View Full Version : Help, me, and stuff

12-19-2005, 01:01 AM
Okay. I've been writing for forever and I think I may finish up some novels and stuff fairly soon. I want to self-publish. It seems difficult, but I think it's what I want to do. So, I'm going to scan the threads for info, but if anyone has any MUST KNOW OR YOU WILL DIE info, that they could post here I would be super happy. Basic stuff about how to self publish, ways to promote books, and what on earth POD stands for (yes, I'm well aware that I should know what this means and do not) :Hammer: Thanks a lot. Peace and stuff.

12-19-2005, 01:04 AM
Oops, did I post this in the wrong area.:D

12-19-2005, 01:05 AM
No, it's right. Although I may as well be the first to say it - if you don't know the first thing about self-publishing, why in blazes have you already decided that it's what you want to do?

12-19-2005, 01:20 AM
Oh, I'm not completely ignorant. I've figured some stuff out and I've thought about it quite a bit and am working on research for it. It may not be what I end up doing, but it sounds like a good idea. I've been sort of a, "I can do this no matter what it takes," kinda person. Call it stupidity. It's what I do.

Mike Coombes
12-23-2005, 01:16 AM
"It seems difficult..."

It's not. you don't even need to proof read, or to even finish the novel. No matter how bad it is, self publishing will cover it.

If you feel that your writing is maybe good enough for someone else to read, why go to self-publishing?

SC Harrison
12-25-2005, 10:10 PM
Don't even think about going with PublishAmerica. If you have never heard of them, check out the Bewares forum.

12-26-2005, 12:56 AM
BTW - POD stands for Print on demand.

Research before you go that route - just a suggestion. It's tempting, I know because the traditional rout takes soooooo long, but know what you're getting into before you commit:)
Happy holidays

Cathy C
12-26-2005, 01:22 AM
Hi, Vuligora, and welcome to the Water Cooler!

You seem fairly determined to self-publish, but I wonder just how much research you've done on the process if you hadn't yet discovered the definition of POD.

Now, don't get me wrong -- there's nothing wrong with self-publishing, depending on what your GOALS are for the book. There are a few types of books that self-publishing is terrific for:

1) Family memoirs that can be printed and distributed amongst an extended family. Not a huge market, but a loving keepsake.

2) Fundraisers, like cookbooks and the like, for organizations too small to grab a national or regional market (think cheerleading uniforms!)

3) Niche, non-fiction books without a large following (think raising Bolivian llamas.)

4) Non-fiction books of popular theme (diet books, self-help books, etc.)

5) Internet-related titles, where the majority of the READERS prefer on-line or electronic titles.

6) Single author collections of poetry or short stories.

However, self-publishing is NOT good for:

1) Literary or genre fiction novels. Yes, there have been a few exceptions -- Eragon, The Christmas Box, Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Journal, Making It -- but while these titles are bandied about over and over again, trying to disprove the rule, in fact they only PROVE it. Any rule is occasionally broken, but a dozen titles over thirty years which have succeeded set up against the tens of thousands that have failed, has no statistical value.

But the question is -- WHY does fiction not self-publish well?

There are several reasons, so I'll go through them one at a time:

1. Editing. Say what you will about New York publishers -- they do understand what the public likes. While there are always books (as someone said above) that make you wonder "How in the heck did THIS get published?" the fact is that often it's subjective on the part of the reader. I don't like a lot of books pubbed by large press, but I generally know that someone else probably does, because the publisher's goal was ALWAYS to make money from it. It's the only reason they publish books. They want money, and lots of it! But it's a crap shoot to put out every single new title. Will it be a hit? Maybe. Maybe not. All you can do is try. But when certain editors choose best sellers EVERY SINGLE TIME, they get a reputation for knowing the market. And they get choosy, because they're rushed for time. They don't want to spend all of their time editing, because an editor has so very much more to do in their job description than to simply sit down and line edit a book. So, they want books that are already nearly perfect. They want tight plots with no holes, rich, lovable characters and exceptional spelling, grammar and composition -- right out of the envelope. That doesn't happen as often as writers would like to believe. I'm a writer, but I wouldn't DARE edit my own work. It would . . . well, the book would probably be dreck! I hate it, but it's true. Sometimes, what's in my head doesn't make it onto the paper. The MC's actions might not make sense because I didn't insert the backstory necessary, or there might be a gaping plot hole that a tank could fall into. Readers fear self-published and POD titles, much as a person fears stepping off a bungee tower the first time. It might be a wild ride with a wonderful conclusion, or it might simply be a very SHORT ride. Every single SP title is that same risk, with no net for the reader. The major publishing imprint seal on a cover is the net -- the reader knows that while they might not like the author's style, or the plot or the people, they won't be frustrated by the WRITING itself. They won't want to throw the book against the wall and dig for the register slip to return it.

