Archive for July, 2010

How to Succeed as a Self-Publisher

Add comment July 24th, 2010

I’ve read a lot on blogs and Twitter recently about the question of whether self-publishing is just another name for “vanity publishing.” A little deeper is a discussion on Joel Friedlander’s The Book Designer blog, “Top 10 Worst Self-Publishing Mistakes—Explained!” A lively conversation, it takes in the “Does self- equal vanity- question.” But, with an avalanche of comments, it also gets much farther. Issues such as marketing, getting reviews, and one of my favorite subjects—the use of typefaces—are raised.

Early on I offered my prescription for success as a self-publishing author:

1. Write well about something people want to read about

I suppose I missed a chance to agree with those who put marketing research as their starting point. Admittedly, I have a bias against blind marketing and what I like to call “the selling of selling.” But the truth is, one can choose to write about a subject that has a large natural audience or is particularly of the moment. I’m momentarily finishing up work on just such a subject, about the Alaskan oil pipeline.

2. Engage an editor and, perhaps, a copy editor to make sure you’ve gotten it down and gotten it right

I know many authors are loathe to entrust their babies to another caretaker, but often after spending so much “close time” with a piece of one’s own writing, perspective is lost and the author could really benefit from another pair of eyes and a professional’s “take” on the subject and presentation.

3. Contract professional, freelance book design and page comp to give your book the best chance to attract potential readers

As a freelance book designer, I, of course, remain very big on this step. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: amateur-looking design hurts the sale of a self-published book, which already has a formidable hurdle to get over, if it is to find an audience and sell more than the typical 100 or so copies most self-published books manage to sell.

The first thing potential readers see is the cover. The cover needs to invite prospects to pick up the book, at which point they should become interested in what that cover suggests is inside. Then, when they open the book, the interior design needs to connect with the cover, sort of fulfilling the promise of the look the cover puts forth. The writing, the substance of the book, should then take over, grabbing interest of readers who are led through the lines and pages of the book by the work of the interior designer.

That’s my half of the equation. Then, too, at least from the point where the book’s writing is complete, perhaps sooner, the self-publishing author should formulate a plan for reaching the people most likely to be readers of his or her book.

Following these steps and my little coda on marketing is at least a feasible plan to getting above and beyond the 100-copies sales plateau.

I’ve Been on Hiatus Again

Add comment July 1st, 2010

From this blog, that is.

I have five books in progress as I write this. Tuesday I completed the first pass, over 600 pages, of a nurse practitioner’s textbook. After that I zoomed into correx—the corrections and author’s changes—for a 1,000+ page novel, which I had begun while working on, and alternated with, the nurse practitioner’s textbook. Somewhere along the way I also knocked out correx on the latest chapter of a physicist’s memoir containing transliterated Sanskrit.

Most recently, like an hour ago, I sent off a second pass with author’s changes and some corrections on a book about the Alaskan pipeline. This one is particularly timely, what with the off-shore oil-drilling disaster in the Gulf still raging.

All that means tomorrow I dive into making pages for the student guide Taking Charge. I finished the design template for this book in March, if memory serves, so it will be good to see how the book finally goes down.

And those are the reasons why this blog has been on hiatus for a good five or so weeks. It’s not like I simply had no time to blog—which I most certainly did not—but not a single idea to blog about sprouted while I was so consumed with making books. (I hope to stay that busy throughout the remainder of the year.)

But one thing that keeps snaring my attention is an ongoing discussion on LinkedIn, I think, titled something like, “Does Anyone Else Wish Self-Publishing Would Go Away?” It turns out that the person who started the discussion did so expressly to get a controversial and, therefore, long-lasting exchange going. She succeeded.

Truthfully, however, it needs to be made clear for those who may not know: Self-publishing is no longer automatically synonymous with “vanity publishing.” I say that not because three of the five books I mentioned above are to be self-published by their authors, although they are my proof that self-publishing can be legitimate and self-published books can be works worthy of publication.

I have only walked away from potential projects for reasons other than that the fee offered three times in about 20 years. Both times these were to be self-published books on subjects that I found either objectionable or not helpful to my reputation. As much as I think everyone has the right to try to find an audience, I also have the right to not help ideas I do not support into the light.

That all said, Vive la self-publishing!


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