead. If they are not, they automatically hold all rights.

    If you have more questions, I can be reached through my website.

    (Oh dear, I wrote an article in reply!)
    All the Best,
    Jeff Rose-Martland
    author of Game Misconduct


    Joel Friedlander July 23, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Jeff, I can see you really went into this subject, and I want to thank you for sharing the results with us. This will also be interesting to readers of the post What Every Writers Ought to Know about Fair Use and Copyright and I’ll cross-link it over there. Thanks for visiting and good luck with your book.


    Jeff Rose-Martland July 23, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    You’re quite welcome. I have tons more info, owing to the lengths I had to jump. I was working commercial radio at the time so it was easier for me to find out who to contact.

    I think what relly gets writer’s in trouble with this is school: you are taught that you may quote anything as long as you attribute and credit. We don’t tend to think of lyrics as being any different than that. In fact, many of the musicians I contacted feel the same way as does Leonard Cohen’s editor. She told me if I was quoting one of his poems, attribution was all I needed. But even thay had to shell out major bucks to include Leonard own lyrics in one of his books.


    Joel Friedlander July 23, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    It just goes to show that when you license or transfer rights, you are transferring property rights, with all that goes with it. And of course the schools ought to be telling students that’s fine for academic work, but not for something intended to be commercial.


    Michael N. Marcus July 23, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    To Jeff…

    Here’s another way to go cheap: PARAPHRASE or REFER to a song to evoke a shared experience or shared knowledge, instead of quoting the lyrics.

    From my “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),”

    >>Although I had a brief career as a model around age four, I was a shy teenager who never attracted much attention from girls. But when I hobbled [on crutches] into the teen dance that night at the Concord, I was like Carly Simon’s unnamed subject of “You’re So Vain.” Like Mick Jagger or Warren Beatty or possibly someone else, I was the guy who walked into a party and all the girls dreamed that they’d be my partner.<<


    Jeff Rose-Martland July 23, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    very true. Also note that the name of the artist IS NOT under license restrictions, so it can be easy and legal to write something like “The stereo played the Rolling Stones. Mick was rambling about some guy named Jack who had gas.”


    Lorna July 23, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Joel, this is great! I enjoyed reading it.


    Joel Friedlander July 23, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Lorna, thanks for visiting.


    Linda Cote July 23, 2010 at 11:04 am

    In regards to reviews, we here at ForeWord Reviews accept books for review in the print version of the magazine 3-4 months prior to publication. Many times I get calls from authors who come to us in the middle of their marketing process, not knowing that submitting the book for review should have been done earlier in this process. I don’t know if this qualifies as a top 10 worst mistake, but maybe it makes the top 100!


    Joel Friedlander July 23, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Linda, Thanks for that one. Maybe number 11?


    Michael N. Marcus July 23, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Hi Linda…

    As a small/self publisher (about ten books in two years), I’d love to see some flexibility in the policy of the pre-publication review media.

    If I have a book that will be available on 8/1, I want to start selling it on 8/1. I don’t want to send out ARCs on 8/1 and start selling books on 12/1–especially if there are no reviews published then, anyway.

    Since there is absolutely no guarantee that any of the ARCs I send out will result in reviews four months later, I’d much rather start selling imemdiately with the possibility of later reviews, than delay selling because of the hope of reviews that may never come.


    Linda Cote July 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Hi Michael,

    I can understand your position. We review books that far in advance for a couple of reasons. One, we are providing our readers with the most up to date information that we possibly can. Two, we are a small staff and need that amount of time to go through the hundreds of books we receive every month. It takes time to produce the quality reviews that we do every issue.

    Recently we have created a new service for publishers called “Digital Reviews”. Since we receive about 1200 books in two months, there are bound to be some books that are qualified and we would love to review but can’t due to space constraints. Or maybe the book is past our 3-4 month prior to publication time line, but it’s still a good book and worthy of a review. This is a good option for you. You can send any book to us for digital review, if it qualifies we will notify you and you pay a small handling fee of $99. We post the review to our website and send it to our licensees for their databases. The book goes through our regular, rigorous qualifying process and there is no distinction between reviews in the magazine and digital reviews. For more information you can go to

    I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions, I am happy to help!


