There was a time when it was relatively easy to get a book published. You took a great idea to an agent, the agent sold the idea to a publisher, and soon you could call yourself an author. Unfortunately the market has shifted. Unless you are a celebrity or come to the table with an eager audience of book buyers, most publishers won't even blink your way no matter how great your idea.
Because of this shift in the industry, more and more writers are turning to self-publishing. Some big success stories have emerged from the trenches of previously unknown authors who took control of their publishing destinies. "What Color is Your Parachute?" by Richard Nelson Bolles, "The Celestine Prophecy"? by James Redfield, and "The One Minute Manager" by Ken Blanchard and Spenser Johnson, all started out as independents. Even the infamous Amy Fisher turned to print-on-demand for her recent memoir, reportedly so that she could retain control over the content and promotion while retaining a bigger percentage of the profits.
Self Publishing Options
If you are considering publishing a book yourself, you have two primary options: self-publishing and print on demand (POD). Basic self-publishing involves establishing your own publishing company, contracting a cover designer, laying out the interior of the book and purchasing an International Standard Book Number (ISBN). Once all the setup is complete, you can then have the book printed by a book binding company--usually in very large quantities (3000+) at a cost per book ranging from $1.00-$5.00. Once the book is published, you need to get the book listed with the online book sellers and with the large distributors if you want your title to have a chance of making it into the big bookstores.
POD companies charge a set-up fee ranging from $350-$1000 and most will layout the book, assign an ISBN number, print books on an as-needed basis (no major quantity purchases are required), and get them into the inventories of the major distributors and online booksellers.
Depending on your goals, POD or traditional self-publishing can allow you to transform your manuscript into a hardcover or trade paperback in a matter of weeks. It can take a year or more for a big-name publisher to transform a manuscript into a book, and author royalties are surprisingly low. Publishing yourself gives you control over the time to market and can also lead to hefty profits. Here are some additional considerations:
-You keep control over all rights.
-Individual book cost is low, resulting in a higher profit margin.
-Once you set up your publishing company, it's a bit easier to print subsequent books.
-You have to do all the work: establish a publishing company, purchase an ISBN, get the cover created, layout the text, get listed with distributors, etc.
-Startup costs can be high since you typically have to purchase a large quantity of books.
-Revisions can be expensive if you haven't yet sold the bulk of your initial inventory.
-Startup costs are lower since you only pay a set up fee and for the copies you need.
-Updating the book is simpler since you won't have hundreds of overstock copies in your store room.
-Most POD companies will get your title listed with distributors and book sellers.
-Profit margin is lower since the POD companies take a percentage of sales.
-Some contracts can be restrictive with rights and terms (contracts should be carefully reviewed).
-Reputation: The big bookstores don't yet regard POD books as having much credibility.
Lessons Learned from the Publishing Industry
You may still want to investigate selling your idea to a big publisher, and you should. The process of pitching a book idea to agents and editors can teach you a lot about the publishing industry. The first question you will be asked is; "What is your platform?" Agents and publishers want authors with a ready-made audience of book buyers and if you don't have a national presence with speaking engagements or other notoriety, your chances of being published the traditional way are slim.
But don't let the pitching process kill your dreams. The lesson to be learned from the publishing pros is that you need to have a way to market and sell your book. Before you even consider publishing yourself, develop a marketing plan. Determine who will buy your book and how you will reach your audience. If you know how to market your ideas, and use the resources at your disposal (how-to books and publishing websites), you can create your own self publishing success story.
For more information on self-publishing, visit Dan Poynter's website: http://www.ParaPublishing.com. Poynter is the author of "The Self-Publishing Manual" and his newsletter is loaded with resources and advice.
For a good comparison of the leading POD companies, check out:
For ideas on marketing your book, check out the book by Marilyn Ross and Tom Ross: "Jump Start Your Book Sales."
Find a host of publishing resources at http://www.BusinessInfoGuide.com/publishing.htm.
Stephanie Chandler is the author of "The Business Startup Checklist and Planning Guide: Seize Your Entrepreneurial Dreams!" and the founder of http://www.BusinessInfoGuide.com, a directory of free resources for entrepreneurs. Sign up for the BusinessInfoGuide newsletter to receive hot resources and tips every month.