How to Self Publish a Book and Financially Survive

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Have you wanted to self publish a book but do not know where to start? The first step is to determine your market, then the cost, followed by the decision on what your book is worth and at what price it should be sold. Do not allow emotions to get in the way of sound judgment that will spell your financial demise.

There is a fine line between the price being high enough to keep your publisher in business but low enough to encourage sales. Remember, you can always lower the price, but raising it once there is a price printed on the cover is unthinkable.

When you self publisher a book the expectation of making a ton of money is unrealistic so let me begin by dispelling the myth about “best-sellers.” Such books are few and far between and Harry Potter was a once in 5-billion-book-miracle and lightning does not strike twice. How many people do you know who have won the lottery? I am certain the answer is none, but do not stop dreaming about hitting the publishing pot of gold. I am sure that most of us would be satisfied with just 10% of the Potter success.

What you need to know before you self publish a book.

In any given year there are a billion books in circulation. Once you grasp that astounding number realize that the average book published in the United States sells 5,000 copies. A quantity of 10,000 is considered a “Best-Seller.” The authors at the top of the lists are movie stars and politicians, most of them did not write their own books. There is an entire ghost writing industry in the U.S. So the competition is fierce as celebrity opens many doors to publicity, the key to any book success. What that means as a first-time author is that you need to work harder and smarter.

Key elements to consider before you self publish a book.

o Picking a Niche Topic

Writing a book on a niche topic like cooking, woodworking, sewing, flower arranging, sailing, gardening or any niche topic, you need to research Google, eBay and Amazon to see what others have written, then write your book covering the areas these authors may have omitted from their books or not have covered thoroughly. Not all niche topics are equal but it is foolhardy to try to duplicate the work of others because they were successful. Being original or covering the parts of a subject that were omitted from a successful book will always serve you well. On the Internet you can then capture the keywords used by those other authors that will help drive your own online sales.

o Self-Publishing vs. co-publishing

In the true meaning of the term ‘Self-Publishing’ an author, by necessity, is transformed into a business manager and publishing technician. Remember when you self publish a book the author pays all editing, design and printing costs plus distribution, advertising and marketing expenses. The printing and binding process is full of minefields. This carries the risks of simple mistakes costing thousands of dollars once they reach the printing press and need to be fixed. Or worse, errors not caught at all will mean you end up with a book with errors that degrade the quality of your book.

Once printed the author then needs to arrange distribution that turns the author into a quasi-sales person. When you self publish a book do not get caught up in thinking that you get 100% of the profit, that may sound attractive, but it can also lead to a bag of snakes.

Co-publishing is the best alternative for the author who is willing to do the same financing on his or her title, but who is willing to engage an experienced publisher willing to share his expertise for a percentage of the profit.

o Print a Small Quantity First

A number of first-time authors have come to me in recent years after spending thousands of dollars on Internet-based publishers only to discover that the “On Demand” cost per book leaves no room for profit. Many complain that the initial $500.00 to $750.00 investment quickly mushroomed with one added charge after another. Ordering one book at a time as needed is not just time consuming it is crazy-making. If you are only selling one or two books a week then this is nothing more than an ego trip, not a publishing enterprise.

One of the biggest objections of Internet publishing is that they offer limited predetermined page sizes and cover designs giving your book a cookie-cutter look. Little to no professional editing is done and no creative design takes place. In the end, you self publish a book that leads to a costly disappointment. Agents can instantly spot an online produced book.

One of the first mistakes in self publishing is producing a small quantity. If you are publishing your book for bragging rights then signing a contract for $500.00 with an Internet publisher will fill your need. But think about it. In order to properly promote or market a book you need to mail press releases to various magazines, newspapers and radio hosts and that can quickly consume 500 copies.

Also be prepared for the individual mailing costs of at least $5.00 per copy or about $2,500.00. No one is going to write a review based on your synopsis, a picture of the cover or your good looks. Therefore expecting a magazine review without providing a copy of your book is unrealistic. At an average On Demand printing cost of $10.00 pr book plus $2,500 in postage you have just invested $8,000.00 and you have not sold a single book. Oh, you can do this one book at a time but in the end you have spent the same amount of money over a longer period of time hoping that one of these contacts will click… this is a bit naive.

After 25 years of independent publishing I will not publish a title unless an author prints a minimum of 1,000 copies. On the other hand, I do not encourage first-time authors to print more than 3,000 copies regardless of the unit cost savings at this higher quantity. No one needs a garage full of books if they do not sell and if the book is successful we can reprint within six weeks.

The author must seriously consider that the first 1,000 books is for test marketing and that the book will not turn a profit and will likely break-even. Therefore, self publish a book with your eyes wide open understanding the financial investment that is required and realize that there are pitfalls.

Most radio interviewers require a copy of your book in advance of booking the interview. Be grateful that they want a copy. As the author of 7 books I will tell you there is nothing so miserable as an interview in which the host does not have a clue why their producer booked you on the program or what questions they should be asking. This turns into a clumsy interview or one of the shortest on record. Either way, you as an author suffer the consequences. Remember, the interviewer is not there to sell your book they are there to create an interesting program for their audience. If you are not provocative enough the rug is quickly pulled out from under you. If you are serious and you want to self publish a book then seriously invest in a coach to guide you through those first half dozen radio interviews, it will be money well spent.

 

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