    Michael N. Marcus July 23, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    That’s good news, Linda.

    With next-day delivery of freshly printed books, and 10-second downloads of eBooks, it’s appropriate to have an alternative to the 20th century review system.

    Your $99 Digital Review sounds like a good solution. I’ll send a book next week. I’ve gotten great response from amateur reviewers, but I’d like some professional reviews, too.


    Linda Cote July 23, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Glad to help! I look forward to seeing it come in. Let me know if I can help in any way. Have a lovely weekend!

    Joel Friedlander July 23, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Michael, as Linda points out these deadlines are not arbitrary, but they are all connected to the convention of a “publication date,” used by traditional publishers to coordinate large-scale publicity and advertising operations, and the necessity of media to plan for, assign, execute, edit and run reviews that print on the pub date.

    A lot has been written about the pub date being an anachronism of earlier times, but it persists because it’s useful.

    As a publisher, you have to decide whether your books are likely candidates for the early reviewers and, if so, whether you’re willing to forgo some sales to attempt to get them. For most micro-publishers who do not sell to the library market, the answer is likely to be “no.” If that’s the case with your books, just ignore these few review sources and concentrate on the thousands of possible reviewers who do not have these restrictions.

    And Linda, thanks for explaining ForeWord’s process, although I know a lot of authors balk at the idea of paying for reviews. I think your model is likely to become more popular as time goes by. It’s great to have your input here, thanks!


    Linda Cote July 26, 2010 at 6:41 am

    Hi Joel,

    My pleasure. Let me know if you need any other info. And have a great week!

    Barbara Barth July 21, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Ahhh, my book cover. It certainly has created some discussion. It was designed for me by a graphic designer that specializes in a minimual look and has some top line clients. The hand is pointing to the word unfaithful as the widow is carelessly tossing her sunglasses. That widow being me after a drive in my 79 stingray. I so much prefer the clean slick (questionable?) look over books with unknown female figures on them. What is the point of that? My cover is colorful, snappy and youthful, The word widow can bog you down before you even know what follows.
    I have had some very nice compliments on my cover, but like everything in art and life, to each his own. The typos in the book are mine. I did not have a third party review my book so please don’t blame my vanity publisher for that. My only beef with Outskirts is it takes forever to determine your sales. Thanks to Michael’s advice my next book will go a different route. I am marketing like crazy – in September I will have a brief interview on The Lifetime Network and I think I’ll wear my cay eye sunglasses. Be kind to typos here, I had rotator cuff surgery a week ago and am typing with one finger. Michael, hugs to you for becoming my friend. Barbara


    Betsy Gordon July 21, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Barbara — Aha! So I was right about the sunglasses being yours! I’m so glad. I answered Michael’s comment before I realized you had answered it too. I’m looking forward to reading about your escapades.

    Congratulations on your personal marketing efforts! So many writers don’t realize that it’s the personal touch that makes the biggest difference. And also, congratulations on having the sheer guts and determination to type one-fingered after recent rotator cuff surgery. Hope your recovery is speedy and not too uncomfortable.


    Michael N. Marcus July 21, 2010 at 8:53 am


    Although _I_ would not wear shades like those–until I read the book and got to know Barbara, I did not realize that the frame was officially femme.

    I never realized that the finger was pointing at “unfaithful.” I guess I just don’t speak double-X.

    It’s a simple cover with a lot going on.

    And as long as we’re talking about covers and chromosomes and marketing…

    I thought that I was writing my “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),” ( for other guys.

    I’ve gotten some nice comments from double-X-ers, including Barbara.

    Barack Obama was supposed to be the first “post-racial” president. Maybe Barbara and I have written the first “post-sexual” sexy books.


    Betsy Gordon July 21, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Michael —

    Okay, the secret’s out: I also ordered this book of yours, and the one shredding the vanity press. Can’t wait to read them all. When they arrive, how am I going to have time to spend hours in blog conversations, let alone do any editing?

    This stuff is way too addictive, and way too much fun.

    Thanks, Joel, for getting me started in these side journeys.


