Book Publishing Questions: Now It's My Turn to Ask

by | May 6, 2011

I get a lot of questions from writers and self-publishers in my inbox. Some days I think my job is answering emails except that it doesn’t pay very well. But let’s face it, I like being helpful.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about these questions, and how the same questions seem to repeat over and over again.

One of the peculiarities of self-publishing is that people who decide to publish their own books are almost always amateur publishers. They may intend to make a business of it, and they may even have some relevant experience but, since they’ve never done it before, they are basically amateurs.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Being a beginner means having a fresh take on things, it means you’re in the process of discovery and everything you learn has the potential to cause another piece of the puzzle to drop into place. The beginner mindset is exciting.

Each self-publisher usually has a career doing something else, perhaps something where they became an authority in the field they are writing about. So, for instance, in recent months I’ve had clients who are (or were) a:

  • College professor
  • Nuclear power plant construction supervisor
  • Marketing expert
  • Sex therapist
  • Urologist
  • Financial consultant
  • Photographer
  • Systems Analyst
  • Certified Public Accountant
  • IT Consultant
  • Mechanical engineer
  • Life coach
  • Chiropractor
  • Radio show host
  • Retired TV newsman
  • Psychologist
  • Lawyer
  • Waitress

I think it’s pretty obvious why people have questions about self-publishing. I mean, why would a urologist or a mechanical engineer know anything about book publishing? I certainly don’t know anything about urology or engineering, I can assure you.

But the process of creating books—the way they are planned, designed, constructed, perfected, produced, marketed and sold—is complicated, requiring a lot of big and little decisions along the way. Some of these decisions are trivial, others are critical. How to tell the difference?

Queries from the Inbox

I looked over about 60 recent unsolicited queries from my inbox. This is what I found.

Questions about:

  • Print on demand and book distribution: 5
  • Book launches, book reviews, blog tours and press releases: 7:
  • Getting blurbs and testimonials: 5
  • Book marketing: 3
  • Pricing: 1
  • Publisher registration, ISBN, Library of Congress, copyright: 7
  • Book indexing, proofing, editing and translation: 6
  • Book trim sizes: 1
  • E-book conversion and distribution: 20
  • Advertising: 2
  • Audio books: 2

Over a third of these questions have to do with e-books and, again, that’s not surprising.

But if I could cut to the chase of virtually every question I get asked, it would be something like this:

How does Part A fit with Part B? Given that, what should I do next?

I have to admit that I learn quite a bit from the questions people ask. Thinking about this, and about all the questions I’ve answered, now I’d like to ask all of you a question:

What is the single thing that’s the most confusing to you about self-publishing, the most scary, the most difficult to figure out, or the one thing that’s keeping you from getting your book into print?

Just give me one thing, your choice. Please respond in the comments. If you’re reading this in your email inbox because you’re a subscriber, please click the headline of the article. That will bring you to the blog where you can leave your answer in the comments.

What’s the big obstacle, or the little pebble that just keeps you up at night?

I want to know.

Photo by Alexander Drachmann

tbd advanced publishing starter kit

96 Comments

  1. Carolyn Lis

    Question: How do you find an affordable editor?

    I’m new to publishing. I know I will not make tons (or any) money with my initial books. I think an editor is critical to the publishing process, but find it challenging to locate affordable editing services. Some services charge as much as $3,000. That’s crazy silly for my situation.

    Reply
  2. Nicole

    I have a publishing question and am not sure who to ask. I am wanting to publish a series of letters. However, I am unsure about the legal aspect of gaining consent from the writers of these letters. Are there legal documents that need to be signed? Do I need just written consent with a signature from each writer? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Hi Nicole,

      I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t give you legal advice, but in general permissions need to be obtained from all parties and your letter should indicate exactly how the pieces will be used.

      Reply
  3. Cam Brown

    Trying to decide whether to do print on demand or print locally since my audience is primarily local.

    Printing locally would require paying for printing up front for at least 500 books. But can I sell them all? It’s a biography on a locally loved coach.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Cam I would go with print on demand first to see what the demand is for the book and to minimize your risk. If the book takes off, you can switch to offset.

      Reply
  4. Karen A. Wyle

    I’d say what’s most intimidating about the process of self-publishing is the fear of putting out an inadequate product in ways I don’t realize until too late. To alter the old saw slightly, your book only gets one chance to make a first impression.

    Reply
    • James Byrd

      I agree with you, Karen, but please don’t let that kind of thinking prevent you from moving forward.

      Peer review and testing your content on your blog can give you the feedback you need to be confident about your content. Hiring *proven* professionals for editing and design will help you feel confident about the quality of your production process.

      And finally, the worst case scenario is that your book goes out into the world with a problem of some kind. You’ll probably find out about that pretty quickly and be able to fix it, since YOU have control over the process.

      Not everyone sees your book the moment it is released. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to make a brand new first impression with an ever-changing audience of eyeballs.

      Reply
    • Michael N. Marcus

      Karen: Stage fright shouldn’t keep you from setting foot on the stage.

      You can start out small, maybe putting the book on sale with limited or no promotion, and watch for and use the feedback you receive. Insulate yourself from condemnation by labeling it “Preview Edition.” You may find that the cover or title needs to be changed in ways that you never imagined before publication.

      You could also print 10 or 20 copies and give them away and ask for opinions.

      Try to see how people react “live” — rather than merely sending out the books and waiting for responses.

      When I handed my first self-pubbed book to the first few “testers,” it became immediately obvious that they did not understand the title without an explanation. I changed it.

      With books, you have multiple opportunities to make a first impression. Even after a flop, you can publish a “new, improved version,” “new 2012 edition,” etc.

      For inspiration, see what’s going on with the Spider-Man musical on Broadway.

      Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Getting an idea of the “big picture” of self-publishing, knowing how the various pieces of the puzzle fit together is often an antidote to this type of hesitation, and getting educated about the process will help a lot.

      Reply
  5. Karen

    Joel et al,
    I think I want to publish my fun little chick lit under a pen name (it’s so not me:) How to copyright? And how to say “other books by this author”?
    Thx to all…the thread is really enlightening. Aloha, k

    Reply
    • Michael N. Marcus

      Karen, when you fill out the copyright form, you can indicate that the auhor’s name is a pseudonym.

      If you want to plug your other books without divulging that they’re yours, you could have a list of “other books you may enjoy.” Include your books and some from others so the subterfuge is not obvious.

      However, if your other books are in very different genres (e.g, Chinese history, gambling strategies, auto repair), listing them in the chicklit book may not be useful, and may seem strange.

