How self publishing can lead to a real book deal

A successfully self-published book can propel you down the road to a book contract at a commercial publishing house.

That’s the truth of the matter, despite the worries I hear from writers that self-publishing could doom their hopes of ever landing a real book deal. Don’t listen to those persistent rumors and urban myths that agents and editors won’t take on books the authors have published themselves.

Scroll down for the top four reasons self-published books get picked up

Two I just signed up

Here are a couple of recent examples of self-published books I signed up for our current list at Jossey-Bass, the west coast imprint of John Wiley and Sons.

1. The first was an original approach to writing a memoir by Linda Joy Myers. We knew that memoir writing and publishing was thriving and continuing to grow, and this how-to book on writing a healing memoir was something no one had done before.

The author had published the book herself and sold nearly 5,000 copies in a relatively short time at lectures, trainings, and weekend workshops. She’d also founded and directed a new organization called the National Association of Memoir Writers under whose auspices these trainings occurred. So we were impressed with her growing platform and proven ability to sell her own book.

We changed the title from the original Becoming Whole to one more descriptive: The Power of Memoir – Writing Your Healing Story. We also did a lot of developmental editing on the book, focusing it more on a program of how-to-write a memoir, and adding excellent case examples that were each highly readable stories in their own right.

2. The second self-published book I bought recently was called Golden Anniversaries, a fresh approach to sustaining a long-term marriage. Under that title, the book had already sold 8,000 copies since published in hardcover just four months earlier.

It had also won several prizes, including the Gold Medal for “Best Relationship Book” from the Indie Book Awards.

The authors, Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz, were a husband-and-wife team who’d been married themselves for more than 42 years. They had built a terrific platform, both in the academic world as PhD professors and as very active trainers on the relationship education and workshop circuit, with back-of-the-room sales at every event.

In this case, very little developmental editing was needed, another plus, since it’s always great for publishers to receive a polished manuscript ready to go into production.  We changed the name of our version to Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage.

One that got away

We lost an auction for another self-published book by a Berkeley psychologist about coping with and reducing women’s anger. We offered a good advance to take over the book, but McGraw-Hill put up twice as much. Proof that self-published books can generate intense interest among competing publishers.

Self-published novels are picked up too

Case in point: David Carnoy, an author we featured here in an earlier post called The unvarnished truth about self publishing, just reported that his novel, Knife Music, was picked up by Overlook Press for publication in July, 2010. Overlook is a very fine and classy small literary publisher founded and run by Peter Mayer, a publishing star and, incidentally, an old friend.

Top four reasons self-published books get signed up

1. Indication of the writer’s courage and confidence

We appreciate an author who has the conviction and confidence to invest in self-publishing. It takes courage and a lot of time and energy to write, edit, design, pay for the copies, and then sell them one way or another.

It demonstrates that this isn’t a random hobby but a passion, something the writer really cares about.

2. Evidence of a market for the book

We’re impressed with sales over 5,000 copies. 10,000 is even better. These kind of numbers show that there is, in fact, a market for the book, that there’s something original and compelling about it, and that the author knows how to self-market and publicize it..

We assume that we can add on a lot of value, expertise, and resources to the book’s re-publication, so it can have a greater success for all involved. The author has helped to identify the niche that can be targeted and we can take it further with direct marketing and publicity.

3. Proof the author can market the book

We know that the authors of a successful self-published book will continue to self-market and sell the book on their own.

That’s part of our deal when we sign an author. We assume and expect a continuing active engagement in the kind of marketing that only the author can provide: constant outreach, blogging and social networking, which has become the most effective way to sell any book.

4. An expectation of ongoing bulk sales

We know that self-published books are often a kind of calling card tool the author uses at trainings and workshops for back-of-the-room sales. These authors continue to make bulk sale purchases from a commercial publisher after the new edition has come out.

More advantages for writers

I’m a strong advocate of self-publishing for people who want to get a book out quickly without going through all the frustration of struggling for months and years to get an agent or publisher.

With self-publishing you have total control over every aspect of the book.  It’s an effective way to test and develop a book, since with small print-on-demand editions, the editorial content, cover design, and marketing approach can be polished up as you go along.

And keep in mind that the standard industry figures show that at least five percent of all self-published books convert to commercial publication. That’s a significant number.

Who’s tried self-publishing?

Any tips to pass along to fellow writers? We look forward to hearing about your valuable experiences and thoughts on the subject.

