What You Need to Know about Self-Publishing: Know the Publishing Business

PTP150 In celebration of my latest book, A Path to Publishing: What I Learned by Publishing a Nonfiction Book, I will be posting a series on what you need to know about self-publishing. I chose to self-publish A Path to Publishing and discovered an enormous amount of material online, but some of it was dated. Over the coming weeks I will provide an updated guide to self-publishing today based on my latest experiences.

What Self-Publishing Involves

The most important word in self-publishing is “self,” not publishing. The publishing part is fun. The self part is not.

Of course self-published authors boast higher royalties, greater control, and many other benefits. These are all true to a certain extent, but consider what you’ll need to organize by yourself:

  • Researching the market and audience for your book.
  • Outlining, writing, and editing.
  • Researching a publisher and comparing the various packages.
  • Paying for and organizing the editing, design, printing, and distribution (which of course will vary).
  • Putting together a marketing plan.
  • Creating a publicity kit
  • Contacting bloggers, radio producers, newspaper editors, and other media outlets about your book’s release.
  • Contacting independent and chain book stores to set up book events. Many of them will not call you back because you are self-published.
  • Finding conferences where you can sell your book—that is, if you pay for the space.
  • Setting up book events and eating the cost if they flop.

Granted, many publishers today are quite light on the marketing end of things, especially for nonfiction books where a marketing platform is essential for new authors. That being said, at least having someone who is paid to help you send out press releases and to advise you on ideas can save you a lot of time and frustration. In other words, even the publisher who provides minimal help with marketing a book is still way better than doing everything yourself.

What You Need to Know about the Publishing Business

If all of this is new to you, then I’m guessing you’ve never commercially published a book. While self-publishing is easy to jump into from the standpoint of writing and printing a book, making it into a product that someone will actually deem worthy of $15 is quite another matter.

Here are a few things you need to know about publishing as a business:

  • Most books need significant editorial development.
  • It takes time to learn how to write for a specific audience.
  • A bad cover and sloppy interior design can be fatal for a book.
  • Distributing a book effectively will take a lot of e-mails and phone calls.
  • Marketing a book is a full time job.

If you want to self-publish and to sell more than 500-1000 books, your work is cut out for you. Thankfully it can be done. In the coming days we’ll discuss the importance of a marketing platform for self-publishing.

Looking for a bit more about publishing right now? Check out A Path to Publishing. It’s available for $10 as an ebook and for $15 as a paperback.

One thought on “What You Need to Know about Self-Publishing: Know the Publishing Business

  1. Ed,
    Your comments regarding the “self” in self-publishing are right on the mark. Might I add that one of the big attractions to self-publishing is its appeal to the entreprenuerial spirit. People want to be their own boss, and self-publishing provides that opportunity. Where self-publishing really excells in when an author’s book is to aimed at a targeted and selective audience.


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