      Reply
    • Keri Knutson

      Karen –

      In another blog talking about pen names, I heard some interesting advice: put your pen name on the cover and as the author, but use your real name as the editor. That way your books are linked together for the purposes of cross-marketing, but less likely to confuse someone who’s looking for a very niche genre. (I think the advisor was mainly talking about Kindle marketing.)

      I’d be very interested to hear what Joel and others have to say about taking that tack.

      Reply
    • James Byrd

      I’m with Marcus on this one.

      If your books are so different that you are considering a pseudonym, cross marketing probably has little value anyway. Yes, your biggest fans *may* move over to the new genre with you, but if they are big fans, they’ll learn about your other name from your blog, Web site, or social networking (unless you are super secretive about that pseudonym).

      Reply
      • Joel Friedlander

        I don’t get the idea to write under a pseudonym but at the same time try to market books written under your real name. As James says, if the niches or the worldview of the books is that different that you need a pseudonym, you are going to have to develop both identities separately anyway.

        Reply
  6. bettymingliu

    hi joel,

    this is a great post because your question to us is so simple and laser-sharp. asking a clear question begets meaningful answers, which makes the comments a great read too!

    the single-greatest obstacle to self-publishing for me: i still have literary pretensions about writing a great american novel. and self-publishing means that my book will probably be ignored by traditional outlets for book reviews.

    of course, if my book becomes a smashing success, major media outlets will finally write about me as a little-scribe-beats-the-odds story. but that has me up against two unlikely events: 1) that i’ll sell tons of books and that 2) i’ll get reviewed by the new york times book section.

    in reality, self-publishing offers me the better alternative. i KNOW that. but getting out of my own head is an issue that goes beyond logic. thank goodness for your blog, which keeps me moving in the right direction!

    which leads me to one other comment….all your posts are useful in one way or another. but given my own obstacle to self-publishing, i really appreciate the posts where you update us on how self-publishing trumps conventional publishing.

    p.s. — re conventional publishing vs. self-publishing: are they operating in parallel universes?

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Betty it could be that review sources will come around by the time your book comes out, or you can do what we did in the bad old days and don’t advertise your book as self-published, at least until the review cycle is over. But I wouldn’t let that stop you because I know for a fact that you write for readers you don’t write for reviewers do you?

      And yes, traditional publishing is in many ways in a different universe.

      Reply
  7. Raechel

    What’s the most cost-effective way to have small quantities of books printed to sell yourself (meaning by a small nonprofit)?

    I have figured out the whole layout thing, and am now managing to create the books using a template, get everything in the required resolution, handle the bleed, etc. I don’t need help editing (maybe I’m deluding myself). I’ve even hunkered down over the last few weeks and taught myself enough Photoshop to get a book cover designed. But the fees, the royalties, the $$ implications of self-publishing vs. letting someone else (Lulu) publish for you — like walking through molasses. Of course. It’s like choosing a credit card. Nobody in the industry is going to lay out a comparison chart for you and make it easy to see who has the best deal.

    And here’s a question: if you expect to promote and sell a book through your own website, and don’t care whether it’s in libraries, at what point do you need an ISBN?

    Reply
    • Liz Alexander

      Raechel’s questions raise–in my mind–the interesting issue of “control,” as in Indie authors typically wanting to control the entire writing/publishing/marketing process rather than working collaboratively. As much as we may criticize traditional publishing for all those “gatekeepers,” it is this collaborative process that enhances books in the main (see Nathan Bransford’s recent comment about his new book, Jacob Wonderbar and why he chose to publish traditionally: https://bit.ly/lNIt2D). So, yes, you are deluding yourself if you “don’t need help editing.” Everyone does, including those of us who’ve been writing books — that sell — for 25 years :-).

      The same holds true for cover art. Editing, cover art, interior layout — the three things that every writer should spend money getting done by a professional IMHO. As Seth Godin points out: “Publishing is a business decision, a financial risk and a marketing project.” That means at some point you gotta spend some $$!

      The issue is not whether someone is going “to lay out a comparison chart for you” but what you expect to see compared. Every service offers something different according to their view of publishing. Publishing isn’t a neat and tidy set of steps to follow which is why, in the main, so many who desire to “control” the process face huge disappointment.

      (BTW, I love Random House editor Bob Loomis’ quote from today’s Shelf Awareness: “Every day when I wake up in the morning and I come to work, I have no idea what’s going to happen. All the books that I think are going to sell don’t work, and all the books I don’t think are going to work sell a lot and win awards. That’s why I love this business so much.”). It helps to be comfortable not knowing, in this business…and to see that as part of the fun :-)

      My advice would be to sit down, remind yourself why you are writing your book, what you intend it to do for you (your career, your business, your ego, your bank account or whatever), who is your reader, how to reach them, and what your book will offer them. Only then can you make the decision on how to publish and who with. Honestly — there is no “cookie cutter” approach. It’s like looking at a strip mall with a restaurant and a dry cleaner’s and asking: “Where will I get the best deal?” Much depends on what it is you want in the first place.

      Final question: if you are not planning to sell your book through stores (any store — including the dry cleaner’s if that might be a relevant sales outlet), or libraries then my understanding is you don’t need an ISBN. But you might find it useful to have one at some point in the future, so worth thinking about getting one now. If you work with Smashwords or some of the other ebook services, for example, this typically comes with the package. Otherwise, go through Bowker.

      Good luck — but take my advice: get an editor to look at your work, even if it’s your friend who’s a local schoolteacher or some eagle-eyed relative known for their detail orientation :-)

      Reply
      • Joel Friedlander

        Liz, that is almost like a class in publishing in a few paragraphs. Terrific. I appreciate the quote from Bob Loomis also, because self-publishers often don’t appreciate just how much risk there is in loanching new media properties (books) and how hit or miss the process often is. In nonfiction it’s easier to predict books that will do well, but it’s still no lock on the market.

        Reply
        • Liz Alexander

          Thanks, Joel. Have very much enjoyed this thread.

          Nope — no easier to predict the saleability of nonfiction books, in my experience. Looking at my 9 mainstream published books I’ve got two 200,000 sellers, two 25,000 sellers, one that I thought would have done better (published by an imprint of Random House, it provided me with a high five-figure consulting income in the UK) but only sold 3,500 and one that crawled in with just 1,200 sales.

          If you’d asked me at the outset, I would never have said that a book on chakra healing and one on crystal healing (I was an alternative health freelance journalist in the UK before I came to the States) would have been my two big-selling titles. Who the heck knows…and like Bob Loomis–that’s part of the fun and the challenge for me!

          Although I do try to mitigate that for my clients by getting them to do some strategic thinking up front LOL.

          Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Raechel, the most cost-effective way to get a small quantity of books printed to sell yourself is through a digital printer. Some of these printers also supply print on demand distribution, but that’s unnecessary if you don’t intend to sell through retailers. There are many digital printers whose names don’t appear very often in online discussions because they don’t distribute. You might have a look at the extensive list of printers on Pete Masterson’s Aeonix.com website, or drop me an email and I’ll recommend a couple for you.

      There are many comparisons of subsidy publishers online, you probably just haven’t encountered them yet. Check Mick Rooney’s excellent blog POD Self-Publishing & Independent Publishing for reviews and ratings of most self-publishing service providers.

      Reply
    • Michael N. Marcus

      (1) You may be deluding yourself about not needing an editor. Even editors who write books should hire editors.

      (2) Why limit your book sales to what you can sell from your own website? With little or no extra effort, your book can be available from dozens of booksellers’ sites worldwide.

      Michael N. Marcus
      https://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
      https://www.Self-Pub.info
      — Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series: https://www.silversandsbooks.com/booksaboutpublishing.html
      — “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),” https://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661750

      Reply
  8. Pam Stucky

    Writing random thoughts here because I’m in a rush but wanted to comment! Apologies if this is too disjointed.

    I self-published my book just under two months ago. POD via CreateSpace; ebooks via bookbaby. I have the facebook and twitter pages, the website and the blog. I’m marketing to the point of exhaustion and sales are still not what I want them to be.

    But what I learned time and again in the process of writing my book and getting it to print is *you won’t ever get there if you quit.* Perseverance. I get tired of the marketing and sometimes I feel pushy or smarmy for it, but I know I wrote a great book, and I know I am not anywhere near ready to give up. Along the way I’m meeting so many other writers/authors who are eager to self publish, and I’m doing what I can to pass on what I’m learning.

    One thing that has been invaluable in this experience was the decision to give myself permission to make mistakes, or even to fail. You can’t succeed if you aren’t willing to fail, and the phrase “trial and error” has the word “error” in it for a reason. There are tons of things I’ll do differently next time, or would do differently if I could do it all over – but I only know that because I took the risk to try the first time.

    The question I want answered is “how do I get more sales???” but I already know the answer. I can’t remember who said it, but I heard recently “If publishers knew how to make a book into a best-seller, they’d do it every time.” It’s luck, it’s skill, it’s a good book, it’s chance, it’s perseverance, and it’s a lot, lot, lot of hard work. I can do that. I’ll get there.

    Thank you, Joel, for your endlessly informative and helpful posts, and best wishes to everyone out there! Persevere!!

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Pam, I know this will sound idiotic, but try not to exhaust yourself with marketing your book. In self-publishing it really pays to take the long view. Unlike books in traditional publishing, self-published books have a completely different sales cycle. Better to market at a level you can maintain steadily over a long period of time. You are building something, and it takes time.

      Reply
      • Pam Stucky

        Thanks, Joel. You’re right, I need to find a good balance. I’m getting closer! At first I thought everything had to happen RIGHT NOW but I’m realizing there’s still time for momentum to build; the fact that sales are slow now doesn’t mean they’re always going to be slow. I do wish for 20 more hours in my days each day, but I think learning to pace myself and to accept the long-term nature of the my goals will help. :) Thanks again!

        Reply
  9. bowerbird

    james byrd said:
    > If you really believe:
    > * Marketing is the same thing as spamming
    > * Treating your writing like a business takes the fun out of it
    > * Word-of-mouth is the only marketing that really works
    >
    > Then you absolutely *should* just have fun,
    > throw your stuff out there, and
    > hope word-of-mouth helps you sell a million books.

    good. i’m glad we agree, for the most part.

    but let me just clear up a few confusions you have.

    i am most definitely _not_ suggesting that any author
    “throw their stuff out there”. that will be a disaster.

    i think people should take pride in their work, and
    do their best to present it in the best possible way.

    stuff should be written and rewritten and rewritten
    again, until it sparkles. it should be edited carefully,
    by as many friends as you can find who wanna help.
    it should be spellchecked and proofread, and then
    spellchecked and proofread again, again and again.
    it should be formatted as nicely as possible, and fans
    should be used as “beta-readers” and encouraged to
    make suggestions for improvement, however small…

    none of this implies or demands “making it a business”.
    it’s just the act of making the best art you possibly can.
    it certainly won’t ruin your fun. in fact, it will _be_ fun.
    (if it ain’t fun, maybe you should do something different.)

    oh, and also, _nobody_ should “hope” for a million sales…
    because that’s only going to make you unhappy, long-run.

    indeed, you shouldn’t _expect_ to make any sales at all.
    none at all. that way, you might be pleasantly surprised.
    as long as it doesn’t thwart your motivation or your drive,
    lowered expectations is the best thing you can give yourself.
    (a typical self-published author has unrealistic expectations.)

    but whatever you do, don’t invest a lot of time or energy
    — or money — in something that might not ever pay off…
    have fun. do what you enjoy doing. and forget the rest.

    a good rule of thumb is to never spend anything _except_
    to reinvest whatever profits you’ve already made thus far.

    -bowerbird

    p.s. if you really believe that you’ll be good at selling books,
    try selling someone else’s book first. you’ll discover it’s hard.
    and it’ll be 3 times as hard to sell your own book, believe me,
    because of the contempt people have against self-promoters.

    Reply
  10. bowerbird

    the problem with marketing, or networking, or hype,
    or whatever you want to call it, is that it takes time.
    and energy. so it raises the cost of your investment.
    (because time is money, and energy is money too.)

    a big part of the appeal of self-publishing electronically
    is that your investment can be very small, which means
    that you are not taking much risk, so failure isn’t costly.
    don’t squander that advantage unnecessarily.

    besides, you’re likely to find that “making it a business”
    takes all the fun out of self-publishing. who needs that?

    the other flaw with “communicating with your target” is
    that — since you don’t know who might be your target —
    you end up trying to “communicate” with _everyone_, and
    you turn a lot of people off, and they call you a spammer.

    the traditional marketeers shrug their shoulders at this,
    and say “it doesn’t matter, because they weren’t in your
    target market to begin with”, but in today’s connected world,
    everybody has the communication power to sabotage you,
    so make sure you understand the risks you are taking…

    i, for one, hang out with enough self-published authors
    that i have become totally allergic to their “marketing”.
    and that’s your end-game, folks. everyone will ignore you.

