Tips for Successful Self-Publishing

Posted on June 10, 2011


The world of self-publishing, like baby equipment and politician’s sexcapades, has become a lot more complicated in recent years.  In the case of self-publishing, this is a good thing.  Self-publishing used to be called “vanity press.” Pay a sum of money, have a bunch of books printed, sock them away somewhere and then give them to unsuspecting relatives for Christmas.  Voila, you are an author. 

Print-on-demand opened up a whole new way of self-publishing.  Print-on-demand is just that, the ability of a printing house to print only what is ordered.  No more need to have a supply of books in a warehouse.  The upside is that an author no longer needs to have a thousand books printed at the expense of his children’s college education, fill his garage with books and then schlep books around with him in the trunk of his car.

  A print-on-demand author can order books in advance and sell them directly.  Or he can sell them online via a personal website or on Amazon, etc. Or he can do a combination of the two. 

Here are some tips for writers considering self-publication

1. Look at self-publishing houses the same way you would look at a potential relationship.  Don’t fall for hype.  Look at the exact services the print-on-demand company will provide, not the “possibilities.”   Read the fine print. Know the difference between what they will give you and what they might give you.

 2. Be prepared to market the hell out of your book.  If you are self-published, unless you market the hell out of yourself, no one will ever find you.  The Big Secret: The same holds true for conventionally published books.  Unless you are famous or infamous, it’s going to be up to you to market your book.  Period.  

2. Know that almost all chain bookstores won’t carry your book (Read “Barnes & Noble”).  Most small bookstores won’t carry your book either.  The reason: Bookstores have relationships with publishing houses.  And, unlike a conventionally published book,  most print-on-demand can’t be returned to the publisher if it doesn’t sell.  Find a print-on-demand company that will allow books to be returned.  This is critical.  

3. If a store won’t carry your book, suggest they take it on consignment.  Many small bookstores will consider this.  It’s a lot more work for you (keeping track and schlepping books when they run out) but you can sell a lot of books that way. 

4. Consider placing your books in non-book stores.  Aside from novels, many books can be appropriate for specialty stores, places wherethe reader of your kind of book would shop.  

5. Consider non-store sources.  Again, depending on the type of book you have, consider volunteering to speak at conferences and organizations, book clubs, etc.  Contact local TV and radio shows.  They are always looking for interesting people to interview.  If you aren’t interesting, become interesting.  Get hypnosis or something.  The more engaging you are in the media,the more books you will sell. 

6. Submit to contests.  Each win adds to your credibility.  There are a lot of contests out there.

  7. Use Facebook, Twitter, any other social media outlets to market your book.  If you do so and you are successful, tell me how you did it.  Because I don’t know anything about that stuff. 

 (Renee is the author of several print-on-demand books.  She didn’t follow the rules for the first one.  She did for the next two. They won awards and sold thousands of copies.  None have made money, but she gets to act really important sometimes, which is almost as good.)

Posted in: writing