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MrJayVee
03-17-2005, 07:12 AM
POST DELETED

Jaws
03-17-2005, 08:35 PM
Although I'm not sure that the original request intends this result, I suspect that this thread is going to get some of the "classic stories of self-publishing success" up in lights.

They're mostly hogwash. That's not to say that there are no self-publishing success stories—just that most of the examples aren't valid. I've done a five-minute debunking (http://scrivenerserror.blogspot.com/2004/08/autobibliophilia.html) of some of those "success stories" on my blawg. The flaws range from "it wasn't actually self-publishing" (e.g., John Grisham) to "it was self-publishing because it would have been illegal for a regular publisher to print it" (Virginia Woolf) to… well, go read the entry.

Greenwolf103
03-18-2005, 12:26 AM
Yes but Jaws there just MAY be some VALID success stories posted on this thread that we could all stand to benefit from. I know of a couple nonfiction authors who found success self-publishing their books. I know a question like this is BOUND to invite answers such as what you've predicted but there's always that good post that'll stand out.

DeePower
03-18-2005, 01:37 AM
He, or I should say his family, originally self published and marketed Eragon. Of course he then sold the rights to a major house Knopf.

Dee

Tish Davidson
03-18-2005, 02:03 AM
I suppose it depends on what you mean by "success." I know a woman who wrote and self-published a book on how to organize Christian women's conferences. She did not make much money on the book, but she considered it a success, because she was able to reach a very special niche market through reviews and advertisements in Christain publications. This is a case where self-publishing was probably the best way to go, since her target market was so specific.

I also know a woman who wrote a story for a non-fiction anthology about the Filipino immigrant experience in America that was self-published by a group of Filipino authors. The anthology was picked up for use in schools in the Phillipines and is now in its second printing. In this case, I think the profits went to an organization to help Filipino immigrants, and I don't know how successful, in a monetary sense, the book was.

Most people who are successful in self-publishing have a way to market their books. For example, they are primarily speakers who give workshops and market their book as an adjunct to the workshop.

An earlier poster cited Eragorn as an example. I believe the family was already in the publishing business, so although it was initially self-published, it was not typical of most self-publishing situations.

Jaws
03-18-2005, 07:26 AM
He, or I should say his family, originally self published and marketed Eragon. Of course he then sold the rights to a major house Knopf.
Umm, no. His parents actually had a publishing company that published works by other than family members before they published his book; so he's not a self-publishing success story at all. A success story, yes; but not of self-publishing.
This is parallel to the John Grisham story. His first book was published by a small commercial press. Using his author discount, he bought a fair number of copies (I've heard the number 500 a lot), which he then proceeded to sell out of the trunk of his car at swap meets. By no stretch of the imagination was this "self-publishing," but a lot of the self-publishing boosters continue to cite it as an example (even after Grisham Himself denied it).
I'm sure that there are self-publishing success stories. It's just that the vast majority of such assertions turn out to be invalid. I'm suggesting only that we all be very careful to check facts before proclaiming a particular instance as one.

JennaGlatzer
03-18-2005, 07:50 AM
Peter Bowerman: The Well-Fed Writer (and the follow-up book).

I promise it's self-published.

He did quite well with it, securing national distribution and solid reviews. Then he tried to convince me to self-publish. And I tried to convince him to get his butt over here and moderate the self-publishing board. Neither of us convinced the other. ;)

underthecity
03-18-2005, 05:23 PM
Good luck trying to convince PB to even visit this board. He rarely--if ever--posts on his own yahoo WFW group. In fact, the only time I've seen his posts over on that board was through another member.

But, oh yes, he is a major success at self-pubbing. And the main reason, as he told me himself, is that he's a control freak (his own words) and felt it would be more profitable for him to do the whole thing himself.

As a result, he has two very nicely done books with reviews and great distribution, and has opened the field of freelance copywriting to a much wider audience. He also gives a lot of talks across the country, so that of course helps too.

utc

Greenwolf103
03-18-2005, 07:53 PM
I would suspect that Peter has a little too much on his plate to mod a board or post in an online group that often....

JennaGlatzer
03-18-2005, 07:58 PM
Please. Like I don't? No excuses! You've inspired me. I'm going to hunt the guy down and make him come over here. ;)

General comment on conventional self-publishing: If you know what you're doing, you CAN make good money with it. The first part of that sentence shouldn't be taken lightly, though. There's a LOT that goes into self-pubbing, and it's not a short-term project.

Peter Bowerman
03-18-2005, 08:41 PM
You rang? Yes, this is Peter Bowerman, answering Jenna's call. I mean, with a challenge laid down like that, how could I refuse? Either that, or I'm the victim of some pretty elementary child psychology... ("oh, HE'LL never come here..."..."Oh, YEAH?").

And utc (someone I know apparently, as I told you something personallly...), you're right, I need to visit my own board. Don't do it much. Bad bad writer...

So, was there a question or did you just want to see me show?

PB

JennaGlatzer
03-18-2005, 08:45 PM
:Thumbs: I am such a child.

