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Friday, February 25, 2005
Self-Publishing A Book
Editor's Note: Today we are hosting the 7th Business Blog Book Tour. The Book Tour features Wayne McVicker, author of "Starting Something." The following is our first Tour article -- this one is the backstory about Wayne's decision to self-publish his book. It's a subject of interest to many aspiring authors. UPDATE: Check out our second Tour article here.

by Wayne McVicker

It was not until I was nearly finished writing "Starting Something" that I gave thought to how I would publish it. I had assumed that I would simply submit it to a few publishers and then hand it off to the one that thought they could best market it.

However, once I began to research the process in depth, I discovered that these days most publishers only accept submittals through agents. And I began to understand that the publishers send the books to distributors who then send them to wholesalers who then sell the books to bookstores. It doesn't take much analysis to determine that there is very little money available to the author in such a long supply chain.

The more I understood about the publishing industry, the more the entrepreneur in me began to take over. I had heard many horror stories from authors who had lost control of their book to their publishers, even when the publishers no longer promoted it. I knew that my book would be hard to categorize, which would make it difficult for a publisher to apply a formula to its promotion (this has proven to be the case.)

With current technology, it is not very difficult to economically produce a book of equal or greater quality than large publishers. I have an extensive background in graphic design, which helped. And there are some great books on self-publishing. Dan Poynter's "The Self-Publishing Manual" contains almost everything one needs to know.

So I started a business to publish the book I had written about starting a business.

Producing the book was a lengthy, involved process, but not particularly difficult. Then... all I had to do was sell it. This is where the odds are stacked against the independent publisher.

The primary starting point for getting publicity is the book review. And book reviewers don't review books by independent publishers. Period.

I am still in the midst of learning about the promotion of business books, but I have learned a few lessons:
  • Don't hire a PR firm. They charge a fortune to do what you can do better yourself. The exception to this rule would be the specialists who guarantee a certain result (such as x number of large market radio interviews for $500).

  • Apply very early to every awards program you can find. While many awards are closed off to independent publishers, most aren't. This is a low-cost way to get a chance to call yourself an award-winning author, which helps open doors that otherwise would be closed.

  • Subscribe to PR Leads. This monthly service feeds you with requests from media reporters seeking experts for particular stories. You can spend $10,000 from a PR firm and get far fewer high quality leads than you'll get in one month of PR Leads for less than $100.

  • Target your market. For me, this Business Blog Tour has been much more effective (and inexpensive... and fun) than attempts to get at broad market media.

  • Be very patient. The book industry moves at a stunningly glacial pace. It takes six months or more to get printed books into bookstores. Business people in particular are busy and distracted. It can take a long time and repeated exposure to get their attention.
It is too early for me to say definitively whether I wholeheartedly recommend the independent publishing route. So far, in spite of many frustrations, I believe that I made the right choice for me. For others, both options should be weighed carefully.

The one case in which self-publishing is certainly the right choice is if the book is truly the start of a business. Most authors of business books make their money from lectures, coaching and the sale of auxiliary materials, such as audio and video aids. The book is only the beginning.
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