Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Publishing Route For Some

With a glance at my background, you can see that I've always been committed to traditional publishing. It's an ongoing part of my work to continue training authors to successfully craft their book ideas for the biggest possible publisher. It's why I love writers and have been continuing to answer their proposal questions through my new Ecourse, Proposal Secrets and other products like Editor Reveals Book Proposal Secrets and Book Proposals That Sell.

Many authors get frustrated with the slowness of the traditional system. Even after a book is contracted (which takes a lot of time for some projects), the publishers like to have the manuscript in house for a number of months before they "release" the book. The time factor allows the books to be sold into the various distribution channels yet can take months. Increasingly some of these authors are turning to self-publishing. Yet many self-published authors produce materials that flounder in the marketplace because of lack of attention to detail--like a basic foundation of good writing then getting the book edited and carefully proofread. I've seen many self-published books which fall into this category and it's one of the major reasons that brick-and-mortar bookstores don't carry these books (in most cases--and yes there are some rare exceptions). Other authors jump into self-publishing with no background in marketing and no ready-made audience to purchase the self-published books. They wonder how they will ever achieve their dream of holding a printed book in their hand.

In recent days, I've been learning about another publishing route that some people are taking. I read Aaron Shepard's excellent book, Aiming At Amazon. Shepard gives step-by-step instructions to by-pass the traditional route. Using his technique, you can forget about seeing your book in a brick-and-mortar store because he encourages his readers to target the largest online bookstore on the planet, Amazon.com. His book has TWO subtitles: The NEW Business of Self Publishing or A Successful Self Publisher’s System for Profiting from Nonfiction Books with Print On Demand and Book Marketing on Amazon.com. He explains in the book that he is quite intentional about those two subtitles and how they are picked up through the Amazon system.

With the route Shepard advocates the individual forms their own publishing company, writes and produces their own book and prints the book using Lightning Source. Why do you have to become a publisher? Because Lightning Source doesn't deal with individuals but only publishers. If you are concerned about the quality of print on demand from Lightning Source, I would not be concerned because they print quality books. Also the same parent company who owns Lightning Source also owns Ingram Book Group, the biggest wholesaler in the U.S. As Shepard says, "Almost every bookstore in the country, along with many libraries and schools, orders books from Ingram." People can get your book from Ingram. Here's one of the keys from Shepard, “And because Amazon draws book data directly from Ingram's electronic catalog, you are guaranteed that Amazon will automatically list your book. What's more, because Amazon regularly uses Ingram for drop shipping, all Lighting titles are normally listed on Amazon as in stock or available within 24 hours, even if Amazon doesn't have its own copies at the time.”

With Print On Demand, you don't have to order thousands of books to make it cost effective. Instead you order what you need when you need it. Lightning Source is the same company that many traditional publishers and self publishers are using to actually print the books. Effectively you cut out the middleman and produce your own books with this system. To learn more about POD and Lightning Source in particular check out this article in the January 14th issue of Publishers Weekly.

Now there are some cautions: 1) you have to make sure you have excellent writing as a foundation for success. You still have to work hard to shape your idea into something readable and targeted for a specific market. Without this foundation, you can still produce a lousy product. 2) you have to understand that all of the book production elements will be on your shoulders. You have to use an outside editor and proofreader (or at least you should take this step). Also you will either have to learn or outsource the actual book layout, cover and interior design. 3) you will have all of the marketing for your book.

If you have a speaking ministry or an Internet newsletter or another means to reach a particular audience, you may want to consider this publishing route. You will be surprised at the quality of the printed product. You would have trouble picking it out on a shelf of books from any other paperback.

As you can see from what I've written Shepard recommends this POD route for nonfiction books. There is a fiction book which is sweeping across the public with incredible word of mouth sales. Maybe you’ve heard of this book, The Shack by William P. Young. It is a self published novel which is going like wild fire. The book published in May last year and they've spent about $200 on advertising and the rest is word of mouth with thousands of sales. You can check their website to learn more and this podcast with the author.

Last month over the Christmas holiday, I read The Shack and was riveted to the pages. It was one of those novels which I could not quit until I reached the final pages (a rare experience for me with the volume of reading that I've done over the years). You can click this link to see my Amazon review but the book is an unusual reading experience and teaches incredible lessons for the reader. Eugene Peterson author of The Message endorsed the book on the cover saying, "This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It's that good!" I agree and could not have said it better. Get a copy of The Shack and see for yourself.

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5 Comment:

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Kristi Holl Left a note...

You've really done your homework on this topic, and I appreciate that. And I'm glad to see you caution anxious writers that being self-published (and being successful at it) means you STILL need to write a quality book, you STILL need to know about marketing (even more so), you STILL need good editing and proofing, etc. And "writing the quality book" still takes time--whether we like it or not. It sounds do-able, but it's not a quick fix for someone in a hurry to get published. Thankfully, if we want to learn the process, others are generous with their time and know-how!

At 8:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous Left a note...

Very informative post, Terry (as usual). And I agree: the slowness of the publishing process makes it untenable for many authors who need their book to get into print. Plus, authors need to do their own marketing anyway. POD publishing is going to revolutionize publishing; it already has.

At 8:21 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...

Hello Everyone,

Yesterday I talked with Windblown Media that published The Shack and since May 1, 2007 they have sold over 110,000 copies of this book. It's a remarkable viral marketing event--and I've read it and recommend you check it out. Amazon for some weird reason has the absolute cheapest price for the book so it's very affordable. Terry

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Suzanne Lieurance Left a note...

Hi, Terry,

I think the reality is, most first time authors are NOT going to sell thousands of copies of their book by going the traditional route and selling through bookstores.

But, luckily, there are so many other viable options out there for today's authors.

Great post! Thanks for the info.

Suzanne Lieurance
The Working Writer's Coach

At 8:49 AM, Blogger Bonnie Calhoun Left a note...

Hi Terry, I thought you'd like to know that "The Shack" Got a full page in the Feb. issue of CBA Retailers + Resources. (half of page 40, and half of page 41)!


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