Yeah, mostly it was just to see if I could taunt you into showing up. BUT there's also a serious question on the table. We want to know about your self-publishing success! (And when's your book on the subject coming out, by the way?)

Peter Bowerman
03-18-2005, 09:19 PM
That's a miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiighty broad subject. Remember, I'm writing a book about it! As such, I can't discuss my SP experience in a few paragraphs... But if there are specific questions...

PB

JennaGlatzer
03-18-2005, 09:35 PM
Okay, I'll go a little narrower. You and I already talked about this, but I think it would interest the rest of the board...

In short, I know lots and lots of people who've self-pubbed and been disappointed with the results, and maybe 2 or 3 who've succeeded. So the question becomes, what sets those people apart? I'm sure that's what your book will set out to answer.

But until then, how about a biggie:

How did you secure national bookstore distribution?

underthecity
03-18-2005, 09:35 PM
Well, Peter Bowerman! All right, I eat my previous words. See, with your hectic schedule and your copywriting business, I always figured you were too busy to stop by the message boards. This is a surprise, sorry for doubting you, and I hope I did not offend you. Just thought you were busy busy busy .:Hail:

I met you at a talk you gave in Cincinnati last year regarding your BFS book. And I had also corresponded with you in the past once or twice (but I'm not so narcissistic to believe you'd would remember me after the thousands of people you correspond with and meet regularly). After the talk I asked you why you self-published and how that was working for you. Hope you didn't mind my quoting you.

Welcome to AW, and I hope to see you share some of your wisdom.

utc

Peter Bowerman
03-18-2005, 11:10 PM
utc, no of course you didn't offend me. In fact, it was a good wake-up call for me. I REGULARLY engage with my readers via email (so much so that I am at risk of having my day eaten up, death-by-1000-cuts kind of thing...), but I don't visit chat rooms enough.

Anyway, SP... I'm guessing that a healthy % of the folks who SP'd unhappily probably did POD, which has its place, but NOT for the SP'er who wants to actually be successful at it. And THAT'S a whole other discussion for a whole other day. Suffice it to say I'm NOT a big POD fan, mainly b'c I think authros get sold a bill of goods about the upside potential. Others who weren't successful probably printed too many and/or promoted too little. SP'ing is a haul. A lot of work, but IMHO, well worth it.

As for how I got nat'l distribution? It's funny how that seems to be the BIG UNATTAINABLE in most people's minds and it was actually pretty easy for me. I didn't have a distributor, btw, despite the fact that the conventional wisdom is that you need one to be successful.

When I made application to Ingram (the big trade wholesaler for the bookstores), I included as part of my "Marketing Strategy" portion of the app, a one-page, single-spaced list of all the entities (mostly web-based) I'd already contacted who'd promised a review. Ingram was VERY impressed and told me that based on that, they were offering me what they called a Full Publisher Contract - treating me like a bigger publisher, not the one-booker I was. Lesson: They'll work with those publishers who demonstrate that they're serious about marketing their book.

Listing with Ingram just meant that anyone could go into any bookstore anywhere and order the book, but I didn't approach the bookstores right away. I went about building the demand through my (ongoing and mostly web-based) promo efforts and then I started getting "Requests For Title Information" from B&N and Borders, little faxes saying, in essence, "we're getting lost of request for this book, but we dont' carry it. Tell us about it." After I got a number of those, I THEN made formal application to the bookstores chains and they accepted and started stocking my book (ordering directly from Ingram, of course...).

Anyway, that's today's lesson, class... Have your homework on my desk by 9 am tomorrow and Billy, stop pulling Rachel's pigtails...

PB

Melina
03-19-2005, 07:57 PM
Wow! Welcome to AW, Mr. Bowerman! Thanks for stopping in, and I hope we can look forward to seeing you here regularly! I'm a big fan!

Melina

Aimee
03-20-2005, 08:45 AM
Hi! I agree with Tish; it depends on the definition of success. I self-published my memoir a couple of years ago. It's been really fascinating, learning all the steps to create your own book. I've worked hard on obtaining reviews, and have been pretty successful there. As far as industry standards I've sold very few (around 2000), but for a newbie like me it's been thrilling! The best part if googling yourself and finding a teen's online diary or blog listing you as their fave author, or coming home to an e-mail from a kid who writes that your book has changed their life. That's the best success!

Peter, thank you for your advice! I have Baker and Taylor, but I didn't even consider Ingram because I thought their policy was hard and fast. I may be getting an agent (fingers crossed!), but if I don't I will definitely give Ingram a try!

By the way, this seems like a really neat site!

JennaGlatzer
03-20-2005, 09:07 PM
Welcome, Aimee! And 2000 sales is nothing to sneeze at for a self-pubbed book.

I echo your sentiments about seeing your book mentioned in a blog/getting "fan" e-mail. That's the coolest form of success.

CACTUSWENDY
03-21-2005, 03:29 AM
:snoopy: ...Welcome Peter Bowerman...and I look forward to more of your insights. :snoopy:

Greenwolf103
03-21-2005, 06:51 PM
Welcome to the Water Cooler, Peter. :D

Peter Bowerman
03-21-2005, 07:55 PM
Nice folks here at the WC... ;) I'll try to come more often, but feel free to shoot me an email (as Jenna did the other day) to get my butt over here (peter@wellfedwriter.com).

