Self-Publishing Book Review: Publishize! by Susan Daffron

by Joel Friedlander on September 9, 2010 · 20 comments

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Every self-publisher brings their experience and expertise to bear when they decide to publish a book. This background inevitably influences their approach to publishing.

In self-publishing books I’ve looked at recently, you can see this trend at work. I thought Christy Pinheiro’s Step-by-Step Publishing for Profit was very strong on organizing your publishing business and understanding business structures. Christy is a financial professional. Michael N. Marcus’s Become A Real Self-Publisher parlays the author’s story telling skill into an amusing and entertaining way of conveying a lot of information.

Susan Daffron’s Publishize! How to Quickly and Affordably Self-Publish a Book That Promotes Your Expertise (2008, Logical Expressions, 276 pages, 6″ x 9″, ISBN 978-0-9749245-8-8, $24.95) just as clearly shows the author’s background as a technical writer and long career in high-tech. Along with her husband James Byrd, Daffron operates Logical Expressions, a publishing and consulting business, from their home in Sandpoint, Idaho.

Both have a deep background doing business online, and this has influenced their publishing efforts. In the last four years, Daffron and Logical Expressions have self-published 10 books, and used the experience to become service providers to other self-publishers in the process.

What Is Publishize?

Well, it’s a word they made up by mashing “publish” with “publicize” and it’s meant to show the system they have developed to help people publish their own books. This breaks down to:

  1. Write the book
  2. Publish the book
  3. Publicize the book

Publishize! covers a lot of territory pretty quickly. After going over the advantages, particularly for business people, in self-publishing, the author advises readers to start doing market research before writing the book. This is solid advice, and more self-publishers ought to follow it.

how to publish a book

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The author moves on to a section on writing your book, and follows with chapters on book production, publishing, marketing online, book web sites, online marketing and promotion (yes, that’s twice), publicity, turning your book into an “empire” (recycling your content and outsourcing are covered in this chapter).

The Publishize process itself is strictly a print-on-demand strategy using Lightning Source as supplier and selling predominantly online. This model has quickly become the favorite for many self-publishers, and Daffron is well-situated to walk readers through the process.

I think you can get an idea of the book, and the author’s approach to traditional publishing promotion—in this case, review campaigns—from this quote:

Playing a bunch of games with the publishing date of your book so you can appease a review marketplace that doesn’t actually want to deal with you in the first place has always struck me as a big waste of time. The focus of this book is about self-publishing a book to promote your expertise. That book is designed to appeal to your niche market. In my opinion, that market is where you should invest your promotional efforts.

The end of the book (almost 100 pages) are given over to appendices, a glossary and an index, as well as a good deal of advertising material for other books and programs from Logical Expressions. This use of the “real estate” within the book to cross-promote other products is another lesson many self-publishers can learn to their advantage.

Pros and Cons

As online entrepreneurs and small-business owners, Susan Daffron and James Byrd are excellent guides to the world of online commerce. It’s pretty clear that a lot of the book was originally written as online articles, and much of the advice emanates from the world of online marketing.

self-publish a book

Susan Daffron

Publishize! is strongest when dealing with the print-on-demand model and selling online. Discussions of blogging, keywords, search engine optimization, content marketing, email marketing and various other web-related topics are real selling points for people who intend to market their books this way.

The tone of the book is down to earth and without embellishment. Because Daffron’s background is in high tech, there’s little about actual printing processes and manufacturing in the book. All discussion pretty much starts and ends with Lightning Source.

This is probably the biggest weakness of the Publishize approach, and consequently with the book. You won’t find any information here on how to do an offset run of your book, a discussion of different printing processes, or any information on book design and typography, for that matter. There’s some common sense advice to go to bookstores and look at books you like, but that’s about as far as it goes.

There is also little discussion of ebooks, which the author seems to dismiss. The book came out soon after the Kindle was introduced, and before it became apparent that people were going to take to ebooks in a big way.

On the other hand, Daffron is encouraging and a real proponent of people publishing their own books, and her enthusiasm is an attractive part of the book.

A Word About the Design

Publishize! is cleanly laid out. It’s easy to read and the experience of having done 10 or so other books shows in the typography and placement of material on the page. There are few illustrations but lots of bullet lists and numbered lists, as well as two levels of subheads.

The book is generally standard in its practice of publishing conventions. The glitches are not unusual, like using running heads and folios on blank pages. By and large it’s a workable and readable book with some nice style to the display typography.

