Thinking about self-publishing?

Ready to publish a book? In the old days, you had two choices, the acceptable route of securing an agent and a publisher via queries, proposals and synopses, hoping your manuscript would stand out among the thousands and earn you a contract, OR the not so acceptable route of paying a “vanity publisher” to produce copies of your book. Today, major publishers will not take on a book unless they’re confident it will earn them millions of dollars. Most books don’t fit into that category, even if they are wonderful books. Therefore, authors are taking their futures into their own hands. Thanks to modern technology, we can publish our own books affordably in print and/or digitally, and they can earn the respect they deserve.

Of my six books, four have been published traditionally. Publishers have paid me advances and royalties and handled all the distribution. One, a novel called Azorean Dreams, was produced by iUniverse.com as a print on demand book. I paid them a minimal fee to create a book for which copies are printed only when someone orders them. Frankly, I haven’t made any money on that book, but I’m glad it’s out there. I knew there was a market among my Portuguese-American fans, and they bought it.

When the original publishers of Stories Grandma Never Told decided after nine years and three printings that it didn’t “pencil out” anymore, I published a new edition myself with a local printer. Four years later, it’s still selling. I mailed out 14 copies this week.  I’m about to go for a third printing.

I have just published my latest book, Shoes full of Sand, as a Kindle book through Amazon.com’s self-publishing program. The cost? Only my time. It’s already selling, and royalties will be coming each month. Meanwhile, I plan to produce a paperback with my local printer and also to get it into other e-formats via Smashwords.com. Is this the best route for this book? We’ll see. At least people have a chance to read it. It won’t make me rich, but I will make some money.

There’s not just one way to publish a book anymore. Getting a traditional publisher to handle your book is still the best way to go. You will earn more money, have better distribution, and be reviewed in important publications. But if you’re not having any success at that, want to have more control over your work, or know that an audience is waiting to read your book, you can do it yourself.  However, and this is very important, authors who want to publish their own books have two huge responsibilities:

First, they must produce the best book they possibly can. Vanity publishing and every other kind of self-publishing have gotten bad raps in the past (and some folks in the industry still won’t consider a self-published book as a real book) because some of the books people put out are terrible. Even the most experienced authors need professional editing. It’s not optional. We cannot see our own mistakes. I edit manuscripts for other people, but I still need someone else to look at my books. The average reader doesn’t really care how a book gets published, but she does care if it’s not well done. The quality is up to us.

Second, the author has to not only write and publish the book but sell it. That means marketing through every possible avenue, including websites, blogging, blog tours, speaking engagements, mailings, and whatever else it takes to let people know the book exists and convince them to buy it. If you have never done this before, it can be overwhelming. And if you can’t identify a market for your book, you’re not ready to publish it.

I still have a lot of work to do for this new book and for the ones published earlier. Meanwhile, here’s the commercial. You can buy Shoes Full of Sand for the Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005201PD4 for a mere $2.99. If you don’t have a Kindle reader, you can download the free Kindle program on your PC or Mac. For information on the print version, visit suelick.com/books.

You can also go to the kdp.amazon.com site to find out how to produce your own Kindle book.

I welcome your comments and questions. Let’s talk about this. I’ll be providing some resources for self-publishers in future blogs.

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