One comment. Aimee, you say you hadn't considered Ingram b/c you thought "their policy was hard and fast." What policy? I hope you didn't think Ingram doesn't take on SP books... SO not true. They'll take on any books that will move, but keep in mind, as of June 2001, Ingram doesn't deal directly with les than 10-book publishers. Was THAT the policy you were referring to? In that case, go through their small publisher arm, Biblio. Or, if you decide to go with BookMasters to print your books and/or fulfill them (which I've done for both), BookMasters has a deal to get you in the side door of Ingram. Details by calling BookMasters or visiting their site.

You really NEED to be on Ingram if you want to move some numbers. I'd love to think I could get to a point where I could bypass the bookstores completely and have SUCH a comprehensive marketing plan going funneling people to my web site and moving serious numbers just by web (where, needless to say, you have the highest profit margins...), but that's probably not realistic any time soon.
PB

Ella
03-21-2005, 08:39 PM
True story: an author who got fed up with her publisher, with a number of books already out, and self-published her last one, and is doing just as well with it.

CaoPaux
03-21-2005, 09:09 PM
True story: an author who got fed up with her publisher, with a number of books already out, and self-published her last one, and is doing just as well with it.No surprise, since she already has a reader base. I think the underlying question here is how can a first-timer be successful.

Ella
03-21-2005, 09:20 PM
A lot of new authors are shocked when they realize what is needed from them in terms of marketing and selling themselves. When self-publishing, all of the responsibility rests on the author. Those who will succeed will either themselves have good marketing experience, or have help from someone who does. There's no need for huge costly events to get the word out - just constant and consistent.
There are author marketing books and articles out there, along with general sales literature. It's another whole world unto itself, but if a first time author wants to be 'successful', and that means at least paying for all of the books printed ;), then a lot of grunt work needs to be done.

Peter Bowerman
03-21-2005, 09:44 PM
Ella writes: "A lot of new authors are shocked when they realize what is needed from them in terms of marketing and selling themselves. When self-publishing, all of the responsibility rests on the author."

In today's publishing world, it's JUST as true to say: "A lot of new authors are shocked when they realize what is needed from them in terms of marketing and selling themselves, EVEN when they go with a conventional publisher." Do not think for a moment that if you find a publisaher that they're going to handle most of the publicity efforts. They expect the author to be VERY involved with the marketing and promotion of his or her own book. That being the case... Incidentally, this is one of the key rationales for SP, IMHO...

But, a first-timer CAN be successul, by, as Ella says, by being "consistent and constant" withone's marketing efforts. It's not easy, but it defintiely can be done and the rewards - for those who hit it hard, AND realize the process is a marathon, not a sprint - are generally far greater than one can expect from going with a conventional publisher.

PB

mommie4a
03-21-2005, 11:11 PM
Browsing in a bookstore today, Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul caught my eye and I saw that Dan Poynter had piece in it. It had a great list of who's self-published and where that experience took those authors. I get such a lift out of seeing lists like that - keeps me grounded as to the range of what we can do for ourselves.

Jaws
03-22-2005, 12:13 AM
You really NEED to be on Ingram if you want to move some numbers. I'd love to think I could get to a point where I could bypass the bookstores completely and have SUCH a comprehensive marketing plan going funneling people to my web site and moving serious numbers just by web (where, needless to say, you have the highest profit margins...), but that's probably not realistic any time soon.
I think what Mr Bowerman really means is that "You really need to be with an experienced distributor with nationwide capability if you want to move some numbers." Ingram is not the only alternative here, particularly for books that are slightly out of the mainstream. Without trying to compare the two other than as I state in this sentence, Baker & Taylor is an alternative to Ingram, particularly for books that are primarily educational/library oriented (for which it is probably a better choice than Ingram).
There are several cooperatives that serve various specialized markets—which are usually the best kind for self-published books anyway—too; there are a couple of distributors who serve athletic and sporting-goods stores that would be good for, say, a book on training methods for orienteering. The less said about the mess that constitutes university bookstore distribution, the better. The point is that these alternate distributors often offer better terms to small publishers than does Ingram, and can reach markets that Ingram can't… if those are appropriate markets for the book, anyway.

maestrowork
03-22-2005, 12:22 AM
In today's publishing world, it's JUST as true to say: "A lot of new authors are shocked when they realize what is needed from them in terms of marketing and selling themselves, EVEN when they go with a conventional publisher." Do not think for a moment that if you find a publisaher that they're going to handle most of the publicity efforts.

PB

It's true. I think a lot of writers (including those who have "made" it) feel that they only want to write. Leave the business stuff to the publisher. They only need to show up for the signings, which they hate as well.

maestrowork
03-22-2005, 12:27 AM
But Ingram and Baker&Taylor are not distributors. They're NOT going to move your books unless you participate in a distribution program (I think Ingram just started doing that).