2. Availability. This is the bane of SP and POD titles. Publishers spend thousands of dollars on every single title in their catalogue to get the books into stores where the majority of their readers shop. It's nearly impossible for a SP or vanity press to do this, because it DOES cost thousands of dollars in catalogues and meetings and marketing to the distributors and wholesalers and book sellers for EVERY SINGLE BOOK. If a reader can't walk into a place where the READER chooses to shop and buy it, they won't. End of story. It doesn't matter how much marketing you do, how good the story is -- if the reader can't buy it where they choose, you won't sell it.

3. Returnability. The second bane of SP and vanity titles. Yes, it's unfair and outdated and outmoded, but the simple fact of publishing is that bookstores also aren't willing to risk losing money on your book. If you're local, they might deign to consign your book, but without the safety net of being able to return a book for credit, a bookstore won't carry it. They just won't. It's corporate policy, because they have stockholders to answer to, and X amount of space on the shelves to store books each month. Without returning unsold titles, they would run out of shelf space in about two months.

So, we come back to goals. If your goal is to make your LIVING selling books, stick with a traditional publisher who will spend money on your behalf. Don't doubt that SP will earn you money. Most well-written SP books make money. That's not the point. But if you want to LIVE off your writing -- to pay your regular mortgage, and food, and utilities and buy new clothing and lease a vehicle -- then it's difficult to succeed. Remember that the SP titles I mentioned are NO LONGER self-published. The success stories in SP are those books that were picked up by a major publisher. The real money is mass paperback and hardback, where publishers pay you thousands of dollars in advances to pay the mortgage and the utilities and the like while your book sits hopefully on the shelves.

But if your goal is to just have the book available and you don't care whether it sells a hundred or a hundred thousand copies, then SP might be right up your alley.

Now, for the vanity presses to avoid like the proverbial plague:

Whitmore Publishing
Tate Publishing

Why? Because they charge too much, take too many rights, and give you little in return for the money. No line editing, no promotion (it's at THEIR option, and there are enough disgruntled authors on the web to tell the tales of problems, that I don't need to bring it up), seven year contracts with NO release clause if you DO happen to have a winner that gets interest in NY, among other things.

Some people say that they aren't "vanity publishers" because they don't charge the author money. WRONG! They DO charge the author money, but the author doesn't notice at first. You have to PAY for your books for signings (NY pubs supply them) and can't return them if they don't sell. The READER PAYS a higher rate for the same product. This costs the author in sales. The author has to PAY for copyright registration (NY pubs pay out of their own pocket). The author PAYS for the same promotion that NY does for free (not bookmarks and stuff, but contacting book stores to place the titles, end capping, face out, etc.) So, yes, you DO pay for your books through these companies, despite their claims.

Hope this helps! :D

(And yes -- I'm NY pubbed, because my GOAL is to earn my living, which I presently do.)

Oh, BTW -- here are a few threads in this and other forums here that give some other opinions on self-pubbing. I've posted in most of them, because I think there are some misconceptions about the actual term of SELF-publishing.

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=13369 (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=13369)

12-28-2005, 11:25 PM
I have a Civil War book out by Whitmore. They produced a beautiful, durable book for me April of 2005; charged not a dime; mailed out 30 ARCs with promo materials; sent promo materials to 250 bookstores in Virginia and Maryland (think Gettysburg, Antietum, Richmond); sent out two galleys in advance of publication, which got me an endorsement from a best selling author and the a Civil War org with 33,000 members; got me one radio interview, one newspaper and three national CW magazine reviews (two have not yet appeared). Whitmore books are fully refundable and are offered to brick & mortar and online book sellers at 40% off. I vouch for these things.
Their production manager answers all my emails and telephone calls. He does what he says Whitmore will do.
Also, their contract is only five years.