The cover is unimpressive but serviceable. The colors seem a bit at war with each other, and the stock photo and typography just don’t seem to get off the ground. This happens with covers in which no one element stands out, but I’m sure the cover is quite good enough to sell well in this market.

Great for Small Business Online Entrpreneurs

Publishize! is a great resource for small business owners who are comfortable online and want to take advantage of their expertise by publishing a book. It really delivers on its subtitle: “How to Quickly and Affordably Self-Publish a Book That Promotes Your Expertise,” although how quickly you can actually write your book is an unknown.

If you’re interested in other types of publishing, this book will be less useful. But for many self-publishers, it will be tremendously helpful, especially in understanding how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together when it comes to marketing and selling books online.

Takeaway: Susan Daffron’s Publishize! is a great introduction to self-publishing, primarily for small business owners who want to use print-on-demand distribution to sell online.

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    { 18 comments… read them below or add one }

    James Byrd September 10, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Hi Joel. Thanks for the thorough review and for your comments. I just had one thing I wanted to add to the discussion.

    The decision to go POD or offset is more than just about the money. It’s about the effort. It takes a lot of personal effort to move those 1,000 books out of your garage into the hands of your readers. You have all of the same challenges you have with POD (e.g. promotion), plus the need to deal personally with distribution and/or packaging and shipping. What is that time worth to you?

    One of the best things about working with Lightning Source is what we call “magic money.” Every month, a wad of cash flows into our business checking account, with absolutely no effort on our part. In fact, we prefer to sell books through Lighting Source rather than through our own online store, in spite of the better margin, because of the time it takes to deal with packaging and shipping.

    I agree that doing an offset run is a no-brainer if you already know you will sell those books and already have distribution in place. Even then, the $0.67 turns out to be MUCH more when you have to deal with the inevitable returns that come from traditional distribution.

    As for e-books, we are now publishing articles related to that subject. We are initially focusing on Smashwords, which you could say is the Lightning Source of e-books.

    Keeping in mind our target audience, we assume that our authors are generally subject matter experts and business people first, and book publishers second. They don’t have time to deal with *all* of the options and details of the publishing industry, they just want a way to get maximum penetration of their work into the marketplace with the least cost, time, and effort. That’s what we try to help them do.

    Thanks again, and take care,
    James Byrd
    Logical Expressions, Inc.

    Reply

    chris September 10, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I agree, James, the ‘returns’ issue is certainly one huge reason an indie publisher should avoid offset if they’re unsure of their market depth.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander September 10, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    James, good points, especially that “magic money.” Traditional book distribution is a nightmare for small publishers and may not last as a model to get books to readers for much longer. Of course, people have been saying that for many years without much change. I don’t advise it for hardly any self-publishers. Even if your book becomes a terrific seller, you would be better off partnering with a publisher who already has, and knows how to deal with, the distribution system.

    I look forward to your journey into ebooks, your Smashwords series of posts was one of the best I’ve seen. Thanks for visiting.

    Reply

    Christy Pinheiro September 10, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Thanks for the mention Joel, and all the great comments regarding offset printing, which amazes me that it’s so affordable! I hate carrying inventory, though, so even if I has the option to print my textbooks for much less I doubt I would do it. I love not having to ship anything. It makes my business almost entirely mobile, which is a huge plus (I can go to Hawaii and still run every part of my business as if I were home!)

    Now I just need to get my plane tickets and actually GO somewhere.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus September 10, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Christy, when the big quake hits, your home may end up IN Hawaii.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander September 10, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    @Christy, you’re welcome. I’m a fan of PoD for the same reason and, having done the order fulfillment and standing in line at the post office, I have no intention of returning to that model.

    But in analyzing books for clients, it’s really important to understand each process and how best to use it. I have numerous projects going offset right now, and none of them could have been done as effectively, or at all, by digital means.

    Reply

    Susan Daffron September 10, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Joel…good for you. When I’ve asked for quotes from M&G, I never received prices anywhere near that low. In fact, I haven’t found short-run digital or offset prices that are even particularly low when I checked. When I looked, I found I could shave about a $1 off the POD price, if I went to offset for a run of 1,000. It wasn’t worth it for me, partly because I don’t have a place to store a large quantity of books, so they won’t get damaged.

    Actually, “the only people making money is the operators” isn’t true. I’m making money on my books every month. Part of the reason why is the lower discount I can set with Lightning Source, which offsets the higher unit cost. I’m not the only one. I know of quite a few people who are happily using this approach.