    ***

    liz said:
    > “If a young man tells his date she’s intelligent,
    > looks lovely, and is a great conversationalist,
    > he’s saying the right things to the right person
    > and that’s marketing. If the young man tells his date
    > how handsome, smart and successful he is:
    > that’s advertising. If someone else tells
    > the young woman how handsome, smart and
    > successful her date is: that’s public relations.”

    let other people tell each other how wonderful your book is.

    that’s called “word-of-mouth”, and it’s the _only_ thing that
    really works, and has a proven track-record. and yes siree,
    it might take a while for you to build up that word-of-mouth,
    but it’s worth it. in the meantime, write your next book, and
    make sure that it’s good enough that people will talk about it,
    and recommend it to their friends. that’s how you sell a million.

    -bowerbird

    Reply
    • James Byrd

      Dear authors,

      If you really believe:

      * Marketing is the same thing as spamming
      * Treating your writing like a business takes the fun out of it
      * Word-of-mouth is the only marketing that really works

      Then you absolutely *should* just have fun, throw your stuff out there, and hope word-of-mouth helps you sell a million books.

      And I mean it sincerely when I say: good luck with that.

      Reply
  11. Thomas Burchfield

    I’ll second or third the praise for Lightning Source. They’ve done a fine job with the POD edition of “Dragon’s Ark” (just as Joel did a great job with the interior design and Cathi Stevenson did with the wonderful cover).

    Marketing is a challenge, though. I have a fairly good Internet presence, but it doesn’t seem to be translating into sales, so far. Unfortunately, a long drought of no work came to end just when I was releasing the book, and I had to devote most of my efforts to my day job . . . which, on the other hand, will pay for much of “Dragon’s Ark.”

    I have a little more time again and, next week, will be putting up the e-book version starting Monday–that part went a little slower than expected, but that’s one of those “lessons for next time.”

    As I reached the end of the publication process I learned two things: 1) Keep your standards high and 2); be forgiving of yourself when you fall short.

    Another plan: I’ve also written over a hundred essays, articles and columns over the last fifteen years or so (many of which you can read at my official webpage “A Curious Man.”). Over the next year, I’m going to start collecting the best of them into a series of e-books. I also have about four fun-to-read, admired–but unproduced–screenplays (I know, “fun-to-read screenplay” is an oxymoron), one of which is already on Smashwords. I’ll be releasing those as e-books, as well.

    Joyce: I understand the “quirky” problem. I’ve received more praise and received less money than any writer I know. “Wow, there’s really something different about you and your work” is one remark I’ve heard over the years, which I finally came to realize isn’t necessarily a compliment.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Thomas, I think collecting your work and publishing it is a great plan. Also look into the market on Kindle particularly for shorter pieces. I know people are selling short stories, novellas, even articles (make sure to label them so buyers know they are not book-length) and doing well. Good luck!

      Reply
  12. Liz Alexander

    Two things to share.

    Since we’re talking about what marketing is (and isn’t), check out this definition of the difference between marketing, advertising, and PR, which I quote frequently:

    “If a young man tells his date she’s intelligent, looks lovely, and is a great conversationalist, he’s saying the right things to the right person and that’s marketing. If the young man tells his date how handsome, smart and successful he is: that’s advertising. If someone else tells the young woman how handsome, smart and successful her date is: that’s public relations.”

    And from the NYT Sunday Book Review, it appears that authors since the earliest times have struggled with how to draw attention to their work:
    https://www.bookdoula.biz/promoting-books-a-brief-history.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Liz, I don’t know how I missed that article in the Times! Thanks.

      Reply
  13. Susan Daffron

    This thread is interesting. I think if there is one answer to your initial question:

    >>What’s the big obstacle, or the little pebble that just keeps you up at night?<<

    For many people, it's not something specific. It's more general: Am I going to write/publish a book people will want to read?

    (The fear behind that question is: "will publishing a book be a big waste of my time and money?")

    For that type of overarching question, I think books, workshops, and conferences can help you gain more understanding of the whole publishing process, so you can decide if publishing a book is actually a good idea or not.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      It’s remarkable what springs up to block people’s path. I’ve had clients who just couldn’t understand how the whole print on demand situation works, and could not move forward. One person this week told me he had been stumped by how to enter his book info and metadata and didn’t want to make a mistake, therefore did nothing. These may well be stand-ins for some larger fear, but the only way I’ve found to address them is in a detailed, step by step way. At least if the steps are small enough, people find it easier to get moving again. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      Reply
      • Susan Daffron

        I agree. I think you end up dealing with two separate problems/fears. The procedural roadblocks people encounter during some of the step-by-step process are much easier to address with a blog post or Google search than some of the underlying fears. Yet sometimes the two are actually deeply intertwined as you pointed out.

        I think the larger questions like “should I write a book at all?” are often better addressed in longer format works like books, where everything is laid out in order and you can see the big picture. It’s harder to get answers to big “why” questions without a larger context.

        Part of this line of thinking comes from a blog post I read recently that said the need for nonfiction books is “dead” because you can find anything online anyway. I think that’s complete rubbish.

        I think there is still a place for books on self-publishing. I suspect you do too since you just released one ;-)

        Reply
  14. Deb Dorchak

    Joel,
    Thank you for being the kind of guy who likes to help. Your advice and instruction on and off the blog got me through a few frustrating sticking points and I’m so grateful you were there to help me figure things out.

    I think for me right now pricing is the big question mark. Browsing the bookstore shelves for clues doesn’t help much, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. I’ve seen 6×9 paperbacks a little over 300 pages going for the same price as 500 page hardcovers. Some by popular authors, some not. It feels like a crap shoot trying to determine what price to put on your own book that will be appealing to the masses and at the same time, won’t make you lose heart when you see how much you’re making off of each sale.

    Then there’s shipping charges when you need to order books for yourself. Isn’t there anyone out there who offers some kind of bulk discount? That, and the shipping charges themselves add up really fast. (Nope, we still haven’t found a solution to this)

    Actually, what would be helpful is information on all the hidden costs you don’t know about until you start going through the whole process of producing a book.

    Reply
    • James Byrd

      Deb:

      I’m not sure if you are currently hooked up with Lightning Source, but they only charge you for the cost of printing when you order directly from them (unlike a subsidy press, they don’t mark up the printing). For their standard digital print runs of low quantities, you’ll probably pay between $3 and $6 per book (depending upon size, number of pages, etc). You can get the price down further if you order more books and do an offset run. Additionally, you can finesse the number of books you order to get the best pricing on their shipping charges to you (e.g. ordering 30 might cost less per book in shipping than ordering 25).

