The Whys of Self-Publishing

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This week New Shelves is thrilled to host Carl Johnson of Boyd Printing.  Carl has been experiencing and riding the changes in the publishing industry for over 30 years.  With R.R Bowker’s announcement that self-published titles have surged to over 700,000 titles a year while traditionally published titles have declined, we are going to spend this week looking at the world of self-publishing.

The Whys Of Self-Publishing by Carl Johnson

In the past decade or so the publishing world has witnessed numerous changes. In the past, an author had to make the necessary rounds of publishing houses and often, a lot of time would pass before the manuscript was approved by the publisher.

Today, the way a book gets published and the way in which a writer gets compensated has completely changed.

One of the major changes in the publishing industry is consolidation, due to the shrinking marketplace. Over past decade, this change of the large number of smaller or independent publishers being consumed by larger publishing houses has caused many publishing houses to avoid taking any kinds of risks in terms of financial gains.

Today, publishers are much more hesitant to publish something that does not guarantee a good ROI. Any publishing house worth its name will only entertain writers who have an established name or who can, in some other way, guarantee successful sales of the book.

This brings in the phenomena of self publishing; no longer does the writer have to spend days and months trying to get their manuscript approved, only to get a percentage of sales as a royalty. With self-publishing, they publish, promote, and sell their book all by themselves with the benefit of retaining all the profits in the process.

I want to give you a brief description of why you should consider self-publishing along with the benefits, advantages, and disadvantages of self-publishing.

The Advantages of Being Published

Let’s begin by considering the reasons why people like being published, which can be many besides the fact that everybody likes to have their share of fame, however short-lived it might be.

As an independent business person or practitioner in a field, the main motive behind getting published is that it establishes you as an author and expert in your field. There are, of course, many personal reasons for getting published as well. As an author, you take a step ahead of the crowd and your credibility is increased immeasurably.

Being published gives you tremendous marketing leverage; you can literally become a desired quantity in the marketplace. Those who publish and write on subjects relevant to your work will now wish to engage you for interviews, articles, and other opportunities that give you visibility you would not otherwise receive.

Business people who haven’t yet been published frequently underestimate the power and value of having a book and all it brings. The rewards are far greater than the commitment necessary to get published.

The Benefits of Self-Publishing

Self-publishing is the short-cut to attain all of the above.

With the consolidation of the book publishing industry, publishers are far more reluctant to award book contracts to an unknown who can’t show that their book will sell.

In fact, it is often virtually impossible to get a major publisher to take you on if you are not established as a writer or can show that you’ll generate book sales. You should be established as a writer and must have a following of readers for the publisher to be ready to take on your manuscript.

The internet has also adversely impacted the profit margin of the publishers, as more and more is being published on the internet. Also, people prefer reading news and all other information online, as this usually does not cost them.

When it comes to getting published there are mainly two kind of motives on which people function- personal and professional. Let’s consider the personal reasons first.

As a Hobby

People who have financial stability may want to make a name for themselves, as most writers are venerated and so, they may like to be known as a knowledgeable person. One advantage of this is that the writer is not really interested in generating sales as a source of income.

Writing a book as a hobby or about something that is your hobby may actually prove to be lucrative and may be a smart way of making money from a hobby. You may eventually find that something that was merely a hobby has turned into a career.

For Family
People also write about their family history or their personal story. Occasionally they want to share their life story or their success story with others. I knew a very well to do woman who wrote her story and spent a few thousand dollars to have her story printed as a hard bound book which she later distributed at a family reunion.

As an artist or a photographer you may like to showcase a collection of your works and, hence, publish them.

Let us now consider what drives people to publish at a professional level:
Money

Money, of course, is a big motivation. Most people who self publish do so with an aim to make what they expended and hopefully some profit.

Also, you are likely to establish a reader base and make profits in the future when you write and publish more books.

An indirect and effective way of making money from a book is to use the book to promote your company, organization, or professional practice. A senior partner in a large local law firm wrote a book on estates and trusts. He then gave the book away at seminars. The book, plus the aura of being a published expert, lent creditability to the seminar he conducted. All of this drove many clients to the firm and they prospered and grew significantly.

You can use your e-book version to establish yourself as a marketable author as well. If you sell a thousand copies of one book you establish a readership base for your next work. With a couple of published works under your belt and proven sales, you are more likely to be signed by a major publisher where you have an ability to develop greater sales.

 Having a book published is a tremendous marketing asset.

 Visitors to a website are greatly attracted by e-books.

 Books offer you immense marketing options.

 Free chapter giveaway is a teaser to gain readers.

 Joint sales venture options with other experts or products where your book becomes part of a package deal are also possible.

Passive Income

Most of the alternatives suggested earlier are, actually, ways of earning a passive income.

You can further enhance your source of income by enhancing certain features of the book. You could enable audio readings of the book and other resources for the reader. You could even create some kind of a course for the reader.

Prestige
I made a statement earlier which calls for reiteration, that a published and successful author gains respect and is considered as an expert. He is invited to preside over functions and acts as judge in TV shows – generally his name and fame grow.

A published author has the opportunity to secure academic credentials, as most academic institutions desire some published works.
Career Advancement

A person who has a published work to his credit will more easily move up the ladder of success, will likely get better job offers and will enjoy more opportunities to succeed in general.

Simply put, being published gives you an “expert” status above the crowd. Though, it really is not that difficult to get self published, most people have a very high perception of someone that is.

For those seeking a career in the field of academics, a published work is a pre-requisite.

On Monday, we will discuss the DO’s of Self-Publishing.

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