I think a lot of SP authors think all they have to do is get into Ingram or Baker & Taylor. That's far from the truth. You need some what to get your books in stores, and those two wholesalers are not going to do that. I think what Mr. Bowerman is saying is that you can't just depend on your promotional effort and traffic to your own website to move books. You need to get on a distribution system, and Ingram (their program) is an option.

Peter Bowerman
03-22-2005, 01:49 AM
Thanks to all for the great posts here. Just a few added thoughts. Regarding Jaw's comments on distribution, Baker & Taylor and Ingram. I don't see B&T as an alternative to Ingram; I see both of them as VERY important to the whole picture. B&T IS the library wholesales; Ingram is the "trade" (bookstore) wholesaler. Unless your book IS quite academic, I think you need both and there's no reason not to be listed in both databases.

And as someone who's been a reasonably successful SP'er without a distributor, I don't agree that you need a distributor to move significant numbers. For starters, I have heard MANY horror stories about distributors over the years (going belly-up, stranding authors who now can't get hands on inventory, aren't getting paid, just grossly ineffficient or crooked, forcing authors to fight for their money AND an honest reckoning of sales, etc.) so caveat emptor on this one, BIG time. And yes, there are a number of very reputable folks but even then, it's hard to get distribution for a one or two-book author. But the key is NOT to believe that you can't be successful without one, becasue you absolutely can.

And correct, the big wholesalers (Ingram and B&T) are not going to get you into bookstores. Never meant to imply that they would. They are strictly, as they say, "pick 'n pack." But they provide the framework for anyone to walk into ANY bookstore or library and order the book - and that's key.

And yes, mommie4, there IS a TON of stuff that we can do for ourselves and SO much more now with the Internet.

PB

maestrowork
03-22-2005, 02:10 AM
And as someone who's been a reasonably successful SP'er without a distributor, I don't agree that you need a distributor to move significant numbers.

Any specifics you can help shed some light on this? We all heard about the "sell books out of your car's trunk" stories... but what is a good way for an independent, SP author to push his/her books?

mommie4a
03-22-2005, 02:33 AM
Maestro - there are a few books out there that I'm sure you can find either through a library, at half-price books stores (which is where I've bought more than half the writing books I own) or websites that offer ideas on promotion and marketing. There's a woman named Judy Cullin or Cullins. I don't know much about her, but I've seen her pieces all over the web and in some print magazines also. There are the Guerrilla marketing guides, but I seem to recall that at least a couple of very well received and thorough self-publishing/promoting books have come out in the last 1-2 years. I just can't remember the names! But if I come across them, I'll post.

Aimee
03-22-2005, 05:22 AM
I was pretty excited when I got Baker and Taylor (and through them, Barnes and Noble), but then I encountered a problem. I started to get back books with coffee stains on them. I'm guessing that teens were sitting down with their mocha latte, reading the book (fairly easy to do in one sitting), and then returning it to the shelf. Which was then returned to me. So I was paying to print the book, ship the book, and then the book was returned to me in unsellable condition.

I had to change the relationship with Baker and Taylor to "will not accept remainders", which then meant I totally lost Barnes and Noble. But at least B&T continues to fill individual orders, and the bright side is that I know that that book will definitely have a home! : )

Oh, looks like I haven't lost Barnes and Noble after all, cos my book is listed there again! Boy, am I confused. lol

Greenwolf103
03-22-2005, 05:33 AM
Judy Cullins is awesome. I highly recommend you guys check her stuff out (well, those of you who don't know of her yet): http://www.bookcoaching.com/Also, one book I've found helpful is Linda F. Radke's PROMOTE LIKE A PRO: Small Budget, Big Show http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1877749362/ref=ase_crescentbluesele/103-6831325-2868655?v=glance&s=books You can read my review of this book here: http://www.crescentblues.com/6_2issue/bk_radke_Pro.shtml

I've been using Amazon's Advantage Program for one of my poetry books. My gripe is that sometimes I'll get a book back that's obviously "damaged" but I sure didn't send it to them in that kind of condition! Grr.

Aimee
03-22-2005, 05:56 AM
Oh, I love Amazon Advantage! They're so wonderful. If there's a problem I've found them to be very helpful, and they pay promptly every month.The vast majority of my books were sold through them; I just wish I could set up an account with Amazon U.K, but they require a British publisher.

Peter Bowerman
03-22-2005, 06:49 AM
In response to my comment: And as someone who's been a reasonably successful SP'er without a distributor, I don't agree that you need a distributor to move significant numbers"...

Maestroworks writes: Any specifics you can help shed some light on this? We all heard about the "sell books out of your car's trunk" stories... but what is a good way for an independent, SP author to push his/her books?

I'm not talking about undignified, major shlepping-type promotional efforts. I'm talking about selling ones books in the same way (and same places) as any conventionally published book: in bookstores, on Amazon, on one's own web site (and yes, out of one's trunk, but that's just gravy, esp. when you're payng $2 a book to produce and you're selling them for $20; or $15 if you're in a generous mood...).

