What is Self Publishing?

An Introduction to Producing Your Own Book Without Being Victimized

A publishing professional discusses publishing a book yourself, which is different from vanity publishing and which can be quite successful.

Self-publishing a book involves the same elements as regular trade book publishing with one major exception: you are paying for everything.

What self-publishing is and isn’t

Self-publishing means that you are responsible for writing the text, getting it edited and proofread, hiring a printer (not a publisher) to make copies of the book, figuring out how to sell the book, creating advertising and promotional materials, physically getting the book into the hands of buyers, collecting the money, etc. Aside from the actual writing, the author either learns how to do the other elements himself, or (preferably) subcontracts each one with professionals. (NOTE: there is no such thing as a “publisher” who offers to do all of these things for you for a price. This is where the scammers come in.)

What kinds of book become self-published?

By far, the majority of self-published books are nonfiction. Nonfiction books, even from an unknown author, stand a greater chance of becoming profitable than fiction. Although it is not impossible to find success self-publishing fiction, it is much harder if your name is unknown.

Self-publishing successes

While many self-published books experience far more limited sales, it is possible to become hugely successful. Consider these:

  • When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple by Sandra Haldeman Martz. This anthology of short stories and poems has sold well over a million copies for the author’s self-publishing company, Paper Mache Press.  Its success has led to many related titles, both for Paper Mache and other publishers. The book addressed a real need to change society’s view on women and aging and even led to the formation of a popular international group, The Red Hat Society.
  • Fix-It and Forget-It cookbooks by Phyllis Pellman Good have sold millions and millions of copies, creating a profit center for her self-publishing company, Good Books.
  • Travel Free launched Ben Dominitz’ successful Prima Publishing, which enjoyed higher profits than other houses year after year, becoming a top independent publisher. (Unfortunately, this press is no longer in existence, being bought out and then dissolved by another company.)

From self-publishing to trade publishing

Although the majority of self-published books never go on to trade publication, it is possible to have your successful self-published book garner the interest of a major publisher, generating even more sales, stints on the bestseller lists, and lots of money for the author. Some examples:

  • What Color is Your Parachute, originally self-published by Richard Nelson Bolles over 30 years ago, is a perennial favorite that is annually updated. Acquired by Ten Speed Press, it appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for over 5 years, it has sold many millions of copies internationally, and it inspired many spin-off books and products about job hunting.
  • The One-Minute Manager, self-published by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, attracted the interest of William Morrow after the authors sold 20,000 copies on their own. It, too, went on to become a book publishing phenomenon.

Copyright 2007 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.

See Also:

Book Publishing Scams

What is Trade Publishing?

Trade Publish or Self-Publish?

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