      But one of the coolest things they offer is drop shipping. As you get orders, you can fulfill them directly through Lightning Source for reasonable shipping fees (which you pass on to the customer) and a surcharge of $1.50. That $1.50 sounds like a lot until you consider what it would cost you to have the books shipped to you instead, the time it would take you to package them for re-shipment and buy postage, and the shipping materials you’d have to buy.

      It’s just a thought. We’ve had good luck with using LSI ourselves.

      Reply
      • Deb Dorchak

        James:

        We’re already with Lightning Source and very pleased with the quality of the book itself and their excellent customer service. Our book is over 500 pages, hardcover, so it’s nearly twice as much as what you’re thinking of per book. If we chose to do a paperback, then the numbers would be lower and closer to what you’re saying.

        Offset was something I hadn’t considered before and I may just talk to our account rep about that. Thanks!

        Reply
        • James Byrd

          Glad to help. If you do decide to go offset, be sure to get quotes from other printers. LSI is surprisingly competitive for offset, but depending upon the quantity you are talking about, you may be able to do better elsewhere. Then again, there’s the convenience factor of already being all set up with LSI, and that’s worth something too. Good luck!

          Reply
        • Joel Friedlander

          Deb, if you need some excellent short-run book printer recommendations, let me know.

          Your book is one of the most difficult to publish through print on demand. I think you’ve set yourself a difficult task in trying to produce and market a 500-page hardcover that way. Paying upwards of $13 in raw cost per book puts you at a severe competitive disadvantage (unless you’re publishing a directory or other valuable information that people buy for other reasons than entertainment).

          Offset would give you a dramatically lower cost and, therefore, a lot more leverage in marketing. The downside is that you would have to come up with several thousand dollars with no guarantee of ever seeing a profit. And those babies cost a ton to ship due to the weight of the books. Please let me know how it goes.

          Reply
          • Deb Dorchak

            No kidding! But being a book lover, there’s something about holding a hardcover in your hands, especially when it’s your own. We do have the book available in digital format (no overhead on that one at all for us except our own time) and we will release it in paperback at some point in the near future.

            What I’m realizing is, if you’re going to write a book, especially fiction, do it for the love of the story. The moment you try to out-guess what the outside world wants, the story suffers.

            We knew our novel was lengthy and we cut out quite a bit throughout the many rewrites. We may have unwittingly set ourselves a difficult task, but if we can do it with this one, we can do it with anything.

            And definitely send along those recommendations, I’d like to take a look at them. :)

  15. Joyce Reynolds-Ward

    Many of my fiction works are quirky and don’t quite fit the market. Again, it’s the question of do I maintain a huge backlog of older material that’s circulated through most of the majors, or do I market it myself? After taking a good hard look at the lower-level paying markets, and the for-the-love markets (to use Ralan’s Market News terminology), I almost think I’m better selling some of my work myself. Note the “some,” as I do think I have novel ideas that would find a home once finished and submitted.

    I have two very quirky science fiction adventure novels with a touch of romance set in skiing culture that really do not appeal to editors within the genre. Not poorly written; there’s just not a niche for that sort of work in a big publisher’s list.

    I’m not a novice or inexperienced writer, particularly. I’ve placed in various contests, including Writers of the Future (SemiFinalist). I am writing in a very competitive genre, and the word on the street is that the genre is trending very heavily toward supernatural, urban fantasy, and traditional fantasy. Science fiction is a very hard sell right now.

    The mood of the market changes as well. Most of the work I’ve currently sold is older work that exhausted the existing markets ten years ago, then got resubmitted to newer markets and got snapped up. That suggests to me that the writing itself is not the issue. Other work I’ve sold has been written for a specific market upon request. So I have solid reasons to believe that I can support a small side self-publishing business, and it sure won’t hurt to use it to build up a following and create a brand for my work.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Joyce, I think you are a good candidate for self-publishing from your comment here. It’s exactly books like your “quirky” sci fi that have difficulty finding a home with a traditional publisher that profit from an author’s ability to go out and find the audience themselves. And you make a good point about using both types of publishing for different books or in different “cycles” of popularity. There isn’t any reason to consider both paths. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  16. Philip Bell

    Most confusing thing is whether to self-publish or to go the traditional publishing route. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. Inexperienced writers who haven’t found a voice should steer clear of self publishing, develop their craft. If you want to be in total control, and have multiple skills, and can find a market (or you just want to do it for love) consider self publishing. If you just want to concentrate on the writing, and you’re good enough and have an idea that’ll fit a publisher’s list, then try traditional publishing. I love self publishing, but it’s very hard work and really a labour of love.

    Reply
  17. James Byrd

    Just for the record, Amanda Hocking did a LOT of marketing before and after she wrote her books. She researched what the market was reading before she started writing. Her books were a calculated appeal to an existing strong market. After she released her books, she marketed them relentlessly online. In fact, one reason she accepted a publishing deal from a Big Publisher is that she was tired of having to do so much work producing and marketing her books.

    Also, just for the record, do you know what John Locke did before he wrote books? He was a marketer! He jumped into publishing after seeing the marketing potential of the $0.99 price point.

    Yes, you can be successful to some degree without marketing (which doesn’t have to be “hype” at all, BTW). Marketing just leverages the intrinsic qualities of your book. All the marketing in the world won’t help a bad book, and any marketing will help a good book.

    In the end, there’s a lot of luck involved, but I don’t recommend putting that heading into your business plan. Try to think of marketing as “deliberate luck.”

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      James, I think this bears repeating: marketing is not “hype.” Marketing is communication. It’s taking your message to the people for whom it will be most appropriate. There are many ways to market. If you market with inflated promises or distorted claims, you’ve failed at the essence of honest communication with your potential readers.

      Reply
      • Susan Daffron

        I agree. Neither Amanda Hocking or John Locke engaged in hype, as far as I can tell. Just smart marketing. Networking and pricing strategies are both tried and true marketing methods.

        Reply
      • James Byrd

        Thanks for the backup, Joel. Too many authors equate marketing with the classic “used car salesman” stereotype, so it makes marketing seem dirty somehow.

        Done right, all marketing is trying to do is connect what you offer with the people who want it. That’s key: the people who WANT it. You aren’t *pushing* anything on anyone. You are merely letting people know that your book exists and why they might like to read it. Again, if you do it right, you target that message at the people who are most interested in hearing it. They’ll even thank you for it!

        How do you expect anyone to find out about your awesome book if you don’t tell them about it somehow? “Throw it out there and hope for the best” isn’t a very sound strategy.

        Reply
  18. Dave Moore

    I have all the pieces moving, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, YouTube, a website and now MeetUp.com. The most daunting task for me is finding my audience.

    “I’ll hang up and listen to your response on the air.”