    Michael N. Marcus July 21, 2010 at 9:36 am

    >>When they arrive, how am I going to have time to spend hours in blog conversations, let alone do any editing?<<

    Well, I'm usually at my keyboard at 3:30 am, and sometimes edit at red lights.

    Joel Friedlander July 21, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Betsy, it’s a pleasure. And somehow I think you’ll find the time to keep commenting and reading blogs, just a hunch. Enjoy your new haul of books!

    Barbara Barth July 27, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Betsy – thanks for your nice note! I hope you will enjoy my book. It was critiqued by a NY Times best seller author who told me I killed my husband off three times in twenty pages. Her next piercing words were no one cares that my husband died. Then her eyes narrowed in and she asked me. “Why did you start dating so soon? Did you meet someone or just decided to be cold blooded and date after three months?” I reeled away from that 15 minute session but read her notes and a light bulb went off. The tone of my book changed and the dialog (girl talk) took the book from sad to funny. I listened, put my own spin on it and came away with a book that makes you laugh, cry a little and want to be your own super hero. I do cringe my first date as a young girl left me misspelling a man’s package wrong. But I was young in that essay! Now I know what to call it…and frequently do. I love this forum here. Typing at 3AM, one finger typing away and in between daintily raising a glass of pineapple rum. That is what happens when you can’t get comfortable to sleep in a sling. All kidding aside I will be thrilled if you read my book. Barbara


    Joel Friedlander July 27, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Barbara, I just love that image of you, tapping with one finger and sipping your rum at 3:00 a.m. Writers are just the most interesting people, don’t you think?


    Joel Friedlander July 21, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Hi Barbara, thanks for giving us the rundown on the book. I’m glad you’ve decided to move on from Outskirts. Maybe that will be a time to fix the typos or even have an editor go over the book before you bring out a new edition. Good luck with your marketing!


    Barbara Barth July 27, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Hi Joel – super forum here. Hope I don’t overly voice my opinion. I am in the process of contacting Outskirts Press to have my few typos corrected – some intentional slang – the word crotch a huge blunder unless you think of me at nineteen never having seen one. Since I am going to be on a major chick network mid September I will most likely leave my book at Outskirts due to time constraints. My next book which I am working on will go a different route. I am hanging on every word here since I know I am learning great stuff. Barbara


    Joel Friedlander July 27, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Glad you’re having fun—why else do it? And since I voice my opinions here every day, I can hardly complain when others do it. Enjoy!


    Michael N. Marcus July 28, 2010 at 9:42 am

    When I was in high school and college, I had part-time jobs selling men’s clothing. Unfortunately it was fairly common for a customer to say that the “crouch needs to be alternated.”

    I was tempted to say, “Of course, sir, we have a full line of high-quality alternative crouches.”

    And then there were the shoe department shoppers who wanted “posturepedic” (not orthopedic) shoes.

    And the furniture shoppers who wanted bedroom suits, or sweets.


    Barbara Barth July 28, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Michael – Now I get it. Crotch: The area on a pair of pants, underpants, or shorts where the two leg panels are sewn together. I’m looking for what fits inside them and it’s not the brass pair I have………. I flunked anatomy 101, no wonder I can’t get a date! Barbara

    Joel Friedlander July 28, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    @Michael, as usual you have brought clarity to the discussion. I think. Do you have those crouches in all sizes?

    @Barbara, now that you know all about crotches, I’m sure Michael will rest easy. And I refuse to believe you can’t get a date. I checked your website and you should be fighting them off with a stick. Just wait until you’ve healed and I’m sure all will be well.

    Michael N. Marcus July 20, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    I love the look of crisp white book covers — in my hands, but not online. Starting with book #4, I’ve insisted on something to maintain the shape of the cover against a white web page.

    A narrow printed border is dangerous, because it can migrate onto the spine unless it’s kept pretty far inboard. And a border or frame gives up cover space and can emphasize misaligned printing.

    Although it’s against Amazon rules, a cover image can be uploaded with an added border. Sometimes the Ama-cops don’t notice.

    “Image should be a full front view of the cover, no borders.”


    Joel Friedlander July 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Good tips, Michael. I’ve actually succeeded in getting a white cover with a border uploaded to Amazon, specifically to deal with this issue, but it wasn’t easy.


