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How One Writer Decided On Self-Publishing

Self-publishing was something I was considering as an author, but was not 100 percent sure, for the longest time, that I would actually pursue it.  When I initially started writing Planned UnParenthood – Creating a Life Without Procreating, I had ideas about taking the whole project to editors and publishers because the topic is controversial and stirs discussion.  The book is a lively discussion about choosing not to have children, with a few other related sub-topics thrown in to mix things up.

Early on, a colleague who had written a best-selling book that inspired a change in my life direction reached out to me after I wrote him about my book idea.  His response was so encouraging that we ended up speaking by phone for over an hour.  I benefitted tremendously from his insight and suggestions on how to set things up and get to work.  I also reached out to many in the freelance writing community.  I won’t forget the simplicity of a response from one of my favourite people in this business.  Her email reply to me just said, “I think you should self-publish.”

I spent the better part of the next two plus years on and off working very hard on the manuscript.  By the time I started submitting my queries to publishers and editors I think I was pretty much decided on the self-publishing option.  However, I did not let this mindset change my query approach as I sent more out.

Ultimately, I wanted to maintain as much control as possible over my content and how I would go about distributing it.  I spent many weeks researching the best possible options for self-publishing.  I took notes, sent out dozens upon dozens of emails and just kept at it.  This has in turn helped me to become much more disciplined in my work habits.

In reading up on many aspects of self-publishing, I have concluded for certain the following:

One person’s method will not work for everyone! 

By this, I mean to tell you that it is best to take as much learning as you can from the global community of writers on both sides.  Talk to and correspond with people who have gone the traditional route and the self-publishing route.  Read up on literature about self-publishing.  There are many books out there which have described methods of the process.  You can also borrow methods from those books to conduct research and see what might work best for you.

One of the things I have set out to do is bring a book to life without taking out a second mortgage on my home to cover the costs.  Putting out a book is a business decision, and I feel I have a strong enough book to put it out there on my own and not sink into debt while doing it.  By not going the traditional publishing route, I have also taken great strides to earn a larger royalty percentage.  One of the key steps I have taken for this is using print-on-demand publishing (I’ll call it POD publishing).  This I will recommend highly for anyone who is serious about getting their work out there.

With POD, you do not have to spend money to keep any amount of immediately available inventory.  But when the time comes for you to hit your local bookstores to see if they will sell copies for you, you can pay for printing from the POD publisher for the cost and shipping of a handful of copies just to move them and get word out.  When I take my book to local Independent retailers in early 2013, it will be just with likely two copies max.  By doing this, the mindset is that I’m giving the retailer a couple of books for their “Local Authors” section while working hard to get the attention of someone who might just be drawn to the topic!

Take time to review your options.  Look at all aspects of self-publishing and really do your homework before you decide if it is the path you wish to travel.  Personally, I am finding it rewarding and gratifying to be involved in the whole process of bringing work to bound print!

William (Dann) Alexander is a freelance writer based just outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada.  His book Planned UnParenthood Creating a Life Without Procreating is available online at Lulu.com.

What are you thoughts or experience on self-publishing?

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{ 7 comments… add one }
  • I like the idea of self-publishing because it’s a good way to gain the attention of literary agents and publishers. I’ve met authors who self-published first and then were contacted by literary agents. You still have to sell and market your books regardless if you self-publish or not.
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  • jorgekafkazar

    I’m not sure that Wordpress is suitable for selling product. I think Yahoo has some packages that include a ‘store,’ at a cost. I’ve found lulu to be very reasonable, but children’s books from any source are expensive because of the color pages. Outfits like Publish America should be avoided.

    I think the one author/one website arrangement is not a viable business model UNLESS you have a highly marketable book–e.g., How-To, other non-fiction, textbook with a captive market, topic with cost-effective advertising media, and so on. For general fiction, the best model may be coop publishing: one website, multiple authors, POD or PTO, high quality work only. If you have two books, you’re ahead of the curve, though. Synergy between titles can boost sales 30 or 40% compared to one title.

  • I’ve actually self-published two books but haven’t explored the POD route. My books are shorter children’s books, so I’m not sure how the costs compare.
    Personally I’ve had the hardest time getting a page set-up on my site to sell my books! I have a wordpress blog and have just had a lot of trouble finding an easy plug-in that allows me to sell print and e-copies of my books.
    Did you do any research in that area?
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    • I hear good things about http://cashiecommerce.com/ – and you might also check with your host – some offer eCommerce solutions. Also you might consider joining cbiclubhouse.com – it’s all about writing and selling kid’s books.

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