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How to Get Published?

In my last entry I wrote how I was interested in writing a book about marketing and sales for small businesses (all small businesses, not just software based small businesses). It was received with good enthusiasm based only on the summary. Several people commented that they would buy it. I also received a number of personal emails saying the same. Therefore I’ve decided to go ahead and write the book.

And like everything I do before I fully commit, I researched my options. I spent the last week analyzing what options there are to authors like myself, and its amazing to see how much the publishing market has changed. In the past you pretty much had to go with a major publication company to get your book out, and even doing that was a challenge. The odds of being selected for publication were really low, never mind actual success. You could also look for a small presses, which is almost the same as large publication company but without all the benefits. In any case, you needed a publishing company to get your book out in the world.

There was also another option, you could self publish. This however was, and still is, a very costly endeavor. You need to have a lot of seed money to truly self publish, you have to cover all the expenses. Let’s say you decide to print 100, 1000, or even 5000 books (for an initial print run), you personally have to cover that cost. That’s above the costs of writing the book, creating the artwork, getting the ISBN, hiring a copy editor, marketing etc. It can be a very profitable venue, its just that you need a substantial bankroll and expertise to go this route.

Today the market has changed for the better, there’s more options. Although most people still prefer going with a publication company there’s a couple of new ways to publish that are easier, quicker, and more affordable. The main ones are POD (Print on Demand) and ebooks.

Print on Demand is where you partner up with a company like iUniverse to print your book on demand, be it one at a time, 20, 100, and so on. You don’t need to make runs, your book can be printed one at a time if need be. However to take advantage of this with Print on Demand you do have to spend a bit of money to get your book ready and into the “system”. The fees aren’t astronomical but they aren’t cheap either. For example iUniverse has packages ranging from $299 to $1,199 (not counting editorial services, etc.). This is great when you consider you can be self published without have to do a full print run of your books.

How do you make money using this service? Like most publishing companies, it’s mainly through royalties. iUniverse gives you a 10-20% royalty depending on what options you want to use. Another benefit is that they’ll sell you copies (again even one at a time) of your book to you at a heavy discount.

The option I investigated with POD and traditional publishing is ebooks. Ebooks are basically books sold in digital format (generally PDF) that you can purchase and download online. I’ve purchased at least a couple dozen myself and I’ve even sold one in the past. Ebooks can be great because the costs are only your time to write and market the ebook. Each sale goes almost directly to your bottom line. The downside is that it’s generally less credible, harder to sell and market. People prefer traditional books over ebooks.

After looking at all the options, I’m strongly leaning towards Print on Demand (POD). You don’t get some of the benefits of a publishing company (big distribution, some marketing, etc.), but you make up for it in other respects. With POD, you’re guaranteed to have your book published, you’re publishing it! With POD you can also get your book to market much quicker. With traditional publication companies getting through the approval process can take months, never mind going through all the steps and negotiations. The difference is 2-3 months versus a year or so. Personally I just don’t have the patience for that anymore, I’d rather just go ahead and get it done. That’s what being an entrepreneur for so long does to you.

As a disadvantage you don’t get your book professional edited for you with POD. You need to do this or hire a professional editor. That’s ok with me because I don’t mind hiring someone for this. Also, you don’t get the full distribution of a publishing company. Your book will not appear in bookstores across the nation, at least not unless you’re a proven bestseller. That’s ok I can accept that. Another disadvantage is that you need to provide all the marketing for your book (books don’t sell themselves). That’s ok too, the topic of the book is about marketing and sales after all. If I can’t do that I shouldn’t be writting this book. Something to also remember is that publishing companies will only continue to market your book as long as it has a return on investment otherwise they’ll leave it entirely to you. Either way you’ll still need to do a lot of the marketing yourself.

Having looked at all the options, the benefits and disadavantages, I believe I’ll proceed on the Print On Demand route. I like the timelines. I like the control. I don’t mind doing all of the marketing, that’s something I know (its definitely a serious consideration for most people). I also don’t mind the loss distribution, my plan was to focus mainly on sales through Amazon anyways. I plan to emulate the success the authors of the book Call To Action had using their own techniques (great book by the way, I commented on it back in July 2005). I can’t find it anymore, but I remember reading somewhere that they didn’t want to sell the book directly on their own website, even if it was for a much higher margin! They wanted every sale to go through Amazon.com so that they could increase their Amazon ranking, giving it some serious momentum (there’s more to it than that, but that’s for another day).