If you're doing enough promotion for your titles, getting enough review copies out there, writing enough articles for sites (and fyi, you recycle the same pieces with minor changes for different sites. Web-based promo outlets are FAR less particular about exclusives, first serial rights, etc., so writing a lot of articles is not as onerous as it sounds...), doing some radio, doing some book signings, getting creative in general, ALL those efforts do the ONE job you need to worry about: Building the Demand For Your Book. And when you do that, people walk into B&N and Borders and click on over to Amazon or your site and buy product.

And when that happens, you don't need a distributor and the extra 10% they take, leaving you with only 35% of cover price....

Incidentally, Aimee, I just checked on amazon.co.uk and by book is being carried there, and last I checked, I didn't have a Britush publisher. What's going on there, I'd wager, is that they have their "rules" and "policies" and they regularly break those rules for books that are selling well. Theyr'e not stupid - they want to make money.

PB

Aimee
03-22-2005, 07:07 AM
Peter, are these new copies on Amazon UK? The "ships in 24 hours" kind? If so, I'm placing a phone call to England tomorrow!! (or would that be today?) : )

It's confusing to me; I've had great rankings on Amazon Canada, with ships in 24, and now it says there's a three to five week wait. I don't understand how that system works.

By the way, a great self-publishing success story would be M.J. Rose; she self-published Lip Service, it was picked up eventually by Penguin, and now her books are regularly published. Way to go, MJ!

Peter Bowerman
03-24-2005, 06:35 AM
Hi Aimee,

Yup - they're selling my original books there. Just go to amazon.co.uk and type in The Well-Fed Writer.

And yes, MJ is THE great self-publishing FICTION story...

PB

lscoffman
04-16-2005, 06:16 AM
Hello, Everyone,
I just joined this group today and can't seem to get away from my computer! There is so much helpful info. here. I self-published my first novel and two children's picture books last year. I bought a block of ISBN's but the novel is distributed through Booksurge. I spent the better part of a year researching self-publishing, formatting, cover design, etc. It's been exhausting! I do not like POD...it has limited my access to bookstores...only small independents will even talk to me and I offer my own refund policy for any books they cannot sell. On POD sales, my royalties are not good.
My two children's books, however, have sold much better. I print these on my home system, glossy cover, stapled and sell them for $5.95 each. It costs me about one dollar to print them including ink. So my profit margin is much greater. Since I have been a Child Daycare Owner/Director for almost 30 years, I have many contacts to get my children's books out there. UAW/Ford/Visteon had purchased 50 copies of each book just to give to their centers.
I love writing novels....I'm working on my second one based on a true story. But, I feel successful because I have my books in print, have gotten great reviews from all those I know who've read them and I Love Writing them. I intend to try to get a non-fiction book that I'm also working on, picked up by a traditional publisher. The expense and time involved being self-published is tremendous. But, I do finally feel like a real author.

Thanks to all of you for your time and sharing,
Linda
www.lscoffman.com

Starwryder
04-24-2005, 10:57 PM
Is it too indulgent to tell you about the book titiled "From the Mind of Bill Satellite"? If it is too indulgent, then forgive me. If it is not too indulgent, then allow me to tell you about my success.
I started out writing stories to give to my children as I grow old. I started with one and then it added up to almost 100 +. After a little coaxing and a bit of flattery, I published my book of short stories. I felt as if the title should be containing a lot of my persona and then I came up with Bill.
The book was published POD through Trafford Publishing. It is on the market and, well, it is not doing as well as I would have expected or desired. My main thought though is that I did accomplish something that no one else in my family ever did accomplish. That is success, especially when you are the black sheep of the family.
Again, if I am not out of line, you can check out this work at Amazon.com or at barnesandnoble.com. Just be kind and considerate when and if you do check it out. OH by the way, did I tell you that There are other volumes to follow?
Starwryder

lscoffman
04-25-2005, 03:58 PM
Success can be measured in many ways. When I set out to fulfill a life-long dream of being a published author, my goal was not to be rich and famous. I wanted to share my stories with the world. I considered myself successful as soon as my book was published, and by my own company, no less. Now I can relax and continue to illustrate because I love it! I think acheiving success in any arena depends on what your initial goal is. Congratulations!

mreddin
05-19-2005, 02:56 AM
I get the impression that the real key to successful self publishing is the recognition that your running a real publishing company, in addition to handling the creative work.

You will have a legal corporation that owns a block of ISBN's and its own imprint name and logo.

Your book will go through all the same steps that any major publisher would take with their titles.

1) Professional developmental and copyediting by a freelancer editor
preferably with actual published titles under his or her belt.
(I am presuming the developmental editor will help you refine the
quality of your work and its marketability).

2) Professional cover design and typesetting, again by people who have
real publishing experience.

3) All the proper codes registered and located in the right places.

4) Professionally written synopsis for the back cover.

5) Offset printing

6) A real marketing business plan (done in advance, designating your
target markets and how you can reach them.)