    Betsy Gordon July 20, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Michael — Would you care to share the title of that “chick-lit” memoir? I would love to see the cover in question, and maybe even read the book — (hold your breath) — will the cover make sense to ME?

    And that is a very smart pre-publication gambit, to beta-test your cover and title among the “typical” audience. Thanks for the tip.


    Michael N. Marcus July 20, 2010 at 9:52 am
    Joel Friedlander July 20, 2010 at 11:57 am

    It’s curious that I’ve been getting a lot of requests from women authors for books with white backgrounds. I usually try to dissuade them because they sometimes disappear agains the white backgrounds used by Amazon and others. And this cover was pretty intentionally targeted at women in its color choices and the imagery used.


    Betsy Gordon July 20, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Michael, frankly, I had to work at “getting” that cover myself. Definitely slanted toward the X-chromosome, though, you’re quite correct. I wouldn’t have bought that book for its cover; wouldn’t even have hesitated over it. But the title, the editorial review, and the “look inside” feature on, in company with your comments, convinced me to get it.

    I found it interesting, and surely not coincidental, that the publisher of this book is the very same publisher you feature in your book “Stupid, Sloppy, Sleazy” — WOW! And yet, you really enjoyed the memoir. I’m not a big fan of vanity publishing, but apparently they do get it right sometimes.

    Not the white-background cover, though, with the cat’s-eye sunglasses trailing languidly from the manicured feminine hand…


    Michael N. Marcus July 21, 2010 at 7:54 am

    I learned about the book when I encountered author Barbara Barth doing a virtual book tour. I attacked her for saying she had “self-published,” when she was really just a customer of sleazy Outskirts Press.

    Barbara and I exchanged emails, and soon became online buddies.

    Unfortunately, the book was not professionally edited and has some funny bloopers (i.e., “crouch” for “crotch”), but the stories were certainly worthwhile.

    As for the cover..I wasn’t sure if the woman was accidentally dropping her own sunglasses or deliberately tossing away her dead husband’s sunglasses.


    Betsy Gordon July 21, 2010 at 8:33 am

    I’d vote for the sunglasses belonging to the woman. She mentions her 1970s-style “cat’s-eye” sunglasses in one of the early pages, which I could see on — in the chapter about her 1979 Corvette. Would you, as a loyal Y-chromosome reader, ever wear that style of sunglasses? (Please say no!)

    Yeah, it’s a bit hard to read books that lack good editing, even if the content is very good. I keep wanting to whip out my red pencil and mark up the book. It certainly slows down my usual speed-read pace… sort of like those drivers who ride the brake pedal and spoil the smoothness of their trajectory.

    Michael N. Marcus July 20, 2010 at 5:23 am

    >>I guess I was thinking more of people who have written memoirs or novels…I have found those writers to be much more protective of their…cover ideas<<

    Betsy, I recently read and greatly enjoyed a memoir that was really chick-lit.

    Because I am a member of the minority of readers who have the rare Y-chromosome (and a penis) the cover made absolutely no sense to me. I read it because I knew the author–a situation that would seldom happen in real life.

    I suspect that many possible book cover designs are shown to only limited segments of the potential market…and lose sales.

    Book covers require much more than good graphics. The design and the title have to make sense in seconds, with no explanation by the author holding up the book.

    I've replaced two titles and one cover design after showing covers to "typical" people and I found that some of them just didn't "get it."


    Joel Friedlander July 20, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Good point, Michael. I compare book covers to billboards, in that each has to tell its story within a couple of seconds to be effective. I’ve also propped up cover designs and looked at them from across the room (very informative) and when I’m designing covers I’ll sometimes turn them upside down (gives a great idea of the balance) and reduce them to postage-stamp size on screen (to simulate “thumbnail” presentations). It’s all good.