Get Published

Another factor that really helped make my decision was a book I recently picked up at my local bookstore called Get Published. It’s written by the CEO and editorial director of iUniverse so its very skewed towards iUniverse, it’s almost a sales pitch. But even with that it was a great read. I read most of it in one sitting. Again, there’s no doubt its a book to sell their service, they have testimonials of iUniverse sprinkled throughout, but it still clearly explains a lot about the publishing world. The fact that even with their sales pitch I’m still recommending the book should say something. They really do explain how things work in the publishing industry. They really do tell you the good and bad of the different types of publishing methods available to you (traditional, POD, etc.). They don’t try to oversell you on iUniverse, they tell you what they can’t and won’t do for you. They tell you exactly what the differences are and what you’ll need to do to be successful in both. For example, they tell you that you will need to do 100% of the marketing for your book with iUniverse, they won’t provide this for you. Again I strongly recommend Get Published if you’re looking for information on how to get a book published.

When will the actual book be available? My personal goal, which I’m publicly sharing right here and now, is to have it written before the end of summer. It’s an aggressive goal but I think I can do it. Add another 2-3 months to get printed by iUniverse (ISBN assigned, printing, edited, cover design, etc.) and I’m hoping to have it available for purchase on Amazon.com by late fall to early winter. Let’s see what happens!



 
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Comments:

  •     nir
    · May 10th, 2007  · 3:41 am  · Permalink

    You should take another look at self publishing, My mother self-published a book and you really don’t need a lot of money.

    You have to write the book, get it edited and take care of sales and marketing – the same as POD.

    Getting an ISBN number just takes a few days and it’s free or costs next to nothing (at least here).

    With digital printing shops you can do very small printing runs for a very resonable price (my mother did two runs so far, 20 and 50 books).

    With POD you get 10-20% of the money, when you self publish (and do very small print runs) each book costs 10-20$ to print and the rest of the money is yours.

    Also, I have no idea what are the details of the iUniverse contract, but when you self publish you really get to keep all the rights for your work and have the flexability to do anything you like with it later (for example switch to a “real” publisher if it becomes a best-seller)

    I don’t know anything about POD or iUniverse, but from your description I don’t see any advantage of POD over self publishing.

  •     Andy Brice
    · May 10th, 2007  · 5:58 pm  · Permalink

    You might find this interest, especially the page it links to with the comments by tim O’Reilly:

    http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/default.asp?biz.5.493074.11

  •     Steph
    · May 11th, 2007  · 2:52 pm  · Permalink

    Hi Nir,

    Here’s a few of the reasons I prefer POD instead of self-published:

    1. I plan on publishing a lot more than 20-50 books, my personal target is actually in the thousands. So if I consider this quantity then self publishing quickly becomes a lot more of a logistics issue. I’d need to warehouse a lot of books (dealing with humidity, etc.), shipping, returns, etc. This is not something I personally want to deal with, even if it adds to my bottom line. I already have my hands full with my company LandlordMax, this blog, and the book, as well as some other stuff I’ll share in the near future. So if I can offset this work, even if it means less revenue, I’m willing to do it.

    2. Although getting an ISBN, etc. doesn’t seem to be rocket science, I’d rather not have to deal with the little details if I can. My personal objective is to write and market the book. I don’t really want to be involved the finer details. I’ve already got my plate full.

    3. I like iUniverse because they also have links into Amazon.com, Chapters, Indigo, Barnes & Nobles, Google Book Search, etc. Basically I don’t have to take the time to figure out how to get listed everywhere. They manage all this for me.

    4. I like POD because they can manage all shipping for Amazon, etc. Although I’ve already got a shipping system working with LandlordMax, I don’t see the real value of building another one for a book when I can offload that work out to the POD for a nominal fee (assuming sales in the thousands).

    5. In regards to rights, that’s also one of the reasons I prefer iUniverse to the other POD services. You keep the rights. They would actually prefer you move to a traditional publishing company should your work get too big. You retain all rights.