56 Responses to How self publishing can lead to a real book deal

  1. VenetianBlond

    After selling 7,500 self published e-copies of his thrillers on Amazon’s kindle, my friend Boyd Morrison now has a multiple book deal with Simon &Schuster. He showed that the market was definitely there for his work, and that he was willing to put in the work to have a viable writing career.

  2. Katy Love

    I self published my book The Kackle.(Jan 2010) I have been searching for articles about self publishing–the pros and cons. Your article reinforces my decision to chose self publishing.Thank You. I wanted to pass on my wonderful experience thus far so I started a series of blogs following my journey.(http://bykatylove.blogspot.com ).I wish I could find more information on self marketing and success tips for the self publisher. I strongly agree that self publishing is the way to test the market and grow from there.

  3. Wendy St. Germain

    I have self published a book called “Do You Want to Be Happy NOW?” I was extremely happy with the finished product and have received positive feedback from those who read the book. I am concentrating on eMarketing the book and sales have been steadily increasing. I will self-publish my next book this spring as I was so happy with the process. After that I will self publish a fiction book.
    I highly recommend self-publishing for a number of reasons. Primarliy, no one will change anything in your book. Hopefully this will be a good thing. Secondly, the time you might spend on prefaring book proposals and researching publishers can be spent on writing and editing.
    We have access to the entire world, through the Internet and it is possible to reach enough people to generate substantial book sales. All you need is a bit of creativity.
    Good luck and make it fun!!!

  4. Sayan Lahiri

    Hello Sir,

    I am Sayan Lahiri. My first published ebook is available in the given website .
    How can I get a good deal?

  5. Seamus Welsh

    I found this to be both encouraging and instructive. I have listened to the urban myths and have feared investing in the time to do this. At the same time, the query game is so time-consuming and discouraging, that the concept of taking your own chance on yourself is very appealing. One thing, though: I have a serious day job that pays the bills and will get my kids through college. Is the time commitment and financial investment for self-publishing such that those who can only aspire to be more than hobbyists can handle it?

  6. M.Marva Allison

    In 2007, I self published my book,It’s Time to Sing My Song:Overcoming Circumstances with Faith. After several book signings in Illinois, Texas and Louisiana, the responses to the book were gratifying. The book is being sold on the Internet as well as by word of mouth. The book has been well receieved. Self marketing has not been as I would like for it to be but I am still a working progress. Thanks for your words of wisdom; so encouraging. Attempting to write book #2,upon completion, self publishing it will be! Thanks for sharing!!!

  7. Jeremy Taylor

    I have written 47 books and have recently started publishing e.books. I wrote one, a short novel aimed at Chinese learners of English, and sent details of it to a contact at a Chinese publisher. Apparently the website where it can be downloaded is blocked in China so I sent her some screen shots – and the manuscript. That was enough for her to commission the book – and ask for two more books. The royalties aren’t great, but the sales… I think e.books are a great way to showcase the material that you have produced – and a way to find out whether the public like what you’ve written. Any thoughts?

  8. Peter Adler

    I’m releasing my Indie YA fantasy novel, Wyndano’s Cloak, on Monday. The process of self-publishing has been gratifying. More importantly, taking on all the aspects of the publishing process has deepened my understanding of what goes into making a successful novel. For example, clearly visually how the chapter beginnings are likely to appear, may influence what I write on the first page of my next book. Working with two editors also helped advance my knowledge of grammar and punctuation; I believe my writing has improved through the process. I’ve also learned a tremendous amount about book marketing, and I’m making excellent contact for the future. Whether I independently publish the next book or not, I’ll be in a better position to successfully promote. For example, I know how to get prepub reviews (one review called my heroine “extraordinary”), and other aspects of the publishing process have sharpened my awareness of what makes a successful and sellable book.

  9. Mark

    Thanks Alan.
    This is exactly the type of feedback that self published authors need to hear to keep going.

  10. bud

    Dana Carpender was a self Publishing author who now has a publisher, and has had, for a few years, She had a low carb cookbook. Unlike other self publishers I have met, who depend on the existance of the book as a Print On Demand book as their distribution and marketing, she did print enough copies to be a distributor of sorts herself, with a garage full of boxes of her books. Which helped her sales, which helped her get a real publisher.

    I only knew her because she hung out on a Cecil Adams fan site on Usenet. She had a web page for her book, and got on the local small market TV morning show when Low Carb diets made a comeback. But she did make an investment in her book.

    I have yet to meet a ‘print on demand’ vanity author that got to the next level at all without buying at least 100 copies of their own book. You can get the book on Amazon with as little as 20 copies. Considering a brick and mortar store might have 800 locations, if you want that book available there, you can imagine the type of print run you may need to invest in. And to get others to talk about the book, you have to provide a lot of copies gratis.