However: It has been nine months and I am not yet listed on Amazon or any other online stores other than theirs at http://www.whitmorebooks.com/hoofcohaciwa.html . They are just now getting around to saturating the Civil War area book stores with promo materials. They put a very high price on the book -- $29 for a 356pg trade paperback, but remember it is endorsed by a very famous writer and aimed at a very specific audience (Civil War history buffs). I'm getting positive responses (i.e. fan email) from readers across the country.

Yes, they are owned by Dorrance and yes -- if you are rejected by Whitmore -- you'll likely be contacted by Dorrance or its subsidary Rosedog.
But Whitmore is extrememly selective and carries some some very serious books by some very serious authors. Many of these were printed by the original "Whitmore" of the 50s, 60s, 70, and 80s. The current owner is making the earlier books available again, brand new, in storage since the original went bankrupt.
They have both a POD and an offset press. Your Whitmore book make come out POD, but will be fully refundable and offered to brick & mortar bookstores and online bookstores at 40% off. They use their offset press for guaranteed sales books and for any POD book that sells enough to warrant it. They have a distributer.

You can check up on me if you want to. I published another book with Overmountain Press - which is offset, established and respectable. My book there can be seen at http://www.overmountainpress.com/newpages/books/appalachiangenesis.html . I also have a PublishAmerica book out and can tell you from experience that Whitmore is not at all like them. PA won't even answer my emails; my book is not refundable; is absurdly priced; had absolutely no promo at all;competes with at least 4000 other PA titles; has a lousy reputation; and won't let me out of the contract unless I open myself to multiple lawsuit by posting on any forum which has ever spoken badly of them.
I've also self-published two books by using Lulu Press, which was free -- I highly recommend Lulu; I've acutally made money with them without spending a cent. You can see my free site there at http://www.lulu.com/LION .

Whitmore did not ask me to do this. I just don't like to see this press put in the same category as PublishAmerica and Tate. Whitmore is better, but still not mainstream. Try to find a major publisher first. Then try to find an established and respected small press. If that fails, then try Whitmore before PA, Tate, POD which charges, or vanity. IMO.

Cathy C
12-28-2005, 11:47 PM
They put a very high price on the book -- $29 for a 356pg trade paperback,

:( Unfortunately, you just proved my point. I'm sorry.

The READER PAYS a higher rate for the same product. This costs the author in sales.

A 356 pg book should never cost $29, unless it has bunches of rare, hard-to-find photos of a coffee table quality. For a novel, it will be difficult to find readers, even in a select niche market that is hungry for well-told stories.

I'm not certain I believe that ALL of their books are returnable. I've tried to order books by them on occasion, as an experiment, and the bookstore wouldn't order them without prepayment. This is the true sign of returnability. Perhaps your book is an exception? If so, congrats. Hopefully, they'll do well by you. But I stand by my recommendation that aspiring authors avoid them until they can show a better track record.

Mike Coombes
12-29-2005, 12:08 PM
I have a Civil War book out by Whitmore. They produced a beautiful, durable book for me April of 2005; charged not a dime; mailed out 30 ARCs with promo materials; sent promo materials to 250 bookstores in Virginia and Maryland (think Gettysburg, Antietum, Richmond);

... which all sounds very nice. Can you cut to the bottom line? In the 9 months it's been circulating, how many copies have been sold?

01-21-2006, 07:08 PM
If you're going to self-publish, you should already have a local readership in place. If you haven't written articles for local publications, published a column in local publications, etc., you will have a very hard time selling your work.

However, if you already have a readership, do speaking engagements for various groups, and/or do guest appearances in schools to tell stories or read to kids, then self-pubbing/POD can work.

For self-pubbing to work, you need have 1,000 potential customers already lined up and some outlets that will carry your book (independent bookstores, gift shops, etc.). Doing a press run of less than 1,000 results in a high price per copy. For POD to work, you need at least 200 potential customers.

Do you have the readership ro buy and the outlets to sell? If so, go for it. If not, build your readership and explore local markets first.