    As noted, POD isn’t for everyone or every book, but it can be a good way to get started, particularly if you don’t have a wad of cash lying around for your first print run and/or don’t have experience marketing books and want to start off slowly.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander September 10, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Susan, as I mentioned to @Chris above, this is a web offset price, always lower than sheetfed offset. The trick with PoD pricing is to be super attentive to the length of your book, since most of the expense is in per-page fees, whereas the cost of offset books doesn’t vary nearly as much by the page length.

    I’m a huge fan of PoD (see my article today for instance) and I agree that PoD is not for everyone. But it pays to look at each book to see what’s most suitable. Thanks for your input here, Susan.

    Reply

    chris September 10, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    “Actually, “the only people making money is the operators” isn’t true. I’m making money on my books every month.”

    My apologies, Susan.

    You’re right on the money.

    For a print release on a small run POD is a low-risk endeavour that can return some cash, especially if you don’t have an identified market that you can immediately offload books to.

    Lie you say, it’s a great way to start small. However, when you start moving anything over a thousand units needing 40-60 retail/distributor discount the lower cost of offset soon becomes essential to survival.

    Saying that, offset is obviously a mug’s game too if you can’t offload them. Good way to go broke if you don’t play it smart.

    Reply

    Susan Daffron September 9, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Thanks for the example Joel. Realistically a lot of people don’t start with a print run of 1,000. And many, many books already talk about getting quantity discounts on larger runs. Dan Poynter’s classic Self-Publishing Manual is just one of many outstanding books.

    My book is designed to point out a different approach which often isn’t well known outside of the publishing industry. A lot of aspiring author/publishers don’t know Lightning Source exists or that you can print just one book. (They don’t have a place to store 1,000 books either.)

    I point out repeatedly that the Publishize approach isn’t for everyone or every book. It depends on your goals. POD isn’t a good choice for most color books and gift books, for example.

    However, for a lot of publishers (including me) the lower cost of entry offered by POD made getting into publishing possible.

    As an aside, please feel free to divulge the name of the printer that’s giving you such a great price. They deserve a little free PR ;-)

    >>vast majority of books sold are printed offset<<

    Interestingly, although that was definitely true in the past, I'm not sure that's necessarily true anymore. Of the 1M books published last year, weren't 750K from subsidies and some outfit using POD for an enormous backlist? (Maybe I'm remembering that wrong…but it was a surprising number of POD books!)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander September 9, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Hey Susan, I agree completely. So many people can publish now through digital printing and print on demand, it’s really an exciting time for self-publishing.

    The printer is McNaughton & Gunn in Michigan.

    On the figures, POD still makes up a very small percentage of the actual number of books sold. The 700,000+ “POD” books cited in the newspaper articles a couple of months ago were mostly backlist and public domain titles being aggregated by specialty publishers. Since they are assigned ISBNs and stored on POD company servers, they are considered to have been “published” even though it’s likely very few of them have actually been printed, even once. Here’s an article that explains part of this phenomenon:
    Self-Publishing: Are We There Yet?

    Reply

    Chris September 9, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Wow, 67 cents a copy is a great price, Joel.

    My first reaction was to jump onto M&G’s website to see if they were sourcing from overseas!

    I’ve had a few emails over the last 6 months from designers etc looking for references re Chinese printers, but on the price you’ve been quoted I would have suggested that they look into this company instead! (Although, web press on that run leaves me wondering what paper you’re looking at there.)

    As for the POD thing, I’m not a convert to that process. Firstly, it’s such a crap margin of profit to operate a publishing business on. In fact, I’d be far more tempted to go an ebook release and then judge the merits of an offset run based on ebook sales.

    I can get a 400pp hardcover, head tied, foil and embossed jacket for a buck, FOB – and just under two bucks right to my door.

    I still think the people making cash out of POD are actually the operators. They’re the new vanity press … only more legit. The full service nature of these places like Lightening Source and Createspace is obviously where the market is. Most self-publishers are, rightfully, frightened to step into the murky world of offset printers and book distributors.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander September 10, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Hey Chris,

    The MnN&Gunn price is for web offset, which they do themselves on a small web. It’s usually quite a bit less expensive, but unsuitable for books with very fine typography or illustrations that need to look good.

    FYI Lightning Source is not a “full service” type of business like CreateSpace or Lulu, they are a B2B supplier to publishers and actively discourage single-book authors who are looking for “author services.”

    While it’s true that publishers have to be very careful about their margins, for many kinds of publishing PoD can be a lucrative alternative. You just have to crunch those numbers.

