Can You Become A Self-Publisher?
I designed this book to be of significant value to authors and self-publishers across the breadth of the literary world, from writers of professional papers, research-journal articles, poetry, fiction and nonfiction books, to small publishers of books, journals, magazines, and newsletters. But I tell you up front, acquiring the tools and aptitudes of creative self-publishing should be viewed as an investment of time, like a PhD program with a required dissertation. Becoming a successful self-publisher takes commitment, concentration, and dedication. It’s a bold adventure.
But if you sincerely want your shot in this day and age of print on demand (POD), print quantity needed (PQN), the Internet, and magical computer-software and communications capabilities, you can have it. I did it with a net worth in the low three figures, waiting tables at night as my sole means of support, and acquiring only what I absolutely needed as I went along.
If you bring to the drawing board a disciplined and organized mind, commitment to seeing your work in print, and openness to subtle opportunity, you can level the publishing field of play.
Becoming a successful self-publisher requires that you become a competent author as well as a publisher. Becoming a publisher calls for understanding and controlling most of the major functions in the publishing puzzle. Specifically, I mean: writing, editing, distribution, business and risk management, order fulfillment, bookkeeping, rights negotiation, document formatting, marketing and promotional planning, illustrating, website creation, speaking, photography, event planning, teacher and workshop facilitation, agenting, and even motion-picture collaborator. Okay, maybe not that. The only thing you can’t do yourself is manufacture books.
You must perform these publishing functions yourself or, if your time, energy, and capital resources allow, contract as many as you are comfortable with to outside service providers. If you have the financial resources to use outside professional help, becoming a savvy self-publisher first will give you an understanding of the elements in the big picture, so you’ll know exactly what to expect from your delegations of authority and responsibility.
Of course, if you become the consummate self-publisher, it will be like taking on the CEO’s job in a publishing business; you will have zero time to write. A reasonable approach for authors who want to write and be published is to first invest the time and effort learning how to self-publish; then, win the freedom to continue a writing career by successfully self-publishing your book. Along the way, networking and promoting will open many doors of opportunity, and you should be able to farm out time-consuming functions to outside service providers or possibly incorporate your business with working partners. A major publishing house might even discover you. Who knows?
Having desire, business sense, total commitment to the writing craft, and willingness to step up and learn to take charge of the publishing functions is still not enough. It takes fire in the belly and a clear understanding that you are the only one who will make it all happen. A self-publisher cannot rely on serendipity. You can’t count on luck to play a role, although if it occurs, you’ll reap a windfall gain.
But wait a minute. Maybe it’s not such a daunting journey. The road is certainly less traveled, but you and your book could join the likes of self-publishers cited by Dan Poynter and Danny O. Snow in their book, U-Publish.com, such as John Grisham and A Time to Kill, James Redfield with The Celestine Prophecy, The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard, and Richard M. Nixon’s Real Peace, to name only a few of the many legitimate, blockbusting bestsellers that were originally self-published. According to Poynter and Snow, even Mark Twain and Edgar Allen Poe were self-publishers.
This book is really a case study. It presents a two-and-a-half-year operating plan, based on experience, beginning six months prior to completion of a book’s first draft. It ends by outlining concepts and cycles of continuing creative promotion after a book has been printed and made available for purchase at bookstores.
It’s my purpose to make crystal clear that what you have to do to become a successful self-publisher can be accomplished with limited financial resources and minimum risk. I give you alternatives for how to get things done and how much it may cost, by creatively utilizing new technologies and developing the skills to perform the major functions of a publisher. I do not pretend to present all the options or means in accomplishing your objectives. Because I possessed limited financial resources during my journey, accomplishing objectives with common tools in hand and those within my grasp became the name of the game.
As the publishing playing field takes on shape and clarity, each self-publishing author will be faced with decisions of employing limited time, energy, and financial resources while defining how to reach his or her particular kind of success.
This book evolved from the business plan I began piecing together during the drafting and editing of my upcoming fiction book. I never set out to write a nonfiction how-to book. After two or three months of working on the business plan, I realized I had an opportunity to provide a worthy service by creating a map through the maze of publishing for authors with real determination. During the book’s evolution, I developed several secondary objectives worth mentioning here:
- First, I wanted to create and publish this book using the concepts, principles, and planning it outlines.
- Second, as quickly as possible, I wanted to get the guts of the book into the hands of writers, editors, journalists, and researchers who would recognize value in early access. I accomplished this—a year in advance of traditional publication—by offering a working-paper version of a reasonably edited draft of the book for sale, formatted as a PDF (Portable Document Format, created by Adobe software) file.
- And third, I wanted to develop and implement a dynamic prerelease promotion that offered complimentary PDF e-book copies six months prior to the availability of the hard copy at bookstores, to invited writers, writer organizations and their staffs, and my favorite Internet writer’s groups.
Learning how to write fiction and becoming an author: This is what I set out to do more than five years ago. But I discovered if I was going to get a shot at commercial success through the publication of my book, I had to become a self-publisher.
This book is not meant to be a literary work. I decided to write it as if you were here with me and I was talking to you. It’s filled with information I hope will open your mind to the realities as well as the possibilities, while you develop your own brand of creative thinking and build your own self-publishing plan. It is based on my own work, climbing my mountains, being influenced by my individual biases and preferences, and operating in my own creative box.
The time frames inserted throughout the chapters and sections can be adjusted to your place in the writing scheme and position on the self-publishing learning curve, and altered to suit your abilities, resources, and goals. They reflect my actual experience, and I’ve included them because I thought they would be of value in the case-study approach I elected to use for the book.
At the end of the book, I’ve included an excerpt of my upcoming fiction book, The Mountain and the Place of Knowledge, the first of the Ancestor Series of sci-tech-mystery thrillers. Including an excerpt of upcoming writing at the end of a book is an effective promotional tool. It lets the market know you are for real and provides the opportunity to drive further interest in your works to outlets you’ve prepared at your website.
Be inspired, encouraged, and empowered. Go with the flow. Good luck and best regards!
— Marshall Chamberlain
Author, Publisher, Speaker