The big problem with these steps is that its expensive! A good freelance editor alone is going to cost over $1,000 for general copyediting. However, the old tired but true cliche is you get what you pay for. Professional design and editing will run your plant costs up towards $5,000 by the time the book is ready for print, but hopefully your freelance team will have created a smart, high quality title that will be virtually indistinguishable from any title from a major imprint. I bought a couple spreadsheet templates from http://www.gropenassoc.com/ who provides financial consulting for small publishers. The bottom line here is that as a "traditional self publisher" you will need to sell more copies than the average POD author. You will be spending more money on plant costs and you will need to take the risk on inventory. Now you could order 500 books offset (I think 750 is about the point where economies of scale favor going offset for the lower per unit cost). http://www.authorslawyer.com/l-print0.shtml for a great javascript offset book pricer (based on a survey from last year).

As an example 1,000 offset books, 240 pages on 50 pound stock, 4 color laminated cover costs around $3.22 per book or $3,220 for the lot - not including shipping. This unit pricing is probably 50% lower than the average base price for most POD companies base unit pricing. Still though, now you have to hold on to these books or find someone to handle fulfillment.

Now we can get into marketing costs which can run into the thousands (if not tens of thousands). Sadly, most writers simply lack the financial muscle to pull this off I fear. I certainly could not at this point in my life. There may be financial shortcuts available, just make sure you do not sacrifice quality because that will hurt your distribution potential. I would rather save my money and wait than jump into the arms of a POD outfit if I cannot find a "traditional publisher" or agent.

Thanks to Peter for sharing your experiences, it's appreciated and somewhat encouraging to know it "can be done" without the hype and pretense.

Anyways, this is my unprofessional opinion shared for your amusement.

Mike

ResearchGuy
05-21-2005, 07:01 AM
I get the impression that the real key to successful self publishing is the recognition that your running a real publishing company, in addition to handling the creative work....
True, but can be done on a smaller scale than you describe, and at lower cost (per book costs can be significantly less). That is especially the case for those with a local or regional market in mind, and book(s) to suit, or whose books are a supplement to seminars or speeches. But indeed, self publishing is a business, and it only for those who can both write and run a business. Some self-published books are widely distributed and quite successful. Consider, for example, those by Fern Reiss, author of the "Publishing Game" series (http://www.publishinggame.com/). One fellow I know in this area, Alton Pryor (http://www.stagecoachpublishing.com/), has self-published eleven books so far, mostly local history titles focusing on one or another state. (One of his books is a short, no-nonsense book on self-publishing.) A Sacramento-area author of historical fiction, Naida West, successfully self-publishes her books (http://www.bridgehousebooks.com/index.htm). And so on.

There are many resources here: http://www.norcalpa.org/benefits/links.shtml (posted by an excellent organization for any one in Northern California with an eye on small presses/self-publishing).

--Ken

ResearchGuy
05-21-2005, 07:25 AM
... I'm guessing that a healthy % of the folks who SP'd unhappily probably did POD...
Purists, like the folks I hang around with in Northern California Publishers & Authors (www.norcalpa.org (http://www.norcalpa.org/)) consider a book self-published only if the author owns the ISBN (whether via POD or not). As far as they are concerned (with countless years of experience among them and an awards process that required a distinction to be drawn), who owns the ISBN is the publisher.

In any event, the per-copy cost of POD is so much higher than the per-copy cost of even a fairly short-run book (a few hundred copies, perhaps a thousand) that is printed by standard means as to make POD very problematic. That is aside from the other drawbacks of POD, although for some purposes POD can be an entirely reasonable choice. The trick is to know the options and make the choice on the basis of a meaningful comparison of costs and benefits. Of course, it need not be all-or-nothing. One can start with POD via one of the better choices (Lulu or Booklocker, say), and then do a new self-published edition after gauging the market and dealing with problems (needed edits, layout fixes, and so on).

--Ken

logos1234567
08-14-2005, 12:40 AM
I am not sure what people define as a success but my first self published book has sold 10,000 copies to date, and my second around 8,000..and they still sell. Both of these I did with regular printing. For my third book I have just gone p.o.d. to keep the costs down as I do not have a lot of capital (or a spare bedroom any more) so it will be interesting to see what differance this makes in terms of sales. So far I have sold around 400 copies since it came out earlier this year and am already healthily in profit unlike the other occasions where it took me around one/two years to be in profit...ok not J K Rowling but I'm happy with this.

ResearchGuy
08-14-2005, 02:10 AM
I am not sure what people define as a success but my first self published book has sold 10,000 copies to date, and my second around 8,000..and they still sell. ...ok not J K Rowling but I'm happy with this.
And well you might be! Sounds like success to me. Maybe you can (if you choose to) move on to commercial publishing for future book(s). I would say you could make a fine case to an agent or a publisher that you have the right stuff.

--Ken

spacejock2
09-29-2005, 08:07 AM
I self-published three novels in the Hal Spacejock series from 2001 to 2004. I did it properly - pro cover artist, editorial input, generous bookstore discounts, the works. It was a real struggle, but I got my books into a handful of specialist SF stores across Australia and had some success at SF conventions.

In mid-2004 a publisher's sales rep spotted the books in a local store. She took a copy back to head office, who then contacted me to ask whether I'd be interested in working with their editor. I said yes, and after seven months of hard work I handed in a rewritten, revised and much improved manuscript for book one .. and they handed me a three-book contract.