    Thanks for your input.

    Reply

    Susan Daffron September 9, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Joel,

    Thanks for taking the time to do such a thorough review of Publishize. A few clarifications for anyone reading later…

    1. The first Kindle came out in late 2007 and most people were still complaining about the price and usability features while I was writing Publishize (which came out in 2008). On page 74-75, I do mention that the Kindle could be a big player, but the jury was still out. It could have easily become the next Apple Newton. If you don’t remember what the Newton was, you aren’t alone ;-)

    2. I purposely didn’t get deep into book design because most readers (business owners) would probably outsource the project to someone like you. I do refer do-it-yourselfers to some online “techie” articles I’ve written on the topic however. (I’m also going to be launching training classes that will include book design as one of the topics.)

    3. I don’t delve into offset printing because it’s outside the scope of the book. It’s not part of the “Publishize” approach. Realistically, offset is a) not “affordable” by any stretch of the imagination b) not a smart option for those people who are still figuring out how to market the book, which would be almost any first-time publisher. Offset makes sense if you’ve got a big order, e.g. a special sale. For info on special sales, I defer to any of Brian Jud’s books. I list his book Beyond the Bookstore and other publishing books, Websites and resources in Appendix B.

    4. Estimated costs and timeline are also detailed in Appendix B. How affordable and quick publishing a book is depends entirely on the author/publisher who is calling the shots.

    Again, I really appreciate your thoughtful review. It’s so exciting when someone really digs in and reads the book!

    – Susan Daffron

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander September 9, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Hey Susan, thanks for your comments and clarifications. I tried to get across how helpful your book is for online sellers.

    Obviously, you had no reason to go into offset printing since your entire Publishize system is based on digital printing and print-on-demand distribution.

    It remains true, however, that the vast majority of books sold are printed offset, and that savvy self-publishers have been utilizing offset for decades.

    Right now, of the books I’m producing for clients, most are in the print-on-demand model, but there are four at offset printers as I write this, each for a very good reason. So from my experience, I would disagree with your conclusion that “offset is not ‘affordable’ by any stretch of the imagination” because there are books that would be unaffordable if produced by digital means.

    And of course there are many books that are either impossible to produce digitally, or which would emerge from the process with such a high unit cost as to be unsalable.

    Thanks again for a very useful book and one that ought to enjoy a lot of success.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander September 9, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Just as an addendum to my comment, I thought readers would see more what I’m talking about with an actual example. Most self-publishers I deal with are spending between $2,000 and $5,000 to get their book into print. I’m getting ready to produce a book for a client who has a decent following and expects to sell at least 1,000 books the first year. The price to print and bind 2,000 books via web offset is $1349. Put your calculator away, because that works out to a unit cost of $0.67 each. (not a typo) This 264-page 6 x 9 book would cost $4.33 each at Lightning Source. Even a high quality sheetfed offset run of 2000 copies would cost only $1.88 each. So I think it’s obvious that you cannot make blanket statements about which printing technology is best, or which is “affordable” without knowing the specifics involved.

    This is not to dismiss the print on demand model, which I use also, but to point out that books, authors, publishing projects have to be analyzed individually to discover the best path for that specific book.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus September 9, 2010 at 3:42 am

    >>Michael N. Marcus’s Become A Real Self-Publisher parlays the author’s story telling skill into an amusing and entertaining way of conveying a lot of information.<<

    Thanks very much, Joel. It feels good to be appreciated. I doubt that my wife has found me amusing or entertaining since before we got married in 1971, so I need to find new audiences.

    One advantage that old writers have over young writers is that we have more stories to tell–if we can remember them. If we can't remember, we can write fiction.

    ———
    Low-key but highly relevant commercial messages:

    (1) A derivative of the "Real Self-Publisher" book aimed at people who want to get the most out of a self-publishing company (which I used to call a vanity publisher) should be on sale next week. I hope to approve the final proof tomorrow. http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661777

    (2) I am nearly finished with an improved, enlarged, updated, corrected, better-looking (and maybe even funnier) replacement for the "Real" book. It's called "Independent Self-Publishing; the complete guide" and should be out next month. It has more pages but same price as the previous version. The new book includes new developments which affect self-publishers: Word 2010, iPad, Nook, Pubit, AuthorHive, new Sony Readers, etc.

    The new title is more like the original title I planned for the "Real" book, so I've gone back for the future.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander September 9, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Thanks for the update, Michael, I’m sure readers will be interested in your new publications.

    Reply

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