  11. Carla King

    Hi Alan, I’m wondering – what was the advantage these authors saw for accepting a publishing deal with a traditional publishing house? With the books already selling, and I’m assuming a distribution deal in place from their own website, or somebody like SPA, or Lightning Source, they’re system was already set up. And they know they have to do all the marketing anyway, even with their deal. Did they get such a huge advance that they succumbed? Or were they tired of being their own indie publisher and wanted to focus on other parts of their lives? In my experience (and I’ve had a book go from self- to trad-publishing), the rewards, including monetary profits, are vastly better with self-publishing.

  12. Tom O'Leary

    I recently self-published a book about the classic childhood games we played when I was a boy growing up in New York during the 1970s and 80s. I have an associated blog, Facebook fan page and Twitter profile. Using new media to leverage old media is interesting.

    In a short time after publishing, I received a compliment from Richard Simmons, the champion of childhood fitness and weight control. This was a huge boost to my confidence.

    Self publishing is easy. Self marketing is hard. It requires constant effort and good timing/fortune. It is much easier to do if you are proud of your work and enthusiastic about the process.

    Good luck to all self published authors!

  13. Alan Rinzler

    Hi Carla-

    In my experience, a successfully self-published author may accept an offer to convert to a commercial book publisher for the prestige of being published by a famous company like Random, Simon and Schuster, or Wiley.

    Or they may be tired of having to do everything themselves. They may feel that if they can negotiate a good advance and marketing commitment from the publisher, there’s no question that the larger company has deeper pockets, a bigger sales operation, better distribution, and a back office to take care of all the inventory control, shipping, returns, billing, collecting, and other details.

    But you’re right: If you don’t need it and are doing really well on your own…carry on!

    -Alan

  14. Stephen Tiano

    Very good piece. Something I’d wondered about, having done book design/prepress for a number of self-publishers oer the last few years. I’ve already worked for two that have, I believe, every possibility of breaking thru and becoming the kind of self-publishers that could be picked up. And I’m just starting two more books–interestingly, one a memoir and the other a big novel–that are possible breakthrough books.

    I’m going to have to add you to my blogroll. I want to keep up with your take on self-publishing. It coincides with some of my experience and fills in a lot of blanks.

  15. K.L. Brady

    I’m an indie author of a chick lit novel, and my book recently attracted the interest of an acquisitions editor from a traditional publisher. I would not trade my experience as an indie author for the world. I have learned so much about the business of selling books. I did everything from the ground up…and even managed to get my book picked up by the Barnes & Noble buyer and placed in select stores across the country. I also marketed, and continue to market, like crazy! I spent hours each night putting the work in–writing letters, making phone calls, posting on forums, social networking, courting book clubs, etc., so now the word of mouth is really starting to spread and the reviews are stacking up. I didn’t ask the editor how my book came to her attention but she mentioned the great reviews the book had received. And whereas before I couldn’t get a literary agent to give me the time of day, now several are considering my manuscript.

    Why would I consider a deal? Because I can do most things that traditionally published authors can do, but it takes me a lot more effort to accomplish things they can accomplish effortlessly. If I put the kind of effort I’m putting in now with a publisher’s name behind me, I can spend less energy accomplishing the same things–which leaves me more time to write my next books and be a good mom to my son. For me, it’s not a monetary issue, but a quality of life issue. If I can spend 2 hours and get way more accomplished as a traditionally published writer, then, for me, that will enhance my quality of life and it’s something worth consideration.

    With that said, there are so many things to consider that I never thought about. For example, my book is market tested and the readers love it as it is. It can use a little proofreading for minor issues but that’s it. So when an agent suggests changes so that he can send it out wide to publishers, how resistant/accomodating should you be? What kind of offer should you expect given that your book is market tested and has already begun to establish an audience, versus a manuscript you’re taking a bigger chance on? All things I’ll find out over the course of the next few weeks I suppose. But even if nothing comes of the deal, I’m proof positive that it can happen to anyone. In October 2009, I was a nobody who released a self-published yet another novel. Five months later, I’m a relative nobody considering a book deal. Who woulda thunk it?

  16. Susan J. Cobb

    I’m a sixty year old woman who moved to Mexico three years ago. My self-published memoir VIRGIN TERRITOTY: HOW I FOUND MY INNER GUADALUPE has been out for two weeks. It is doing well on Amazon and through my own “publishing house” — Porsimisma Press. Por si misma means “by or for herself.” My book is built on the concept that the original meaning of “virgin” was “one-in-herself.” Self-publishing seemed not only a logical answer to getting into print ASAP, but the act itself should lend credibility to what I have to say.