The first Hal Spacejock novel came out September 1st 2005, and reached #3 on the Dymocks SF/Fantasy list.

Book two is due March 2006, and book three September 2006.

I'd say that was a self-publishing success, but I'd also say that in 99% of cases you're better off pounding on doors, trying to get an agent or publisher. (I self-published to attract a publisher, not to sell books from my garage.)

In my case, I chose self-publishing because of the tiny niche market for my chosen genre - SF/Humour. 'Tiny niche' is what two different publishers told me it was, and if I hadn't bowed to their superior knowledge of the prevailing market conditions I might have continued banging on doors myself. There was a big element of I'll show you guys it's not a tiny niche in my decision.

Cheers
Simon

maggie2
12-18-2005, 04:46 AM
Guess I may as well add my two cents worth here. I self-published my first cookbook in 1992 and it sold over 15,000 copies in about 2 years. I live in Canada where our population is about 1/10th of the USA so those figures are fairly decent. My second cookbook sold over 10,000 copies. Both became Canadian best-sellers. I also self-published a little book of wit and wisdom that sold okay but not as well as the cookbooks.

Both my cookbooks were picked up by a French publisher and had distribution in Quebec, Canada; France; Belguim; and parts of Africa that were French at one time. They did quite well.

I then wrote a Bed and Breakfast Guide for Alberta that was published by a regular publisher. It sold okay but not as well as my self-published books. Recently I wrote a third cookbook and it's doing okay.

Everything that Peter has said about self-publishing is true. The biggest thing is that you have to treat your book like a business. You have to market it and promote it and do interviews and book signings and on and on. However, don't kid yourself; if and when you get published by a regular publisher you still have to do all those things if you want your book to sell. Publishers do not spend money to promote your book if you are unknown. They spend their promotional bucks on well-established authors. So whether you self-publish or not you will still have to do this work if you want your book to be a success.

I have just finished my next book and it is on a totally different topic. I have decided to do POD for this book. There is no binding contract and I'm only paying $99.00 US because I'm doing all the work myself, basically. So if I'm not happy with them I will go elsewhere and have it self-published. I don't want the hassle of storing large quantities of books and also I want to be able to sell in the USA without having to ship from here in Canada. Those were my two main reasons for deciding to go with a POD company. So far they have been good to work with. They list with Baker & Taylor, Amazon, and Whitaker in the UK. They don't list with Ingram so I will be working on that. They do list with Bowker's and Books in Print and Global Books in Print, however. Anyway, I'll keep you posted on how the whole thing works out for me.

The thing is that I have an extensive marketing plan in place for the book and I will work that plan and do everything humanly possible to get the book out there. As I said before, if you have a decent book then it's all in the marketing and promotion.

I'm also creating a children's book but I plan to use my own equipment at home to do it. It will really be a self-published book, including the printing. I'll also keep you posted on how that goes.

This is an interesting thread for me and I appreciate all the great comments on it.

mreddin
12-23-2005, 11:09 PM
Guess I may as well add my two cents worth here. I self-published my first cookbook in 1992 and it sold over 15,000 copies in about 2 years. I live in Canada where our population is about 1/10th of the USA so those figures are fairly decent. My second cookbook sold over 10,000 copies. Both became Canadian best-sellers. I also self-published a little book of wit and wisdom that sold okay but not as well as the cookbooks.



This is terrific, congratulations Maggie!

Could you share with us some of things you believe you did right and some of the things you would do differently in your next book?

Mike

maggie2
12-24-2005, 12:01 AM
Hi Mike,

Sure I'll share some of the things I did wrong and right with my self-published books. First of all, right from the start I saw this process as a business. While I wanted badly to have my books in print I also realized that if I was getting 10,000 books printed that I needed to have a plan to sell them so I studied and learned and discovered that there were ways to do that.

One of the most helpful books I discovered was John Kremer's "1001 Ways to Market Your Book". It was and is an awesom tool for helping authors not only understand the importance of marketing but also giving tips on what and how to do the marketing. Also, when I decided to self-publish I did tons of research in bookstores and found a company here in Canada that specializes in printing and selling cookbooks. They were expensive compared to other companies I might have worked with but they know their business and they know how to market cookbooks. They were awesome to work with.

I spent time finding ways to get free publicity too. I did newspaper, radio and television interviews wherever I went if I could. It took tons of work to book these interviews and plan for how to present a cooking segment on a television show. I did media events in many provinces, not just Alberta, where I live.

I did tons of book signings too. And I had four or five groups use the book as a fund-raiser. How that worked is that they got 40% of the retail price of the book instead of a store getting it. Also, the book was sold in kitchen shops, gift shops, supermarkets and other outlets. When I did a book signing I would take cookies from my first book and soup from my second with me for prospective customers to sample. One time I was doing a signing in a large department store and was on the 2nd level of the store right by the up escalator. People would come up the escalator and want to know where the aroma was coming from...and of course it was from my soup! That worked well.

What I did wrong was just not having enough time to do more than I did. Also, if I were doing another cookbook now I would actually do one that focused on light (low-fat) cooking.