    Thanks, Dave Moore

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Dave, your book looks fascinating but I’m not sure I understand your website. Do you also have a blog where you can interact with readers?

      Reply
  19. Stephany Simmons

    Building a social media platform is the most intimidating obstacle for me. I have a website, a blog and I’ve got an author page on facebook (both need more traffic), but I don’t “get” Twitter. From what I understand, Twitter has been a huge help for authors when it comes to marketing. I just have no clue what it is that I should be putting out there.

    Reply
    • Joyce Reynolds-Ward

      Stephany, follow some writers like Jay Lake to see what they put out there. Jay puts out links to his daily blogging, snippets from works in progress, personal news, and occasional commentary. You use Twitter to attract your followers to your content. Additionally, I’ve been told about finding writing work/opportunities via Twitter–I know I’ve found out about specific publishing news on Facebook.

      I understand a lot of the social media platform stuff, but don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to it due to my day job (special education teaching). This summer, I intend to develop my platform as I’m developing two separate entities–the professional education consultant and the fiction writer. I suspect I’ll be using low-level content provider publishing connections to promote the first entity, and self-publishing to promote both.

      Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Stephany, Twitter is the second-largest traffic source for this blog, behind only Google. It’s the best resource I know of for connecting to people who are interested in my subject area, for networking with other bloggers in this field, and for getting links to great resources or writing by others. But when I got started I spent several months just observing and reading and clicking through to see what it was all about. Use it that way for a while, don’t think you have to jump into the conversation right away. You’ll soon “get” it.

      Reply
  20. bowerbird

    just for the record, there are a lot of authors
    who are selling a surprising number of e-books
    without doing any hype or marketing at all…

    some people find that the e-books under their
    pseudonyms, which they don’t hype at all, are
    outselling the ones under their “real” names,
    for which they are doing constant marketing.

    and you can rest assured that amanda hocking
    and john locke didn’t sell all those books because
    they’re good at doing the social networking thing.
    you can sell hundreds of copies going that route,
    and maybe even thousands, but you surely cannot
    sell hundreds of thousands. and if you _can_, then
    you should be writing ad copy, my friends, not books.

    ***

    as to the question at hand, it looks like most of joel’s
    e-mail questions revolve around formatting e-books.

    folks should know that sigil does a very good job, and
    it is _free_… (but the programmer does accept cash.)
    it creates (and edits!) .epub natively, and you can get
    a .mobi by dropping an .epub on the kindle previewer…
    > https://code.google.com/p/sigil/

    scrivener isn’t free, but it’s very cheap, and i understand
    that it too creates .epub output and .mobi output as well.
    > https://www.literatureandlatte.com/

    and 85 people have now asked for my e-book converter,
    and when that number reaches 100, i will release it, and
    it’s also a cost-free program. if you want to see it, sign up:
    > https://jaguarps.blogspot.com/2011/04/blog-post_14.html

    so don’t let poverty hold you back. turn loose your dreams.
    you just might find that they bring cash back to your door…

    -bowerbird

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Bowerbird, thanks for the excellent software links. Hope to do a public test of Jaguar Publishing System soon.

      Reply
  21. Thomas Burchfield

    Hi Joel: As always, pointed and excellent. My perpetual discomfort usually revolves around economic matters, such as discounts and distribution and how to increase–no, actually achieve–my profit margin. I have a feeling that those will be the biggest lessons I will learn from publishing “Dragon’s Ark.”

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Thomas, this seems in line with James Byrd’s comment just above. When you switch from being a creative artist to being a businessperson with a product to sell, the transition can be jarring. And probably the part that’s most mysterious to some people is the whole discount/distribution system. This isn’t surprising because the current system is old and arcane, and it’s changing almost every day. But you will be a success, Thomas, because I know you’ll just keep publishing, doing it better every time.

      Reply
  22. James Byrd

    I eagerly read through the comments of this post to see if the responses you got matched what I’ve seen from our customers and our conference attendees. I learned that the problems people have are pretty universal.

    What’s interesting is that people tend to fall into two broad categories. Those who completely understand that self publishing is a business versus those who focus on the freedom and ease of self pubbing without too much consideration beyond writing a book and uploading it to Amazon.

    The people with a business perspective get that a book is a product. As they say, the real work begins when the writing is done. That’s when you have to spend money and time on production quality and marketing. An old mentor of ours used to say “nothing happens until somebody sells something.” That’s as true of books as any other product.

    Self publishing means you are a publisher. Just like any business, you have to learn how the business works. You have to take responsibility for all aspects of the micro-publishing business you’ve created for yourself.

    Not everyone is ready for that level of commitment. That’s why Susan and I believe that traditional publishing is still the best alternative for some authors, in spite of our personal zeal for self publishing.

    If you don’t invest in professional production for your book, and you throw it up on Amazon without any marketing support, it will just disappear into the morass. Even with professional support, your book may fail to gain traction, but without it your book doesn’t stand a chance.

    I’ve noticed that people who understand that self publishing is a business tend to ask very focused questions aimed at solving particular problems. They know where they’re going, they just need to know how to get there. On the other hand, authors who resist viewing their writing as a business tend to ask much more broad questions laced with confusion and trepidation. They don’t really want to hear the answers because their heart is in writing books, not publishing them. That’s okay.

    All business is hard work, and self publishing is no different. These idiots from traditional publishing (publishers and authors alike) who sneer at us because self publishing “is too easy” make me want to scream.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks for a thoughtful and to the point comment, based on your experience with authors trying to get into print. Right on.

      Reply
  23. Margo Gallagher

    This is my first book, so I’m new to the wonderful world of self publishing! There is so much to do and so many possibilities that it gets confusing…I guess what I need help with the most is knowing exactly what steps are needed next and in what order. For example, my book is complete, and has been professionally edited and formatted. I have a website up and running, and a blog. What, very specifically, are the next steps I need to take?

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Margo, you need to decide now how to publish the book. I take it you’ve already done some thinking about marketing, if you have a professional cover design. Now you have to select and printer and distribution plan. You are on the cusp of being in print and for sale. If you need more guidance, drop me an email.

      Reply
  24. Victoria Mixon

    Honestly, Joel, it’s too early in the morning for me to think of a question, but I have an answer for you.

    I very rarely answer email questions from random people individually. I don’t have that kind of time. Instead, I started an advice column for this situation, so now whenever someone asks me a question that doesn’t involve hiring me for a job, I ask permission to answer it on the advice column where everyone can see it. I assure them there must be zillions of people out there wondering the same thing.

    They are always happy to give permission. (Plus they get a linkback to their own blog, if they’ve got one.)