  17. Karen McGrath

    This is great information, thank you. I plan to self publish. I received a to-do list from a new publisher looking for authors. It left me wondering what the publisher was doing other than printing their name on the front page. If I’m expected to do 90% of the work after writing and editing my book, I want the higher profit allowed by self publishing. Not to mention that traditional publshing takes at least two years start to finish when self publishing takes mere months.

  18. Christine B.Osborne

    The self published book GOOD NIGHT AND GOD BLESS by Australian writer Trish Clark was a Best Books Award Winner USA book news 2009 and was subsequently picked up by the largest bookshop in Sydney
    as well as finding a US publisher. Her second volume is now out. See http://www.goodnightandgodbless.com

    As for me, I embrace the idea of having total control over my work and although design, and especially marketing are very time consuming, I`m not daunted.

    I found this article very useful, the comments encouraging, and I intend to self publish my current
    work.

    I am a published author of 12 titles but everything I hear and read says SP is the way to go.

  19. Carolyn Vines

    Dear Mr. Rinzler,
    finally, an optimistic article about self-publishing. I’d gotten to the point of not reading anymore posts on the subject because I want to keep my motivation high. I’m working on my memoir’s final edit, which means I see the light at the end of the tunnel (thank the lawwwwdddd). It also means that my hands are slipping down toward the end of my rope and too much negativity might cause me to let go altogether! So far mine has been a positive experience. Early on I found a supportive editor who not only believes in my project, she’s also been able to inspire me to keep writing when my internal critic asked me who I thought I was to be writing a book. I’m also a part of two writing groups, which is key for receiving feedback on the excerpts that I submit. Most of all, I developed a blog platform with a very, very, very modest following. My blog’s readers have confirmed that people are interested in my stories. This experience has had a high learning curve. I’ve learned about marketing and promotion as well as book cover design and layout. I’m working on my social networking as well as trying to create an author’s platform. For anyone considering self-publishing, I would highly recommend it, despite the high risks involved.

    Thank you, Mr. Rinzler, for helping to keep me motivated.

  20. Kim Armstrong

    Thank you for the positive feedback on self-publishing. After four years of wondering (many times) why I continue this writing endeaver, I finally hear something that encourages me to press on. Both of my books are inspirational nurse’s stories. Some of the stories talk about the miraculous and some about the dying process.

    What I heard from the traditional publishers (if anything) was, “You need a platform!” Considering the fact that everyone faces a terminal illness, devastating situation in life or death of a loved one makes me think that I have a platform. Besides, everyone knows a nurse or health care professional who can relate to caring for the terminally ill patient.

    Self-publishing has served me well. Yes, there is a big marketing job involved but I write to encourage people who are losing hope. If it takes self=publishing to get the word out then that is what I must do.

  21. Matt

    It’s certainly encouraging to know that some of the myths surrounding self-publishing are untrue. The important thing though is to be relatively successful at it. Self-publishing is very appealing to writers I think because it involves little reliance on anyone else. Writing is largely solitary, and it feels comfortable to carry this through to the publishing process.

    Of course, being comfortable is not always a good thing! You’ve still got to get yourself out there and actually sell some books!

  22. Felice Gerwitz

    This is a very good discussion on self-publishing and I am edified it is from a reliable source! As a self publisher in a niche market, I have attained great success. Knowing my market, having a speaking platform and paying for good editors all helped my books remain in print, some for over fifteen years and still selling strong.

    I was presented with a four-book contract after my first year of self publishing and rejected this offer. Two years ago it was an offer to buy my imprint that was rejected. The bottom line is, if you enjoy what you do, and do it successfully there is no need to sell out. Many authors only want to write. I find both sides of the fence enjoyable. When I break from writing I publish, myself and others.

    Today authors need to be tech savvy, marketing and promotional geniuses and literary giants to be recognized. It can happen and that is why it is called, “work”.

  23. Nnamdi

    This is good to hear. My self-published book, “Facebook Addiction: The Life & Times of Social Networking Addicts”, has received a ton of TV/Radio Press and also 5 stars from an Amazon Top 10 Reviewer. I’m optimistic about the success of this book.
    The book has been marketed virally by the Online Branding & Technology firm, Strategic Generation, and has resulted in the following:
    1. Over 28,500 YouTube Book Trailer Views http://www.TheFacebookAddiction.com/trailer
    2. Global Book Launch Party, which included participants from (New York, London, Alaska, India, Arizona, Nigeria & many more) http://www.TheFacebookAddiction.com/party
    3. Over 1,100 Twitter followers – http://twitter.com/IceCreamMelts
    4. A Highly Trafficked Book Based Blog – http://www.TheFacebookAddiction.com/blog
    .

