Should I self-publish a book?

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Ask Wendy: Your Publishing Questions Answered

By Wendy Burt

Q: I’m thinking about self-publishing a book. What do I need to know?

A: If you have a completed book, first let me say congratulations. Many writers never get to the point of completing a lengthy manuscript. Pat yourself on the back!

When considering self-publishing, here are a few things to consider:

Beware of vanity publishers. There are a lot of vanity publishers out there looking to make a buck off of naïve but productive writers. Most (but not all) will tell you how great your book is (some without even reading it!), send you a letter saying your work has been “chosen,” and then charge you ghastly sums of money to provide you with copies. In most cases, you’d be better off just going to a local printer.

Choose a realistic print quantity. Most printers will give you a price break at a certain print run––say, 1,000. It may not sound like much, but take this test: Make a list now of 1,000 people you could give the book to. Tough, huh? You might be lucky to come up with 50. (And we’re talking about GIVING the book away, not selling it. That’s even MORE difficult!)

Decide if you expect to pitch your book to a larger publisher someday. Some publishers are turned off by the thought of books that have been self-published. Unless you can show a huge following and prove amazing sales numbers (not just “the friends I gave it to said they really liked it!”), the general consensus among agents/publishers is that if you had to self-publish the book, it may not have been good enough to get picked up by a publisher. (This feeling is magnified if you tell the publisher that no one picked it up when you submitted the book proposal, so you self-published it!) Very few authors have succeeded in self-publishing and then getting their book picked up by a big publisher. Those who are successful in self-publishing don’t necessarily want to find another publisher, because they are usually making more money per book by selling it themselves.

Know what to expect. If you expect to make money self-publishing, you’ll need a major platform. If you teach classes and can use the book as curriculum, or already have a Web site or speaking circuit where you can sell the books, go for it. Otherwise, just writing a book and expecting strangers to buy it will set you up for disappointment–and an attic full of books.

If you really want to see your book in print, a great, reputable place to start is www.booklocker.com. Click on “Publish & Sell” and read about your options for print-on-demand (POD) books. The site also offers great tips on marketing.

Articles, books, greeting cards, oh my! Wendy Burt is a successful full-time freelance writer and editor who has more than doubled her income since leaving her job as a newspaper editor just three years ago. With two women’s humor books for McGraw-Hill and more than 1,000 published pieces, Wendy’s typical day might including writing ad copy, greeting cards, health articles, personal profiles or her marketing column for Her Business magazine. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as Family Circle, The Writer, MSNBC.com, NewYorkTimes.com, Home Cooking Magazine and American Fitness. Wendy teaches “Breaking Into Freelance Writing” and still finds ample time to spend with her beautiful baby, Gracie. Visit www.BurtCreations.com to see books by Wendy and her award-winning dad. More info at www.WendyBurt-Thomas.com.

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