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The In on Self Publishing – Part 2
Sunday, December 29, 2013 by Cindy Sproles

I have a good book and they’re to foolish to see it so I’ll self publish! That’ll show ’em!

 I call this entitlement and it’s a big OUCH! Stump your toe on this attitude and it may require sutures to close the bleeding gap.

This is why I think a little tough love is good for us. It was good for me when a dear friend shared some years ago. It stung a little, smashed my toes a bit, but over all, the advice proved more valuable than any gift I’ve ever received. I took it to heart, let it bring me down a tad and ate a hot served plate of humility. Then I buckled down and took this dream to the next level. I hope you’ll do the same

Just because your story is good is not an instant golden ticket into Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. It takes hard work and determination to birth a book. It requires tweaking, rewriting and a determination to sell the work. This is where, if you don’t understand the business of publishing, you can put yourself in a real bind financially not to mention career wise.

Self publishing is easy. Sometimes – too easy. For a few thousand dollars you can turn out a finished product which you can flash around to all your friends. “Oh look, I have a book out.” But there is more to self publishing than the finished product – there is “business side.”

Writers hear agents, editors and publishers ask, “What’s your platform?” Translated: Who do you know that you can sell the book to? The harsh reality is, most of us have a real reach of about 100-200 people. That boils down to our parents, immediate family, friends and few stragglers along the way. Unless there is a solid speaking base, tie to large groups or a tremendously successful blog audience, it will  to translate into about 200 book sales.

I love fireworks so here’s a great way to think of an author without a platform.  Think bottle rocket.  You stand the rocket in a mason jar, light the fuse and it fires high into the sky. There’s one burst of color and then it fades into the darkness. Without a platform your book will fire into the sky, those few folks you know will buy it and then it fades into the darkness. In terms of self publishing, this is a killer. (In fact, it’s a killer for traditional publishing if you have no platform.)  There has to be a way to keep lighting fuses on new rockets and firing them into the sky for the world to see.

In the past few months I ‘ve talked with over twenty authors (first timers) who have self published their books when they have no platform to keep the fire burning. All twenty have regretted the decision to move in this direction. The lesson learned –  “I had no way to sell the books.” When you hear authors and teachers preaching, “Build your platform,” take it seriously. They know what they’re talking about. Before you self publish, sinking tons of money into a product, be sure you have the platform to sell it. It’s a wonderful thought to think our books would hit the shelves and sell by the bushel baskets, but the truth is, our book is just one of hundreds of thousands. Build your tribe. Find your outreach and plug in.

Publishing packages come in all shapes and forms. Let’s say, for the sake of comparison, you choose a mid-range package that includes your book, book cover, light editing, a spot on the publisher’s website, entry into distributor lists, ebook and upload onto Amazon (let’s not forget, 2500 books sent to your home) for a grand total of $5700. The book may retail at $9.95, so say you sell 100 books (the average) – right away. $9.95 x 100= $995.00. Maybe your Amazon sales add up to another $500 (this is generous) but you have to take into account book returns. (Yes, you can return a book – even an ebook, on Amazon. Not to mention book returns from brick and mortars). That has to subtract back and it leaves your total sales at $125.

If you have no real platform (a solid speaking base, ties to large interest groups, in’s into brick and mortar stores) then your book has just died on the shelf. You spent $5700 to self publish a book  that, after 5 months on the market, you’ve had a return of $1120 – oh. . . you still have 2000 books in your garage drawing dampness and mold. That’s a $4580 deficit.

This is where it is important to know the business aspect of publishing and to understand having a trophy book costs you valuable dollars.

Before you self publish ask yourself these questions (and it requires soul searching):

Why am I in such a hurry?
Do I understand the reasons why my book has been rejected by traditional publishers?
Have I made the effort to invest enough in my work to hire an editor?
What is my platform?
How much money am I willing to invest and potentially lose?

Self publishing in the right situations can be the perfect solution. Learn the business of publishing. Understand how the market works and then build your personal platform. On a personal note – I’d say do some heavy soul searching. It’s a good idea to have your work critiqued to see where you stand before you invest your hard earned dollars.

In part 3 of the In on Self Publishing we’ll discuss the importance of an editor.

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