    Barbara Barth July 27, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Michael – what can I say ….your mock book cover with the dog has my vote! I don’t get unknown females on covers nor do I like heart throb men. Call me silly but the dog has prescense, humor and across the board appeal. Hip and sassy. I may not know about book covers in general but I’ve sold vintage art for years and have my own, heavily biased opinions on art that catches the eye. Wish you could share the cover here! Kudos on what was humor sent to me but such a charming cover. Barbara


    Betsy Gordon July 19, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    You’re right, Joel, absolutely. I guess I was thinking more of people who have written memoirs or novels — the kind of book where you reveal a lot of yourself to your readers, maybe disguised as various characters, maybe just You. At any rate, you put yourself in a somewhat vulnerable position. I have found those writers to be much more protective of their original wording and cover ideas than the writers of non-fiction, who are usually satisfied with a more utilitarian cover, and not so particular about keeping every single word the way it came out of their brains.

    Yes, the goal needs to be clear, and so does the target audience, I think. And there we begin to slide into the area of Marketing… for another time.

    Thanks for the insights. This was a good day for me, for learning!


    Joel Friedlander July 20, 2010 at 11:52 am

    And for me too, Betsy, thanks for your thoughtful contributions.


    Betsy Gordon July 19, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    RE: Chris’s words, “I’ve also noticed that authors display the same reluctance to design advice that they show to editing advice.

    “The goal should never be to protect your work in its current form… it should be to better it.”

    I think that actually writing a book is for many people such a marvelous and unusual enterprise that they lose every bit of objectivity about the final product. An editor or a cover designer has to be something of a psychologist to deal with such folks. And you have to be sensitive, too, to their vision of the work, trying — as Joel has said — to educate them while still retaining their “voice” and “vision.”

    That sentence of yours, Chris, would be an excellent motto for anyone providing services to writers.


    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    This is apropos of Stephen’s comment also, but where authors get in trouble, in my experience, is confusing the different goals you might have for a book. For instance, if you’re trying to create a commercial product, maybe you don’t really need the cover to be an expression of your deep emotional life, but something that appeals to people looking for information they might reasonably find inside your book.


    Chris July 19, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Recently I offered to ‘Lulu’ one of my mother-in-law’s 300 page ‘recollections’!

    She had it spiral bound at a local copy centre last year so I thought a nice hardcover-wrap would thrill her. You know, legitimise her work since she felt her life had only amounted to a dodgy A4 file of musings?

    I’m not a designer but I have spent a few years with InDesign laying out a weekly newspaper and our own mags so the result was slick but definitely not pro designer by any stretch of the imagination.

    Fortunately the book turned out great.

    Whilst my mother-in-law has no intention selling her book, I know she is delighted with its ‘real book’ look. It’s a great memento for her kids.

    I guess, what I’m trying to say to fellow self-publishers is that a book demonstrates value on many different levels; emotional and commercial. Achieving a high return on both may require a little investment in design and editorial feedback.

    Both will often lead to a better and more rewarding end experience.

    Like my dad always used to say: if you’re gonna do a job, never do it in half measures. Of course, the statement was always in relation to crap jobs around the yard that he was trying to palm off on me – Lazy bastard! :)


    Joel Friedlander July 20, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I really liked your story of “Lulu-ing” your mother-in-law’s book because it shows that there are a whole host of reasons people self-publish, legitimate reasons that have nothing to do with book reviewers, cover designers and the like. One of the reasons I’m so excited about print on demand is this exact capacity it gives to “ordinary” people to put something in print. Good for her! Now, back to your yard work.


    Chris July 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    “… but I had to print 10,000 copies. You have any room in your garage?”

    One of my most painful experiences was trashing 3500 magazines. Not fun.

    Especially lifting them.

    That first publishing venture had all the profitability of a night at the black jack table. At least that would have been a game with some element of fun!


    Chris July 19, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    I really would love to see more self-publishers act like indie publishers.

    The difference being: making use of pro service providers.

    Hire a freelance editor. Hire a designer. Ante up for some ISBNs … and a few other things (website, distributor etc)

    The biggest tell-tale of a self-publisher is – and you’ll appreciate this JF – cover design. A lot of writers really believe that their own cover design look great. Unfortunately they mostly look crap. I’ve also noticed that authors display the same reluctance to design advice that they show to editing advice.

    The goal should never be to protect your work in its current form… it should be to better it. If you don’t it will be the first barrier to making money from publishing.


