Here is another excerpt from my latest book Be An Author. This is the beginning of the chapter where we find out about the differences between traditional and self publishing, and how the contributing authors decided which route to take. There will be more from this chapter next week, and in the meantime you can check out previous extracts here.
“Most writers have totally unrealistic concepts of how publishing works.”
– Jim Harrison
“One of the big fear factors involved in writing a book is what happens next? You have probably heard that it is very hard to get published; that the Harry Potter books had been rejected many times before a publisher was prepared to take a risk on them. You may realise that the publishing world has changed dramatically with the rise of ePublishing. You may know that it is possible to self-publish your book, but wonder if this is really such a good idea. How would you know how to go about it, or what is involved?
It might help to start by thinking about the business of publishing – and it is a business. For mainstream publishers, the reality is that only a few of the books they print will make them money. Unfortunately for them it is very difficult to predict which ones those will be, so their risk on any one book is quite high. They can reduce this risk by taking books from authors with a proven sales record, or those who already have a degree of celebrity. Books from new authors represent the highest risk to a publisher.
In self-publishing all the risk to you falls onto that one first book, although if you find a way to keep going and produce several books you can spread that risk yourself. Many of the most successful self-publishers have a background in marketing, so if you do not have those skills already gaining them may be a priority. Another way to reduce the risk in self-publishing is to keep costs low – then fewer sales will be required to cover those costs and get your book into profit.
This is where my cautionary tale fits of over-spending on my book. Because of my lofty ambitions for Their Cancer – Your Journey I spent money on getting help with the skills I did not have in order to have a professional product to self-publish. This was not too much of a problem. What did turn out to be a problem was having too many copies printed because I believed I would be able to sell them in quantity through the many existing cancer charities and support groups. I just did not understand how these organisations worked, and that marketing route never took off. This left me with a large print run that I am still in the process of shifting, at a loss to me.
This is a risk you don’t have to take with the benefit of my hindsight! You can take the approach I would now use in the same position, using a print-on-demand company to print a few books at a time and testing every marketing route to see which ones work.”