    Press: http://www.TheFacebookAddiction.com/links/press
    Amazon Reviews: http://www.TheFacebookAddiction.com/links/retail/amazon
    Book Based Blog: http://www.icecreammelts.com/blogs/facebook-addiction

    Great Post – thanks for keep us motivated.

  24. Cheri Laser

    Mr. Rinzler, thank you so much for lending such credibility to the self-publishing path! I’m preparing to release my second novel in June (Separation of Faith). My first (The Truth about Cinnamon) was published in December 2003. For both, my publishing choice has been iUniverse (an imprint of AuthorSolutions).

    Six years ago when I published Cinnamon, I had no idea what I was doing. As I promoted Cinnamon, I learned through the old baptism-by-fire methodology. But I never crossed that 5000-book threshold, despite the fact that the story has found a large fan base and the book has earned both the Editor’s Choice and Reader’s Choice designations at iUniverse.

    And while my writing improved dramatically as I did freelance editing for six years, I still didn’t really know what I was doing in terms of promotion until last fall. That’s when I attended a conference in New York on the realities of the publishing world and the significance of social media for every author, regardless of the publishing path chosen. That conference not only opened my eyes but also turned my to-do list upside down.

    On November 4, 2009, I launched my blog (www.cherilaser.wordpress.com), a real-time “Journey from Publishing Obscurity to Somewhere Else.” Through my blog posts, I’m chronicling the good, the bad, and the ugly of bringing a novel into the world through the self-publishing route. But the underlying premise–an open-kimono experiment, actually–is that a great story well-written and professionally edited can find a quicker path to a traditional publisher through a savvy, high-energy, well-executed, self-published plan.

    We’re conducting this experiment on my second novel, Separation of Faith, which is now in the copyediting stage at iUniverse. Assuming there are no surprises in the copyedit, the novel will be released in June with the Editor’s Choice imprint on the cover. That was a goal that I knew I had to achieve in order for the novel to start life with a prayer of success. (And I can’t count anymore the number of edits required to get there.)

    My job now is to sell those 5000+ copies so someone like you might be interested in taking a look at what I’ve written. And the promotion process is already underway, even before we have a book in hand (a major lesson learned at that conference last fall). My journey is (and will continue to be) tracked through my blog. The idea is to share with other authors those things that work as well as those that don’t.

    And today I posted a link to your article on the self-publishing path, sharing the belief that there’s more than one way to slice this pie.

    Thank you so much again, Mr. Rinzler, for your supportive, reinforcing perspective. I’m now following you, and if you have a minute, I’d love to have you stop by my blog (www.cherilaser.wordpress.com) and my website (www.eWritersRUs.com).

    All the best,
    Cheri Laser

  25. Aline deWinter

    This is really encouraging. i am in the process of publishing a novel with iUniverse. The editorial feedback i received has resulted in major revisions I could never have come up with if not for the feedback of a professional. Because she thinks my book has potential, she is offering another evaluation at a very low price. This is fantastic for 2 reasons: I can’t afford to hire an editor to help me so this takes that pain away. I also keep creative control of the book and revise as it feels right to me using the editor’s feedback as a guide.

    This article is encouraging because I thought I would have to sell many thousands of more copies than 5,000 to interest a traditional publisher. Since I have a pretty good platform as a blogger and on Facebook, I think with a bot more work in that area I can sell that many.

    Thanks again Alan for a helpful article!

  26. Denise Fayhee Wolf

    I self-published my first novel, The Bountiful Garden (www.TheBountifulGarden.net) in November 2009. What an amazing and satisfying adventure it has been. My sales have been excellent and, as I learn the tricks of the trade, they continue to improve. I’d recommend self-publishing as a wonderful option for anyone inspired to write. Self-publishing may never replace commercial publishers but it will surely change the landscape for writers, publishers and readers in years to come.

  27. Sayan Lahiri

    Hello ,

    I shall be obliged if you give some tips on published ebook marketing ?

  28. Joel Friedlander

    Alan,

    Really useful and level-headed article, thanks. I was impressed when you talked about self-published books being acquired when you spoke to BAIPA. But as a business decision, it just makes sense.

    Conversely, the books an author can’t sell won’t be improved by the resources of a large publishing house.