    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Chris, I get you, and have written often here about the necessity of producing a product appropriate for the aim you have in publishing it. If you want a keepsake or a book for family and friends, you are much more likely to have a DIY book that you like. Going out into the marketplace and trying to compete with professionally-produced books is a different story.

    It may be that the move to digitization will also move us toward an environment in which it’s harder to tell what’s professional and what isn’t, but readers know.


    wendy johnson December 9, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Hi Friends,
    Great site and tips! Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ve only written one book so far but, was glad I went to a self or ‘assisted ‘ publishing company who had a great graphic designer. I told him exactly what I wanted on the front cover and he did a much better job than I expected. Book shops are surprised when they see it and say it’s not like the usual self published cover. It was well worth the money. You can see my cover design on my website;
    Merry Christmas


    Michael N. Marcus July 19, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    >>there would be many fewer people sitting right now with a “garage full of books” and no idea what to do with them.<<

    With POD there is little risk of having to keep the car outside during a blizzard or hurricane while cases of books are protected (until attacked by mice and mildew).

    The risk to today's inept and misguided self-pubbers is loss of investment, not cubic feet.


    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Maybe a “virtual” garage-full of books?


    Michael N. Marcus July 20, 2010 at 5:06 am

    >>Maybe a “virtual” garage-full of books?<<

    Unfortunately, I have a virtual car parked in one third of my real garage.

    It looks like a car, a nice red sportscar in fact, but it's as virtual as a PDF book file. My 1978 Fiat Spider mysteriously stopped a year ago. I can look at it and think about it, but can't drive it.

    Hmm…I also have a virtual 1964 Vespa 150 scooter taking up real space. It hasn't been driven since around 1973.

    And I have a virtual 1962 Raleigh 10-speed racing bike, and a virtual 2005 Specialized "comfort bike."

    I'd better stop now and deal with reality. All this garage virtualization is getting depressing. Why should a snow shovel get more use than a sportscar?


    Jeff Rose-Martland July 26, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    A Canadian nevers asks such a question!


    Stephen Tiano July 19, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    I dunno, Joel. There’s something about the notion about making a marketing plan for a book that hasn’t been written i too … something. I mean–and I’m struggling to find the right word–it’s too mercenary. That’s the kind of thing bothers me about early social media: it was ALL about the marketing of marketing.

    I think one still has to start with writing the best book they can about something people are interested in. Then, while the editors, designers, and production types are doing their thing, the self-publishers should be steeped in locating the natural audience beyond that 100 or so copies that get sold to family, friends, and acquaintances. Once that audience is found, every energy should be spent on coming up with the appropriate marketing plan … but after the author knows what is to be marketed.


    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Stephen, I think you are right in that the progression you describe is how most self-publishers (the serious ones, anyway) seem to approach their publication. And as a writer, I’m certainly all in favor of “writing the best book.” What I’m talking about here selling books. If self-publishers paid more attention to planning who they were writing the book for, how they intended to reach those people once the book was done, and whether what they were writing is what those people actually are willing to buy, there would be many fewer people sitting right now with a “garage full of books” and no idea what to do with them. Having been down that road many times (both myself and with clients) I’d rather characterize it as “practical” than “mercenary.”

    Thanks for your always thoughtful comments.


    Chris July 19, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Okay guys, it will be my pleasure to offload the ‘mercenary’ tag from you for myself!!

    In my opinion a marketing plan is essential prior to writing a single word. My defense being that publishing is about money whilst writing is about art.

    I can write without money but I can not publish without money.

    Although, I can publish and end up with no money.

    Actually, I’m extremely good at that! :)


    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Practice, practice, practice, Chris. But you already knew that.

    The plain fact is that most nonfiction books are sold before they are written, and there’s no reason why a self-publisher can’t approach it the same way. But because a self-publisher can do as she pleases, she can do it any way she likes!

    Thanks for stopping by.


    Michael N. Marcus July 20, 2010 at 1:26 am

    >>Then, while the editors, designers, and production types are doing their thing, the self-publishers should be steeped in locating the natural audience<<

    But, what if after spending a year or more writing, and planning to spend three months and $3,000 in production, you find that the natural audience is four people? Or that the natural audience is 400 people and they are already served by 40 competitive books, and 20 are better than yours is?

