Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Writing on Wednesday - Self-Publishing with Barbara Florio-Graham

Thinking of self-publishing? Here are some thoughts and tips from todays guest, Barbara Florio- Graham. ~ Sheila

Self-publishing isn't what it used to be. My website contains a list of more than three dozen famous authors who self-published, including  James Joyce, Deepak Chopra, Mark Twain, Edgar Rice Burroughs. Virginia Wolff, Edgar Allen Poe and Rudyard Kipling.  

Those who almost gave up after numerous rejections include Kathryn Sockett, whose best-seller, The Help was rejected 60 times. John Grisham tried 15 publishers and 30 agents before self-publishing  A Time to Kill. Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 33 times, and even though Herman Melville found a publisher, Moby Dick sold only 3,715 copies in his lifetime.No wonder authors are pulled in by the seductive promotions for "self-publishing" or “Print on Demand” companies.           
Unfortunately, very few of these are legitimate, and it takes some careful sleuthing to find the few reputable ones.  Many of these companies advertise aggressively, promising to produce your book in various formats, market it and distribute it. But most of their services cost thousands of dollars beyond the “low price” they initially promise.           
These companies are not publishers. They are businesses who lure unsuspecting authors into a maze of high payments to produce books which are often poorly-edited, badly designed, and lack distribution. Those of us who work as publishing consultants warn authors about these "pay-to-publish" companies, and direct those we mentor to low-cost and free resources. I have a great many of these free resources on my website:, including  explanations of the various options, and a checklist for those who want to do it completely on their own.           

I became a publishing consultant after my own experience with traditional publishing, co-publishing, and then self-publishing. Authors kept asking me for advice, and I realized that I had valuable information to share.            
I won't take on a book unless I feel it has sales potential, and my guidance often begins with helping a promising author find a reputable editor and designer, as well as to create a website and a "platform" to promote the book.           
Too many individuals seem to think that a “good story” and the dream of getting it published are sufficient. But unless you have a solid plan which involves creating a website, starting a blog, and participating in social media, you will end up spending a great deal of money on a book that you can't be proud of, or one that doesn't earn back your investment.           
I keep urging authors to do the math! Figure out how much the book is going to cost, how much you will earn on each sale, and if you aren't sure you can recoup what you're investing in within two years, revise your business plan!            
When you write a book, you're starting a small business. Even if someone else handles design, editing, proofreading (a step too many skip!), production, and getting the book into print or in ebook format, you still have to do the marketing. If you're going to market it yourself, consider how many of the other steps you might also want to take on, or delegate to those you know and trust, rather than strangers.
Take a look at my books on my website. Five Fast Steps to Better Writing was published by a traditional publisher in 1985. After the initial marketing push, I realized I had to take over publicity and promotion, and eventually I bought the book back and began to sell it myself. In the meantime, I had co-published Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity, which was originally a teaching manual, but became so popular that I produced a new edition in 2003.         
I also compiled my award-winning humor and that of my famous cat, Simon Teakettle, into a “flip” book that I self-published in 2001. I hired a production manager, a cover designer,  and a local printer whose books I admired. I launched it both locally and then at the Cat Writers' Association annual conference (where it won an award), and it earned back my initial investment in 20 months, after selling just two-thirds of the first print run. That meant the rest of those books were pure profit.
I ordered a second printing, and decided to self-publish the 20th anniversary edition of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing. I updated the resources section, adding sufficient new material to obtain a new ISBN. In 2011 I served as the Managing Editor of a collection of non-fiction pieces called Prose to Go: Tales from a Private List. We found a mid-size tradittional publisher because self-publishing with 18 contributors in 14 locations was just too daunting!          
So every book needs its own approach. That's why these “pay-to-publish” companies are such a mine-field. They'll publish anything, regardless of genre or quality, because what they're interested in is separating you from your money, not in producing a book you can be proud of.
Barbara Florio Graham is an author and publishing consultant. Her website,, contains a great deal of free information as well as Simon Teakettle's popular blog. She has won awards for her books and for non-fiction, fiction and humor articles. The Managing Editor of a collection of 34 first-person stories by 18 Canadian authors, she has also contributed to 35 other anthologies in the U.S., Canada, Sweden and Norway.

You can still Drop Dead for Healthy Dogs! Due to popular demand, we have extended the event through December 10 to accomodate holiday shoppers. When you order my mystery, Drop Dead on Recall, through THIS LINK, part of your purchase price goes to support canine health research through Canine Health Events or the Australian Shepherd Health and Genetics Institute - your choice. Check it out!  ~ Sheila





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