Friday, November 16, 2007

Testing the Unknown Waters of Self-Publishing

Interesting story I just read in The Wall Street Journal about a man by the name of C. Ben Bosah from Ohio who believed so strongly in his wife's book, "Letters to My Sisters: Plain Truths and Straightforward Advice From a Gynecologist," that he decided to forgo finding an agent or publisher for it (claiming he wanted all the profit for himself) and self-published - to a tune of 15,398 copies and a debt of $40,000.

What makes this an unusual story and the reason why it ended up in The Wall Street Journal I suppose is that it shows what people will go through to get their books published with doing little homework on what really goes into the process.

It ain't easy.

I have a friend who had a book published (as did I) whose publisher went bankrupt; now all we've got to show for our efforts is a book with no home, no profit, and probably a book that will never see life again. While in my case, my co-authors and I are trying to ignore this ever happened, my friend is looking into all different ways of trying to get that book published again and self-publishing was something that was suggested to her.

There are many authors who have gone this route; although, it's not for the weak of heart. As was mentioned in the article, a distributor must be found, as well as a printer and everything else that is involved that the ordinary person might not know a thing about.

I have a friend, though, Theresa Chaze, who is going that route and she swears by it. Having started her own publishing business to publish her books, she has done her homework and will test the waters out soon.

My opinion of self-publishing is that it does create an attractive alternative to having your book published only after you have exhausted all other means of publishing. What I have found in setting up book tours is that often the self-published author is turned down by a prospective blog host simply by the method of publishing which I find ridiculous, but you can't fight city hall.

Like I told my friend who is looking into the different methods of publishing, start at the top. If you can't find anyone interested to take it on, self-publishing could be the way to go - ONLY if you've done your homework first and go in with your eyes peeled wide open. But, isn't that with any publisher?

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  1. This is very interesting. I visited your friend's website. I think anyone who is in the field of spirituality has come up at one time or another against some sort of misconception or misunderstanding of their work. There is some kind of fear at work there. It is fear that these things won't sell or fear that these there isn't a large enough audience for these things to make them a profitable endeavor. Or fear that a "spiritual" person does not know how to express with the written word or fear of another sort involved here. This is why I find the genre of "Paranormal Romance" particularly fascinating. It is as if we are willing to put our little toe in the water, but not the whole foot. You're right that self-publishing is not for the faint of heart. And I believe that the goals of the self-published author should always be kept foremost in mind and clearly defined. Is it to get the work out into the marketplace or is it to become rich and famous? Sometimes everything is not about money.


  2. LOL! Apparently I don't know how to express with the written word. Damn these little boxes! These there things....LOL!

  3. "Is it to get the work out into the marketplace or is it to become rich and famous?"

    Exactly, Dyan. I know there are many reasons people end up self-publishing...they make more money and they like to be in control of everything. Even if they make mistakes, they're learning. But even if you go through mainstream publishing, there are always going to be mistakes there, too. A person can take a self-published book and make it highly recognizable even though it seems as if it's against the odds.

  4. Yes, with the technology that is available today there are no limitations in terms of recognition and getting it out there. I have to tell you I think your virtual book tour is just amazing. You are very thorough and really know what you are doing. The other thing is that I do not understand why someone would end up going into a hideous amount of debt in the self-publishing process. If you do your homework it isn't cost prohibitive and with print on demand you simply print what you need.

  5. I recently read an article about whether or not virtual book tours sell books. Maybe they do and maybe they don't, however traditional book signings don't necessarily sell books. If you have something someone wants to read they are going to find it. Meanwhile whether you are self-published or not you should do whatever you need or want to do to promote your product and not sit around waiting for someone to do it for you.There are so many opportunities available to us all.

  6. I think the guy just didn't know what he was doing. He had the money and he went for it. Those with less money tend to do their homework faster than someone who has money to blow, I think. I'm taking it that this is his wife's first book...a lot of new authors tend to jump right in and hope for the best. Those who have been published for some time weigh the odds.

    As for virtual book tours, the main thing they accomplish is to give you an online presence you may or may not already have. It sort of gives you more umph in the search engines and that's where people go online sometimes to find what they are looking for...or they may be in there looking for something else and find you and that could mean a sale, too. You just never know. It's like anything you do to just never know...and you want to cover all bases. Before I started Pump Up, I went on my own virtual book tour first and I did sell books but I already had a strong market - authors wishing to learn how to promote books. Find that niche...your book has a and if you aim online with your promotions as well as offline as I don't want to leave that out, too, and keep your book in the public eye for as long as that book is available to buy, you are giving that book the best possible chance.

  7. I agree. The online presence is completely necessary and I have to say I don't think anyone does it quite as well as you do. I LOVE the virtual book tour. And you're right about the niche market as well as the offline promotion. Thank you. It all works together. Hey, Dorothy, you're doing integrated vibrational attunement in the blogging world. LOL! Thank you. I love this blog too! I hope you're feeling better. You should try the healing soup.

  8. First of all, I am not in debt from publishing the book. We have recoup the original investment in the book. Secondly, although many hours have gone into getting this book out in the marketplace, there's a price to getting hard-nosed experience by doing it yourself. It is also pertinent to mention that many a person have gone into trivial pursuits and ended up losing that much money. I am not that rich, and as such does not have very expensive hobbies.

    It would be disingenuous on part to say that publishing the book was not motivated in part by profit motives, however, that is just a part of the story. There were also altruistic reasons - improving health literacy, empowering women to take better care of themselves, providing an easy resource on women's health, all played a role in publishing the book.

    It may be helpful to provide a synopsis of the genesis of the book. It was initially to be printed in Kinko's in handout form, and given to patients of Dr. Ngozi Osuagwu, to thank them for the loyalty to her practice. That view changed when 14 different women across the age and race spectrum took a peek and thought it was good enough to be shared more widely. Thus started my adventure as The Accidental Publisher.

    Your write-up fails to recognize different personality types. There are people who spend ages studying and not doing and there are others who are content with enough information and move and make corrections midstream. In certain endeavors, regardless of how much time you spend studying it, you can never attain the mastery, without dirtying your hands. I do engineering consulting and the ability to do so presupposes that I have some business skills. Although I did not know the last things about publishing and its marketplace, not taking the beaten path, and taking the road less travelled have given me the kind of experience you cannot get from a marketing program in any of the highly rated business schools. I have employed innovative methods to get the word about my book out there, which partly explains why a debut independent publisher (that is what I am) was able to attract the attention of a world class newspaper (maybe the pre-eminent business newspaper in the world).

    In concluding my comments, I wish to point out that short of runaway profits in terms of cash, the book has been phenomenally successful. Testimonials from readers about how it has improved their health and their approach to discussing issues with their doctors keep pouring. It has spurred many an individual to getting their annual exams and nip some problems in the bud. The profits has been 'priceless.' And since our aim is to get the book wide readership, maybe we can recruit you to ask them to add the prize-winning book, Letters to My Sisters: Plain Truths and Straightforward Advice from a Gynecologist to their collections.

    Reach me at

  9. Interesting conversation! I have self-published through Lulu and loved it, but it IS an enormous amount of work to edit and format all by yourself!

    I haven't left any comments lately, sorry. Been working, never have any time anymore. I am so grateful for the wonderful people I've met on the Internet and wanted to wish you a great Thanksgiving!

  10. Hi Marti and Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!


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