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Victoria, you are mind-reading again. I’m thinking about doing something very similar, and that’s what prompted this post. However, I do enjoy answering questions when I have the time, but that time seems to be in short supply these days. Thanks for weighing in.

      Readers: follow the link to Victoria’s advice column, it’s full of great info for writers.

      Reply
  25. Karen

    I’m not at the marketing part yet, and I imagine that will involve more learning curves, but to date…beyond the editing, layout, cover design, etc, etc, the one thing that has stumped me (tried word, acrobat, ipages, etc) is how to remove the page numbers from pages I don’t want them on…like the last few: about the author, etc. I only want to number the actual manuscript, not others…stumped.
    Thx for all your help!

    Reply
    • Michael N. Marcus

      In MS Word, you use sections to separate parts of the book, and a section — which can be one page or many pages — can be set up without page numers (called “blind folios”).

      Reply
      • Karen

        Thx, Marcus. It’s on my to do list for today.
        And I have use of inDesign at the campus lab…I’ll check it out, since I have only a small window to buy the Adobe suite at student discount.
        Thx everyone for your assistance!

        Reply
        • david Bergsland

          For those that don’t know, and it sounds like you do, Karen.

          The academic or non-profit discount is from almost $1900 to less than $500–sometimes even less than $400.

          Reply
    • David Bergsland

      This is where you discover you really need a page layout program like InDesign. It’s easily handled with master pages.

      Reply
    • Dave Moore

      Hi Karen,

      I am a graphic designer of just about 20 years. Here is my quick and easy solution.

      Assuming you’re book has white pages, put a white box over the page numbers you don’t want to see. I just laid a book out and that worked for me.

      All the best,
      Dave Moore

      Reply
      • kj

        David. Thx for ALL your comments and suggestions! If I hadn’t found sections I would have inserted a white box – brilliant! Yes, huge student discount. Think I’ll bite the bullet and do it.
        Back to the cover design…

        Reply
        • Michael N. Marcus

          kj: There are other good “white cheats” in using MS Word to format books.

          Section breaks are inserted after text, but this can be a problem if the last page of a section (usually a chapter) has only an illustration or a text box, or nothing at all. The text inside a box can’t accept a section break.

          You can cheat by typing some garbage text (I often type “white break”) and insert the break, and then change the text color to white so it is invisible. Then I can insert the text box or illustration right over the invisible text and everything works fine.

          If the last page of the section is completely blank, just insert the garbage white text and the break.

          You can also make a page number or any header or footer disappear by changing the text color to white. It’s easier than putting a white box over it, because boxes sometimes float around.

          BTW, white text should be invisible on non-white paper, too, and you can search for “white break” if you need to.

          Michael N. Marcus
          https://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
          https://www.Self-Pub.info
          — Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series: https://www.silversandsbooks.com/booksaboutpublishing.html
          — “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),” https://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661750

          Reply
  26. Roemer McPhee

    On-line marketers. How effective are the (top-tier) services here?

    Reply
  27. paula hendricks

    good post joel.

    marketing — including sales and distribution. from everything i’ve heard over the years it often takes an enormous amount of energy (not to mention money) to successfully market, distribute, and sell your books. listening to successful people, such as yourself, talk about blogging,
    twittering, and all the other extraordinarily time consuming things one needs to do to market themselves and their books actually causes me to feel nauseous. i want to spend time on what for me are the creative tasks — writing, designing…

    sigh.

    ph

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Paula, I’ve seen some great examples of partnerships in which one partner is the “outside” marketing type and the other is the “inside” design, production type. That would work for you. But beyond that, I think it’s possible to market your ideas without becoming a 24/7 slave to social media. You set the agenda, establish a schedule and then just do it. If you want to give it 20 minutes a day, you’ll still be way ahead of not doing anything. I’d love to see (and read!) books from you.

      Reply
  28. Joyce Reynolds-Ward

    What’s keeping me from getting my book(s) into print right now?

    The time it takes to learn the process and figure out what I can do myself, what I need to farm out to others, and how best to do it.

    I have some quirky stories that have gotten praise (from editorial types, who then turn around and say “but it doesn’t fit my market”) that I want to get out of my inventory. I believe I can sell enough of them to make a small profit. The market’s not that great for them, and I’d sooner work on writing better new stories than constantly reworking old stories that have a smaller market. I’d make more off of them selling them myself than giving them to most of the “for the love” markets out there.

    Additionally, I have some already-published short stories that I think are worth republishing and would still earn more money if reissued, though I may probably choose to see if I can get a market like Anthology Builder to carry them. I know enough people who are doing that, and I do have the rights to those stories.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      The time it takes to learn the process and figure out what I can do myself, what I need to farm out to others, and how best to do it.

      Joyce, I think you’ve spoken for many people here. It’s challenging to come up with a step by step plan because books are very different, authors have different goals, and different formats have different requirements. Often a talk with a publishing professional can help you quickly work through this question and move forward.

      Reply
  29. Liz Alexander

    Great question, Joel — and one that I asked, somewhat similarly, to open a LinkedIn writer’s group discussion thread a few weeks ago. For which I received just four responses. Disappointing, huh, when you consider the number of “cries in the wilderness” that seem to be going on around writing books, publishing books, and marketing books. But mostly, if we’re honest, around: “How can I sell more books?”

    The job titles of your clients (and mine is similar) shows we are dealing with smart, educated people here. That doesn’t preclude one major issue, which I guess is true when anyone ventures into new territory: we don’t know what we don’t know.

    What is it about writing and publishing that prompts folks to believe that it’s easy, quick, and the road to fame and fortune? The beginner mindset is indeed exciting — if the “mind” is involved. Which really means thinking about what you want, honestly assessing whether you have the skill set to fulfill that desire, and seeking out the professional help that will move you from desire A to outcome Z.

    I remember reading a Guardian (UK newspaper) article highlighted in Arts & Letters Daily some months ago, talking about the editing process. In it an editor within a publishing house commented on the sad state of most manuscripts received. He wondered why the folks who had written them had not even considered paying for professional help to focus the core idea, improve the writing, set a scope and structure that made the work more readable etc. As Georgia points out, when you do recognize you need professional help, there’s the question of not having any money to pay for it. But she–at least in my experience–is in the minority. There’s so much “going it alone” in the Indie or self-publishing arena, which probably accounts for the low standards of work being birthed, if not bought.

    So, to my question (and I’m genuinely interested in any and all responses): why do people, who wouldn’t dream of extracting their own teeth, stitching up their own flesh wounds, or laying the plumbing for the house they want built, think that conceiving of, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing books is a solo effort?