    The decision whether to stick to the self-publishing model, as Carla mentioned, is a book-by-book call. If an author can sell 5,000 copies in the first year, they should know the market well enough to determine whether the value a publisher could add would be worth it. Some books, yes, some books, no.

    Also appreciated the direct style of your “Top Four” list. Great stuff.

  29. R.C. Beckom

    If you build a better mouse trap the world will beat a path to your doorsteps.” the old sayin’ goes, well, there are so many things and stuff to talk and write until there will always be a market for no matter what, to get notice into the main stream will still be the maim objective. Distrubution,distrubution, distrubution.

  30. Suzanne Saxe-Roux

    Thank you for your insights and inspiration. After a variety of revisions, edits, revisions and more edits we are self-publishing our book, Courage and Croissants, Inspiring Joyful Living, this spring. After examining and talking with the traditional publishing market we realized that the self-publishing was the best option for us and we are dedicated to making it a major success. Thank you again for bridging the gap between self-publishing and traditional publishing.

  31. Fiona Ingram

    Thank you so much for the first positive post I have read on self publishing for a very long time. I had begun to avoid reading anything on SP because the general feeling seemed to be “kiss of death.” Yes, it is much easier when one has a traditional publisher and one is also somehow considered a ‘real’ writer then. The Shack is one example of how SP authors can make it. But it is (one comment above) very tiring doing it all alone. A traditional publisher has much to offer in the way of marketing and distribution set up, that frees the author to do what they are supposed to do: write.

  32. Jill Ronsley

    Thanks for an excellent article. A recent success that I am delighted to report is Bryan Chick’s “The Secret Zoo.” It’s one of my favorite MG novels! Everyone I know who read it, from eight-year-olds to grandmas, loved it. Bryan Chick did a wonderful job promoting, sales were excellent and, as a result, Harper and Collins picked it up. I am proud to say that I edited and designed the self-published version. Look for it in June, 2010.

    All the best,

    Jill

    Jill Ronsley
    Sun Editing & Book Design
    http://www.suneditwrite.com

  33. Zoe Winters

    When trying to decide between self-publishing and seeking traditional publishing, I had to ask myself the question… “Which would I regret not pursuing more?” I found I’d regret not pursuing self-publishing more, so I became an indie author. I know if I have “it” whatever “it” is, that eventually enough of a ground swell would build that I “could” get a contract. But I’m not really interested in one at this time. The offer would have to be VERY good to pull me away from doing what I love and I certainly don’t expect that to happen. Someday if I do well enough for myself as an indie it may. And then I’ll have a decision to make. For now I’m enjoying indie authorship.

  34. Sue Collier

    Our book THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING, 5TH EDITION (originally written by Tom and Marilyn Ross, and this current edition by me and Marilyn Ross) started off as a self-published book, and then was picked up by a traditional publisher. It’s been highly successful–with more than 100,000 copies sold. So yeah–we have a contract. But we also bear the bulk of the responsibility for marketing and promotions. The publisher basically is paying for book production and including the book on their website. Period.

    We have another title JUMP START YOUR BOOK SALES, 2ND EDITION (also originally written by the Rosses, and this edition by me and Marilyn) that we will be self-publishing. This too has been a successful title, with tens of thousands of books sold. Of course we also bear the bulk of the responsibility for marketing and promotions. Oh but wait–that’s no different from our trad published book.

    It might be assumed that all self-published authors “dream” of getting signed by a traditional publisher, but they really need to do the math to make sure they are getting the best deal. In many cases, it might not make sense to give up your control over your book–which is something else authors might not consider.

  35. Henry Baum

    Looking to publish a book mainly because it’s sold in the past is one of the reasons people look to self-publishing in the first place: the attitude that money trumps quality. I understand publishing’s a business, but this marketing obsession isn’t exactly great news.

  36. Jeff Rivera

    I self-published my book, Forever My Lady and was picked up by Warner Books/Grand Central publishing after I built an audience of about 8000 readers. There are lots of pros and cons of traditionally publishing and self-publishing and depending on the project, I would do either one again.

  37. Anne S. Cook

    I have self published two books and my third will be available in a month. I have been writing forever. 15 years ago I seriously started attempting to get published. Manuscripts languished in my desk, frustration invaded my psyche. Ten years ago self publishing became an affordable, welcome option and I jumped in. I never regretted the move for a second; without it my desks would still be filled with dusty papers and untold stories, my mind still clutterd with insecurity and doubt!