    If you write yet another WW2 memoir, or cancer survival memoir, or how-I stopped-smoking-improved-my-gas-mileage-lost-weight-and-found-my-true-love book, how many people will care enough to spend $15?

    If you are writing for fun or possible career advancement, or possible ego-boosting, finding a market is not necessary.

    If you want to make back your investment and possibly make a profit, it's best to determine the market when you've written little more than a tentative title.

    Most books "fail." So do most retail stores and restaurants. So do many election campaigns and invasions. If you consider publishing to be a business and not just a hobby, research comes first.


    Heidi March 29, 2013 at 7:27 am

    I’d love to read that book!


    Heidi March 29, 2013 at 7:28 am

    “or how-I stopped-smoking-improved-my-gas-mileage-lost-weight-and-found-my-true-love book”

    Sorry, I forgot to put in the book that I’d like to read.


    Jacqueline Simonds August 27, 2013 at 10:44 am

    I understand what Stephen is saying about the mercenary quality of “marketing first, write second.” However, I think it’s a case of understanding what you are aiming at.

    If you are writing a novel, poetry, memoir or a narrative non-fiction, then the equation will probably be “Write first, create a marketing plan when the book is in production.”

    If you are writing any kind of non-fiction, then you obviously are starting out with an audience in mind (whether you are trying to use the book as a “business card” or as an informational product). In that case, it makes sense to have a fairly good outline of a marketing plan in hand, so that you write TO that audience.

    Note the weasel words. Your mileage may vary.


    Jack W Perry July 19, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Enjoyed this. Thanks for posting. Self-publishing can be rewarding and the right thing for many authors. But as you point out, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done — and done the right way. Thanks. I think this piece will help a lot of people.


    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Thanks, Jack. Yes, self-publishing can be powerful and rewarding, but you have to do your homework. Educating people coming into this field seems like the best approach, and I hope this does help people.


    Authorhouse February 27, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Self publishing is a process as they say. No matter how challenging it may be, for sure any author who take the necessary step would reap the rewards of his/her hard work.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. This is great info.


    Betsy Gordon July 19, 2010 at 8:59 am

    I think Stephen’s really nailed the basics in his three rules.
    One would think Rule 1 should be self-evident; but having something interesting to say is not at all the same thing as saying it well.
    And that comment segues neatly into Rule 2: professional editing seems to be the first area new writers identify as expendable, when they’re trying to publish as inexpensively as possible. Many — too many — of the self-publishing companies out there don’t offer editing or copy editing services, nor do they insist upon properly-edited manuscripts for their publishing services. A representative of a well-reputed online publishing house told me recently, when I asked if publishing good-looking but practically unreadable books didn’t detract from the company’s reputation: “It’s not our job to tell them what’s wrong with their writing; it’s our job to publish what they give us, and charge them for that. It’s not our problem whether it sells or not. And we have xxx-thousand titles, so obviously lack of editing doesn’t affect our reputation.”
    As for Rule 3 — if readers aren’t drawn to a book because it’s attractive and well-designed, it’ll never be sold and never be read. Many very talented and experienced book designers provide outstanding covers at very reasonable rates. Why wouldn’t a new author who wants the book to sell realize the importance of a professional appearance?
    Thanks, Stephen — and Joel, for the inspiring article. I continue to learn so much from this site!


    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Betsy, thanks for your thoughtful comment. Stephen has got to the core of what makes a good book, one that might be of interest to someone other than the author. Educating prospective self-publishers seems like the best way to help people avoid the mis-steps that can ruin an otherwise worthwhile effort, and for helping to educate here, I thank you.


    Stephen Tiano August 9, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Over three years too late … thank you for the kind words, Betsy.

    Very interesting that that Arlene’s comment earlier today drew me back to this conversation and Joel’s article and made me reread it all again. Still a good lively exchange from a whole crew of people. Funny, too, because I blogged again just last week ( on the subject of a handful of “regrettable choices” self-publishers may make that will give their books the indelible mark of the amateur.


    Arlene Prunkl August 9, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    I’m heading over to your blog right now to read your new post, Stephen. Interesting and so pleasant that we seem to run into each other from time to time on the Internet like this. :-)


    Betsy Gordon August 11, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Hi Stephen!