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Very interesting and on-point Liz. My answer to your question rests on the familiarity we have with books. They have been part of our life since we sat on someone’s lap and were read to. Books seem so prosaic and simple—just words on a page, like the report you did at work last week. It’s a shock for many people, competent experts in other fields, to realize just how many decisions are involved in publishing a book, and how much expertise it takes to do it right. Thanks for your comment.

      Reply
  30. Wayne Groner

    The thing that bothers me most is whether my self-published book–traditional or ebook–will sell enough copies to give me a reasonable return on investment. Publishing to Kindle, for example, is easy and inexpensive. But just because Kindle has a gazillion readers doesn’t mean they will buy my book. I help people write memoirs and the authors usually print 25 to 100 books to give to family and friends. That’s fine for their purposes and I’m thankful to be able to help them. But if I’m going to write a book for wider distribution, self-publishing gives me satisfaction as an author and not necessarily profits.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Wayne the big factor here is whether you are publishing to satisfy a need of your own, or you’re publishing to fill a need for your readers. Since e-books and print on demand books can be produced for very little money if necessary, I think ROI is real but long-term. The first book I published sold 10,000 copies, but it took years to do it.

      Reply
  31. David Bergsland

    Dealing with the coding still required to make a decent ePUB. InDesign CS5.5 helps a lot, but it’s still bad and I feel like I’m wandering in a jungle.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      I haven’t seen ID5.5 yet, I’m hoping the ePub export has improved. Didn’t Liz Castro’s book help out, David?

      Reply
      • David Bergsland

        To back up Joel, I have no money. I’ve published about a dozen PoD books now basically for free (a few proofs were needed). The income is slowly growing each money with no marketing at all. Between Lulu, Createspace (Amazon Print), PubIt, Smashwords, Kindle and Scribd, my monthly average is now over $100 and it is steadily going up.

        It took almost 10 years before my font designs developed. They are also PoD and now they’re averaging over $500 a month (with no marketing).

        With no money, it takes patience and dedication. But it can work.
        ___________

        To answer Joel on CS5.5: it’s a lot better. Exported ePUBs now validate. You can map your print styles to tags and classes. It takes some care (hence my book), but it now works.

        Liz’ book is far too much coding for me. I have a severe coding challenge. I fall asleep and make mistakes. ;-) I still haven’t mastered cracking the epUB and then recompressing it.

        Reply
        • Joel Friedlander

          Thanks, David. I have no interest at this point in learning the coding necessary to dig into the e-book files, so the news about ID 5.5 is great, except that you probably just cost me some serious $$.

          Reply
        • Stephen Tiano

          David, are InDy 5.5’s epub tools a big advance from InDy 5.0’s? Thanks.

          Reply
          • David Bergsland

            Yes, they are. They now verify and they have added a new dialog (and entry in a paragraph or character style dialog) that allows you to tag you styles to specific CSS tags. There are still some things missing, but it is far superior. I cover this stuff in the book, plus some new things I learned since that was released:

            I made a post “Forcing InDesign to write acceptable CSS” here
            https://tinyurl.com/5v4h4ug

            THis new stuff is in the “Writing in InDesign” ePUB. Hopefully it’s on iBooks. It’s at Lulu, NookBooks, and Kindle. I haven’t converted the printed versions yet.

  32. Georgia

    The one thing that stops me from putting my words into print is money. I don’t have any. The wolves are at the door and the cycle of survival is always in place. Unemployment is an issue but I know I have lots of books and stories waiting to be told and sold. To have a really great book to sell, the book needs professional help. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.

    Reply
    • Keri Knutson

      Georgia, I’m in the same boat. I have no budget for publishing. But I think it’s important to realize that if there’s a will, there’s way. I’m running a blog right now about DIY publishing. While it’s realistic to understand that you definitely need outside help, there are ways to barter services and to learn basics on your own so that you can minimize your expenses. It’s important to be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t do and what you’re definitely going to have to pay for and it may take longer to produce a great product, but if it’s something you’re serious about accomplishing, you need to make a realistic plan and work towards your goal. In other words, don’t give up before you’ve even started.

      Reply
      • Georgia

        Thank you Keri. You are absolutely right. I will take your advice.

        Reply
      • David Bergsland

        Invest in good tools. Get good computer with 4 GB RAM and InDesign. The learning curve will be a little higher, but the results will be far superior.

        Learn everything you can about typography.

        Reply
      • Joel Friedlander

        Keri, this is excellent advice. Books still sell based on the content more than anything else. If you have a good book and can arrange for some editing by barter or however, you can publish. A basic e-book cover is within most people’s reach, you don’t absolutely need your own ISBN to get started, and everything else is basically free.

        I would encourage Georgia and anyone else who is “feeling the pinch” of the economy to take this opportunity very seriously. Today I received a check from my PoD supplier for a book I originally published in 1986. Last month, with no work on my part (not proud, just busy with more recent projects) the book sold 10 copies and I received about $100. I didn’t even think about this book the whole month, but $100 can come in pretty handy.

        Reply
        • Keri Knutson

          This blog does a great job of demystifying the publishing experience. I’ve found so much help here. As of yesterday my four short stories went live on Kindle and Smashwords (a trial run in preparation for the novels coming this summer) and they look really good. I did the covers and formatting myself and had bartered for proofreading/editing, so my total cost has been zero. (I even got cover images for free through a little research.) But I never would have gotten that far without the information here. Cheers, Joel!

          Reply
      • Joel Friedlander

        Keri, congratulations on getting your stories up and for sale, that’s awesome. You’ve done a good job at creating atmospheric covers. One suggestion is to create one element—it can be graphic, or the author’s name or a logo—and brand each publication so it’s obvious they all come from the same place. It will give the series of publications a brand as a reference point for readers. Good luck!

        Reply
        • Keri Knutson

          Thanks, Joel. And I’m definitely looking at designing the novel covers with an eye towards making them look part of a set. That’s really great advice, and if you look at successful authors (especially in my genre(s) of mystery/thriller) you can see that “branding” at work. These stories were kind of a trial run to learn design and formatting, so I’m thinking of putting them together in an anthology with some other stories later instead of having them as singletons.

          Reply
  33. Michael N. Marcus

    At this stage I probably receive many more questions than I ask. The most common: “Which self-publishing company (or which printer) should I use?”

    The most important seldom-asked question: “Do I really need to hire an editor?”

    Michael N. Marcus
    https://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
    https://www.Self-Pub.info
    — Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series: https://www.silversandsbooks.com/booksaboutpublishing.html
    — “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),” https://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661750

    Reply

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