  38. Gina

    The reason I chose to self-publish is that my book is not only rather short, being a novelette size, but also the content is too odd to appeal to a mainstream publisher. I just published the book and am very early into the process. I know it will attract only a limited audience because of its explicit scenes and quirky plot. I don’t know that I will ever self-publish again. At this point, I am working with a co-author on a sci-fi novel. We intend to go the traditional route with publishing on that one. But, I love hearing about authors who have found success with self publishing. It’s inspiring.

  39. Anne Severn Williamson

    Thank you for your informative and encouraging comments on self-publishing! I self-published The Holly King, Part I of the First Triad of The Fairy Lore of Ghost Horse Hollow. My Web site has received visitors from 94 nations on seven continents with over 114,000 hits. (www.ghosthorsehollow.com) I chose self-publishing to retain artistic guidance over the appearance and integrity of the nine part book saga, which is dedicated to world conservation, tolerance, and ending child trafficking. In short, the world responded wonderfully to the concept of a book series that had an uplifting purpose, as well as a base of excellent family entertainment. I used Trafford Publishing. They were most polite and helpful. I am currently seeking an agent or publishing house to move the series into mainstream marketing. I also used social media and You tube to enhance my personal marketing. Please visit Ghost Horse Hollow on You tube to see the enchanting Book Trailer for The Holly King. “The Song of the Earth” and the beautiful, blue-eyed Ghost Horses are inspiring readers around the globe. I think self-publishing was the best way to prove that my innovative book concept was enticing. Honestly, I am now ready for the support of a major publisher and look forward to working with more professionals in the distribution fields.
    Good fortune to everyone with your creative endeavors! Please drop in on Ghost Horse Hollow on the Web and refer a friend! Or Follow the Hollow on Twitter! and Facebook!
    Respectfully,
    Anne Severn Williamson, Author, Montana
    PS> The Holly King is now #1 on Amazon.com under that title and appears in on-line book stores globally. I will keep you informed as to what the next stage of the process might be for my self-publishing endeavor.

  40. Tom Rymour

    Dear Alan — hello from South Africa! I think your site is superb.
    In my experience SP is not a problem. You can produce a beautiful short run digital book for peanuts. The money and time required for distribution and marketing are the killers. I wrote a politically-incorrect African sociopolitical cacotopia (black elite, white masses; food taboo, sex open; a satire on Rhodesia). “After the Eclipse” won the Sanlam Literary Award (unpublished). It was a successful 25-part cliffhanger on a big web portal for years. But publishers are wary, because they think I’m satirising the corrupt ANC in SA. So I took the SP route. Bookshops wouldn’t touch me, and I sold through filling stations and gift shops plus pocket marketing. The (don’t laugh!) print run of 400 sold before I ran out of marketing time. Then I set up a mail order system and swopped 19 humour columns with the website in exchange for R25 000 in home page ads, linked through to the serial. 500 000 hits, and 1000 click-throughs to the serial bagged one order, from a woman in Scotland who couldn’t afford the postage from South Africa — and cancelled. Undaunted, I sold the columns to a legit publisher who asked me for 18 000 extra words and published it in Jan 2008 as “Rogue Male — the Newly Single Man’s Survival Guide (a combination of evolutionary psychology and scabrous anecdotes). Again, excellent reviews, followed by pizza marketing, lacklustre merchandising and 317 copies sold. Pulped in November of the same year. And the moral of the story? Even with pocket marketing I can make more money on my own — and there’s an ISBN for posterity, with copies in the five big SA libraries. I self publish as an adventure, and this year I shall come out with my third trade paperback. I think maybe the whole process would be easier in the first world…At present “Eclipse” is on Scribd at $9.99 –

  41. Alan Rinzler

    Hi Tom —

    What perseverance! Thanks for giving us a snapshot of what it’s like to self-publish in South Africa. Yours is the first report I’ve heard of selling your own book in a filling station. Very creative!

  42. Tristan de Chalain

    Dear Mr. Rinzler,
    Thanks for this post – I’m really glad that I’ve come across your stuff as you’re the first authority I’ve found who doesn’t promise that self-publishing automatically implies that you’re a lightweight who will never be taken seriously. I’m in the throes of digitally marketing my novel “Wolf’s Paw” published through a joint venture deal with Eloquent Books. It’s early days yet, but pursuant to their advice I’ve set up a website, started a blog and a facebook fan page and am doing a national Radio Interview this week. Trouble is, although Eloquent are in the US, I am living in New Zealand (total Pop. 4 million), so it’s difficult to achieve large numbers and as for making a face-to-face pitch with a publisher or agent, well that doesn’t happen here. Nevertheless, I am determined to make a living from my writing and I am working on finding an agent,, as I have several more book ideas up my sleeve ( my next book is well on its way).
    Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for the encouragement. I’ll keep hammering on the door.
    Regards and thanks,
    Tristan de Chalain
    p.S. You might want to check out my Blog at http http://dechalain1615.blogspot.com/….then again, you might not.

