There once was a time when authors self-published because they couldn’t get a traditional publisher or literary agent to give them the time of day. While the literary establishment still attempts to perpetuate the myth that self-published authors aren’t "real" authors, no one else is really paying any attention.
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The Internet and the ability for authors to print books in small quantities are responsible for turning self-published authors into successful entrepreneurs and levelling the playing field. When a potential reader sees a self-published title on Amazon.com and then clicks over to a book published by Random House, so long as the self-published book has a professional looking cover, description, etc., there is no difference.
Yes, big publishing houses offer "distribution," but what does that really mean? If you’re a new, unproven author, even if you get signed by one of the major publishers, other than producing your cover, handling the edit and layout of your book, you won’t get much more. Publishers may make it easier for bookstore chains to order your books, as they will include them in catalogues and might give them to some of their sales reps, but that’s if you’re lucky. The big publishers don’t provide new authors with much, if any, marketing services, and if the author doesn’t figure out how to market his or her book, the publisher will drop them after the initial print run.
Add to all this, that in 2005, traditional publishers released 18,000 less books than they did in 2004, and you can see that no longer do the major publishers subscribe to "throw-it-against-the-wall-and-hope-it-sticks" theory of publishing. Thus, the plight of the new, unproven author just got tougher. In reality, any author should see this news as a good thing. It’s liberating, actually. We all want the acceptance letter from a big publisher to validate us as a writer. And, we all spend countless and fruitless hours submitting our books to publishers and agents hoping for approval. Knowing that the chances of getting invited to that dance just got slimmer should cause you to look into the mirror and seek validation from the only people who count – potential readers.
Today, an author can control his or her publishing by either handling all the aspects on their own – finding a cover designer, a layout specialist, an editor, etc. Or, authors can use one of many self-publishing companies that do it all, allowing the author to focus on writing and marketing and not the logistics of publishing.
There are dozens of great self-publishing companies that help writers publish a book without breaking the bank. For under $1,000, you can get book cover design, editing and layout, copyright registration, listing on Amazon.com, and more under one roof. In my book, The Fine Print Of Self-Publishing, the contracts and services of 48 major self-publishing companies are ranked, analyzed, and, where necessary, exposed. There are also many books available about how to self-publish on your own.
Stop trying to impress a major publisher or literary agent; rather, focus on getting your book published. Instead of waiting for a publisher or literary agent to make your dream of being published come true, do it yourself. Whether you self-publish or publish with a traditional book publisher, you’ll be handling most, if not all, of the marketing on your own. Given that, why should you only make 10 per cent in royalties when you could be making 50 per cent or more from a self-publishing company?
You do have some up-front costs for book cover design, editing, layout, and books. However, with the advent of print-on-demand technology, you can print books only when you need them. So having thousands of books rotting in your garage is no longer an issue, and instead of tying up money in inventory, you can use those dollars to promote your book.
Then, when it comes to marketing, let the Internet work for you. Smart authors are building optimized websites and purchasing advertising on Google, Yahoo!, and the like, driving potential readers already interested in the book topic to their website. With the Internet, advertising becomes less about eyeballs and more about getting qualified eyeballs. The result is highly qualified leads for pennies.
Complementing a search engine optimized (SEO) website are blogging and social network marketing. Blogging is an easy way to promote yourself and your book for a small cost – an hour or so of your time each week. Free blog sites include Blogger from Google and WordPress. Many authors also take advantage of social networking sites like MySpace, Friendster and others to generate a buzz for their books.
The Internet is simply the most cost-effective way to market your book today. One publisher, Mill City Press provides free, customized, online book marketing plans for authors, regardless of whether the author publishes with them or not. Other self-publishers and publishing sites offer articles and downloads to help authors plan their self-publishing journey. Take advantage of such free resources and learn how the Internet makes self-publishing the smart way to publish.
Make the traditional publishers beg for your work. Once you are successfully marketing your book and generating sales, major publishers will be seeking you out. Why? Because they want to invest resources into proven commodities, and by proving that you know how to market your books, you become that to them.
No traditional publisher can ever offer you the type of money per book that you make by selling on your own, but they may be able to dangle the carrots of distribution, advertising dollars, and public relations help in getting interviews. With self-publishing, in essence, you form a joint venture, and because of the position you create for yourself, they are not in control – you are.
Mark Levine is the author of The Fine Print Of Self-Publishing, a best-selling book on the self-publishing industry. For more information visit www.book-publishers-compared.com.