Also in the 'did wrong' department was not knowing as much about marketing as I could have. I am still learning in this area and I'm sure I will continue to learn for a long time. Now of course, with the internet, there's another whole new outlet for books and I'm certainly working on that.
I think the most important thing is that I had fun with the books and enjoyed doing the promotion and marketing. I think it is absolutely imperative that if a person is going to self-publish then they need to have a good plan in place to sell their books.

That's one of the advantages of POD...you don't have to buy a ton of books. I am just now in the process of doing my first POD book so I'm anxious to see how that goes. Needless to say, I have a marketing plan in place and I continue to refine and add to it as time goes on and I discover new and interesting ways to market this new book.

If you have any other questions I'd be glad to answer them for you.

writersblock
01-08-2006, 01:51 AM
Since this is all about self-pubbing, and since Peter Bowerman was mentioned in previous posts, I just wanted to say that Peter is not only a successful self-published author and an inspiration to us all, but also a great mentor and friend. This doesn't have to do anything with a previous post, but I just wanted to jump in and make this point. :hooray:

Mike Coombes
01-08-2006, 04:06 AM
Thanks for sharing, Maggie, it was fascinating. I think the biggest thing anyone can learn here is to plan your marketing in advance. It seems to be that most writers self publish, then worry about how to sell.

maggie2
01-08-2006, 07:15 AM
You're welcome, Mike. Glad I could share a bit of how I did my marketing.

writersblock
01-08-2006, 06:44 PM
When I self-published my curiously-titled novel “Teeth in a Pickle Jar” last year, everyone and his brother warned me that self-pubbed romantic fiction will not sell. I decided to go out on a limb anyway. I was confident that I had a well-written, well-produced novel. I worked (and still work) very hard promoting this puppy any chance I get (Peter Bowerman, by the way, was very helpful to me). I sent review copies to as many online review sites for romance fiction / chick lit as I could find. I got overwhelmingly good (and sometimes even great) reviews. I used these reviews to pave the way for my marketing. Since the book has a specific theme (an age-gap relationship between an older woman and a younger man who meet on the Internet, that is loosely based on my own story) I contacted many web-based sites, magazines and newsletters focusing on romance and dating and offered to write a first-person story (I’ve been a journalist for many years) about the novel and the real-life story that inspired it. Several high-traffic sites were interested, tying in the story to my website, www.teethinapicklejar.com, or the book’s Amazon listing. I also created a “media kit” containing a press release, my bio, and a brief cover letter and contacted all my hometown papers (dailes, weekly, community-based), as well as TV and radio stations. I got extensive coverage in all. Two local monthly lifestyle magazines are doing a feature on me and the book in the coming months. I used all these articles to compose an e-mail to various groups and organizations offering to give talks. I have given presentations at libraries, community groups and women’s organizations. Each time I sold between eight and thirty books. I am scheduled to give more talks in the coming weeks.
In addition, I used all my reviews to finagle interviews and feature stories in out-of-state media. I got very nice write-ups in daily newspapers and other publications, and was interviewed on radio, both commercial and NPR, in several states. Does all this translate into book sales? Yes, it does.

So here’s my two cents’ worth of unsolicited advice:

There’s a difference between “bad” self-publishing (POD, vanity) and “good” one: professionally designed layout and cover; offset rather than digital printing. You have to have a book that doesn’t shout “self-pubbed.”
You have to be a shameless self-promoter and be willing to invest a lot of time and energy into marketing. Create a strategy best suited to your book’s subject matter and audience and then go at it. You have to be organized, disciplined, relentless, outgoing and creative.

Hope this is of help to y’all.

maggie2
01-09-2006, 01:57 AM
I'm so glad someone else is sharing their success story here. I know there are others out there too. Congratulations, writersblock! You go!!

underthecity
01-10-2006, 01:16 AM
This story isn't MY success story, rather it's that of an author I met at a talk I gave once.

This man was a Civil War buff and spent twenty years writing his history book that focused on Morgan's Raid in the Civil War. After he finished it, he shopped it around to publishers who did in fact express an interest in publishing it. However, the quoted royalty rate was 10% (he didn't mention an advance), which he felt was too low for the amount of work he put into it.

So, he self published. The result is The Longest Raid of the Civil War (http://www.longestraid.com/), a comprehensive, and professionally produced book that he made himself. He said it's been very profitable (after his costs) and I believe he said it has sold over 20,000 copies. I saw the book, and as far as a reader is concerned, it could have been put out by one of the best history publishers in the country.

It's been a lot of work for him to distribute it to be sure, but there are lots and lots of Civil War buffs in the country.

That's a self-publishing success story if I've ever heard of one.

allen

maestrowork
01-10-2006, 05:59 PM
If you have a niche market and a good book (such as the civil war book which is handsomely made), and if you are dedicated to work hard on it, you could make it a success and make tons of money doing that. I know some people don't believe in "self pub" (they lump it with vanity) but there is a difference. Distribution, however, remain a big issue. So you'll have to work extra hard and perhaps even make it you full-time job, but the reward might be substantial if you have the market for it.