    I’m so glad I checked “Notify me of followup comments” three years ago. I keep getting notified, now and then, of new comments, and every time I read one, of course, I have to read the whole thing over again, and become re-inspired by Joel and you and all the rest. Good posts don’t get any less helpful over time, I find. Thanks again!


    Arlene Prunkl August 11, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Vive l’Internet! The Internet is awesome this way, isn’t it, Betsy? Joel’s post has been revived, and all because I happened to find his blog while searching for something else — I can’t even remember what now.

    Michael N. Marcus July 19, 2010 at 4:05 am

    >>The point here is that if you want to publish your own book you may be better off using a plain author services company like CreateSpace or Lulu than a subsidy publisher. Why? The subsidy publisher makes its money from sales to authors–that’s you. If you use a service like CreateSpace you are the publisher and you use them as a printer.<<

    Actually CreateSpace and Lulu are "split-personality" companies. They are similar to each other, and unlike other self-publishing companies. They can provide either complete publishing and distribution services, or just printing.

    A writer can start with an initial investment of ZERO with either company, or pay up to $4499 (Lulu) or $4999 (Create Space) for publishing packages.

    There's much more about publishing options in (TIME FOR A PLUG) my "How to Get the Most out of a Self-Publishing Company." It might go on sale next week if I finish my corrections today.


    Stephen Tiano July 19, 2010 at 7:46 am

    I’ve boiled succeeding at self-publishing down to a few “simple” rules.

    1. Write well about something people want to read about;
    2. Engage an editor and, perhaps, a copy editor to make sure you’ve gotten it down and gotten it right; and
    3. Contract professional, freelance book design and page comp to give your book the best chance to attract potential readers.


    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Stephen, your “reduction” will give you a good shot at producing a saleable book. Of course, step 4 might be “Start with a marketing plan before you write your book.”


    Carisa January 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Marketing is everything!


    Arlene Prunkl August 8, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Editing! That’s #1 (of course, as an editor, I’m biased). Joel, how could you have overlooked editing? The most glaring sign of a self-published book is the lack of editing, to which many Amazon reviews will attest.


    Joel Friedlander August 9, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Arlene, I guess that just proves that everyone needs an editor! Thanks for your input.


    Arlene Prunkl August 9, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Your answer made me smile, Joel. Indeed, everyone needs an editor, editors included. And how kind of you to answer! I realize this is a very old post, but I just happened to come across it while googling around. When I saw Stephen Tiano’s name, I continued reading all the comments. I worked on a book with Stephen a few years ago.

    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Good tips, Michael, thanks. Sounds like your upcoming book could be very useful, too.


    Chris July 24, 2010 at 2:10 am

    I’m not sure on print cost in the US but here in Australia it costs a bundle to offset.

    Occasionally I source from suppliers in China and it’s hard to beat the price.

    Take the following as an example (CIF to AUstralia incl.):

    C Format Size:234 x 153 mm
    Cover:230g C1S art paper ,4c+0c, glossy lamination ,4p
    Text: 80g woodfree paper, 1c+1c,
    Extent: 460p
    Banding: perfect binding
    Qty: 1000
    Unit Cost: $3.78

    B Format Size:128 x 190 mm
    Cover:230g C1S art paper ,4c+0c, UV varnish ,4p
    Text: 80g woodfree paper, 1c+1c,
    Extent: 160p
    Banding: perfect binding
    Qty: 1000
    Unit Cost: $1.11

    C Format Size:234 x 153 mm
    Jacket:128g glossy art paper, 4c+0c, matt lamination, Silk-screen spot UV varnish 25% coverage
    Cover: 128g glossy art paper mounting up 1000g grey board ,4c+0c, matte lamination,4p
    Ends:140g woodfree paper, 0c+0c, 8p
    Text: 70g woodfree paper, 4c+4c,
    Extent: 400p
    Banding: section sewn bound, head bands, round back
    Qty: 5000 10,000
    Price: $1.34 $1.20

    Cheaper than Vanity press. Gotta do your homework though!


    TP March 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    May I asked which printer you used in China?


    Leave a Comment

    { 17 trackbacks }