    6. It’s also a much smaller upfront costs, assuming you plan to sell a lot of your book. No printing runs, no warehousing costs, no returns. Honestly I’d be very disappointed if I didn’t sell at least in the thousands. I know that might seem like a tall order, but I wouldn’t take the time and effort if I didn’t think it was possible.

  •     Steph
    · May 11th, 2007  · 3:11 pm  · Permalink

    Hi Andy,

    Thanks for the link, it was very interesting. I agree with a lot of what was said in the discussion.

    From my perspective I don’t plan to make that much money from the direct sales of the book. Actually once I include my time and lost opportunity costs I’d be happy to just break even.

    My goal is more to generate interest and publicity, and hence revenues, to my blog and company indirectly from the book. It’s more in the lines of how Joel Spolsky from JoelOnSoftware.com generates traffic. He’s a perfect example. A lot of his traffic, and therefore revenue, is from his publicity efforts. If no one knows you exist, then it doesn’t matter how good or who you are. You need to be out there.

    In essence I’m expecting my blog to interest people in the book and the book to interest people in my blog. It’s a reciprocating circle that should grow both. My business model is a little different than those discussed in the forum you mention in that I’m not expecting direct revenue from the book (or vice versa), much like I don’t expect direct sales from this blog.

    That being said, having an honest and open blog has increased my company’s sales. Firstly the blog gets more traffic than the company (blogs are always more interesting than a corporate face), which gives me more exposure. Secondly, I have more leeway as to what topics I can discuss. Yes I still have to limit the range of topics otherwise I’ll lose readers, but it’s definitely not as constrictive as a company. And because of this I can also have an opinion, even a strong opinion.

    Basically there’s a lot of benefits to having a blog go along with a company and at the end of the day, because I’m giving the company a face and giving them an inside view of the company it makes it more appealing. If you know how a company acts and behaves and its in line with your values and philosophies you’re more likely to buy from them. It’s as simple as that.

  •     Andy Brice
    · May 13th, 2007  · 7:24 pm  · Permalink

    Thats makes sense. Just make sure the book appeals to the sort of people who might buy your product.

  •     Steph
    · May 13th, 2007  · 8:26 pm  · Permalink

    Hi Andy,

    Absolutely! And please don’t hesitate to send me any comments on what you’d like to see in the book. I really appreciate all feedback.

    Additionally as part of the book I’d like to share other people’s (entrepreneur’s) stories, those sections you see that are a page or so and highlighted in boxes to emphasize a point. I’m in the process of starting to contact people personally to see if they’re interested in sharing their stories and you’re actually on my list of people to contact. You can expect to also see a posting here on this blog within the next week or so asking the same thing. I suspect that these stories will add some weight to my points when they’re comping from other people than just my company. I just haven’t had the time yet with LandlordMax version 3.11c being released this weekend.

    That being said, I’ve been reading your Promoting your software series and it’s very interesting! If you’re up to it, again I’d love to share a story or two from this series in regards to your company Perfect Table Plan. I hadn’t realized you had tried so many of the same venues we had at LandlordMax. It’s great to hear someone else whose not afraid to experiment!

  •     Andy Brice
    · May 14th, 2007  · 4:58 pm  · Permalink

    Steph,

    I would be delighted to provide something for your book – I am a sucker for seeing my name in print and a bit more promotion of PerfectTablePlan never hurts. I think you’ll have resist featuring too many of us software types if you want the book to appeal more widely though.

    I expect the ‘promoting your software’ series to reach to about 6 parts. I would be interested to hear at the end if there is anything I missed or areas where your experience differs widely from mine (either as a blog comment or privately).

  •     Steph
    · May 14th, 2007  · 8:41 pm  · Permalink

    Hi Andy,

    That’s great news! I’ll get in contact with you directly later this weekend and take this discussion offline. And you’re right, it’s going to be hard for me to resist getting to many software company based people. I’m trying my best though, I already have two aligned that aren’t software based.

    As for your series, I can already tell you I had some similar and some not so similar experiences. I suspect this is due to the nature of our different products, demographics, etc. Nonetheless the overall experiences were more similar than not. I’ll send you more details after I read the sixth part. I can wait to read the next two!

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