Entering the world of self-publishing can be exciting and invigorating, but for some people it’s downright scary. Writers are often people who work best on their own, away from conversation and distraction. But when it comes to publishing, the writer becomes author and publisher, and in these roles really needs to connect to a larger universe.
Book finished, the writer begins to look around to find information about publishing. She has taken the first step toward becoming an author. But researching how to get her book into print can cloud the picture rather than clarify it.
What do all these strange terms mean? Who are the companies that are constantly being referred to? Our prospective self-publisher has no idea and, without many hours to spend in educating herself, lacks a means to answer all the questions that now arise about publishing.
Publishing Groups to the Rescue
If our nascent self-publisher is lucky, she will find a publishing group in her vicinity. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are fortunate to be home to the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA).
For 30 years BAIPA has helped educate, inform and inspire new and independent publishers with regular meetings, educational events, and annual workshops. The most recent meeting was this past weekend, and once again I was impressed with what a powerful resource this group—and other groups like it—are for people new to publishing.
Most of the people who come to BAIPA are experts in a field—but that field isn’t publishing. There are experts on oriental medicine, alternative healing, railroading, early childhood education, sustainable building, Western history, feminism, photography, fashion, and many other fields. Each knows enought to have written authoritatively on their area of interest.
But when it comes to publishing, they are more or less beginners, somewhere along the path to realizing their dream of publishing—and profiting from—their own books.
Complimenting the beginners are members who have been operating small publishing firms for years, there to announce their latest book, or authors who have published with major publishers in the past and are now self-publishing.
Also on hand are professional editors, book designers, book publicists, and production experts, and many of these members contribute the answers to questions from the newer members.
A Wide Range of Topics and Help
When our author finishes her book, a solitary task, and turns to publishing, she has to learn that success in publishing is often a function of how well she can now learn to network with others. It’s a big adjustment for some people. But at the recent BAIPA meeting, it was evident just how useful this group is to its members. Here are some of the questions and topics that were discussed at the meeting.
- Distribution—How to get distribution for bookstore sales.
- Pre-publication reviews—Is it worth going for them?
- Reviews—Sources for reviews for self-published books
- Endorsements—Tips on getting and using endorsements from authors and celebrities
- Book printers—Strengths and weaknesses of Create Space, Book Surge and Lightning Source
- Subsidy publishing—What does it mean?
These are some of the most common questions I receive from new self-publishers, and at this meeting members were able to get a variety of responses from experienced book professionals as well as hearing the recent experiences of other self-publishing authors who were, perhaps just a few months ago, also total newcomers.
Do Yourself A Favor
If you’re an expert in your field, and you’re thinking of self-publishing for whatever reason—and you can find some excellent reasons to self publish here—do yourself a favor and find out if there’s a publishing group in your area. If there is, go check out their meetings to see if it’s a good fit for you.
You can save yourself months of research and perhaps a really bad decision made from lack of information, or based on a lot of misinformation floating around the internet. You will be able to talk to real people going through the same process that you are going through, and gain from their experience.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of publishing is its collegial, friendly community. Since each book is unique, books rarely compete with each other, so we publishers are not really competitors, and the spirit of giving and sharing in this community is very strong. Become part of that community today.
Resources for Publishing Groups
If you live in the San Francisco area, check out BAIPA at the BAIPA home page.
In Los Angeles, you can get involved with the Publishers Association of Los Angeles (PALA) at their website here.
An umbrella organiztion that has links to publisher groups throughout the country is the Independent Book Publishers Association, IBPA. Their website allows you to search for regional affiliates here.
An online organization for writers, small publishers and artists is the Small Publishers, Writers and Artists Network (SPAWN) whose website is another great place to find more objective information. You can find SPAWN here.
No matter which kind of self-publisher you are, you can make use of these resources to get educated in a supportive, non-commercial environment. Learn from others who have gone before you and get help on the many details you will need to master to become an effective self-publisher. This one action may be one of the best things you’ve done for your career in publishing.
I’d love to hear from people who have profited from their membership in a publishing group like these. What has your experience been?