  43. Kait Nolan

    So many great success stories! It makes me proud and happy to be joining the indie movement! I only recently published my debut paranormal romance novella Forsaken By Shadow. It’s intended as a sort of teaser to build interest in the series I have planned. It’s been such a wonderful learning experience, and I have to say that there’s a lot of attraction to having full control of EVERYTHING. There’s something about seeing your grassroots following grow by leaps and bounds that’s just so exciting!

  44. Rodney Williams

    I have self published two books. My first book “Gone By Faith”, sold thousands of copies through signings and speaking engagements. My second work “Reach For The Praise” is a self published work, published by Xlibris and it is doing quite well in sales. I encourage those of you that have manuscripts that YOU believe in, to turn those ideas into a cover, and let the cover speak to the reader. Then let the rest become history! So instead of sitting around waiting on a book deal, become the catylist and make your dreams a reality. Thats why I did, and thats what I am doing, one book at a time. Godspeed..

  45. Alison McLennan

    The MS of my first novel, Falling For Johnny, was requested by editors of two fairly large publishing houses. That was in March and everyday I check my email mulitple times hoping I might hear something back. I decided to write fiction because of a nagging story that developed over years of insomnia. When I surrendered into the writing, when the characters spoke to me in the middle of the night as if they existed on their own, and the story took a twist or turn that was never intended, then I fell in love and finally felt like I was doing my “work”. But when the work was finished and the the reality of the marketplace, the query letters, the agents,the rejections, the elusive platform, the blogs, the game, the posturing, the self-promotion, wow, when that all set in I felt demoralized. “Look Ma, no hands!” But no one is looking. You’ll have to ride backwards on your head if you want to get noticed. Now I long for the days I never knew, when authors chained smoked in front of typewriters and wrote! Really, I long for any news at all about my MS. I will self-publish if they reject it because there is a generation of readers out there, people I know and don’t know who are not long for this world and I want some of them to read “Falling For Johnny.” Thanks for this honest and informative blog! Cheers to everyone who has had the courage to self-publish.

  46. Alan Rinzler

    Hi Alison,

    It does take courage to self-publish: a belief in your work, faith in its ability to find a market, and also the commitment of time and energy it takes to publish and market an independent book successfully. If you decide ultimately to try this route, I wish you good fortune.

  47. Alison McLennan

    Thanks Alan,
    If I’m rejected and decide to try self-publishing I will save my pennies so I can afford a good indpendent editor (like you) before I put it out there. Marketing is important but the quality of the book is most important and for that you need a good editor. I’ve often asked myself if I died, would it still be important to have the book published? Minus the kudos and self-satisfaction does the book matter? When the answer is yes then I will be ready!

  48. Rob Kaay

    Thanks Alan. I put out my new urban fantasy novel in October last year. I podcasted the first nine chapters. From those nine podcasts the Supanova Pop Culture Expo in Australia asked me to be a guest speaker. At the Expo, Borders Australia stocked my novel and let me sell it from behind their booth. I sold out of my first pressing of 1000 copies. I made my investment back, plus some. I’ve just completed the screenplay version and am talking to a director in L.A. about maybe (maybe) shooting it. Now I’ve started writing the next one. Articles like this helped me find the guts to just do it.

  49. Michael A. Robson

    WOW this is fantastic.. This is pure gold for writers, thank you!

  50. K.C. Hilton

    Great article!

    I think it’s very important to KNOW your market. For instance, I write middle grade fiction. If I want my book in the hands of young readers I must do several things. I do giveaways at schools, talk to parents and encourage children to read. I support summer reading programs and I’m currently having the first book in the series made into an audio book.

    Keeping a blog and a website up to date are also important and I agree with social media marketing.

    Marketing your book and yourself are very important when self publishing. It can be a bit overwhelming at times, but it’s all worth it. The Magic of Finkleton had over 2,000 sales within the first month of release and has recently received the Children’s Literary Classic Seal of Approval.

    Create a fan base through your books. Again, online marketing does a lot for this, but it’s your readers who you need to communicate with through Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and of course your website and/or blog.

    The Magic of Finkleton has fans! I love getting emails from children and adults, who want to know about the sequel.

    Everyone loves FREE stuff! Aside from book giveaways, people love bookmarks. Treat them like your business card. Always have them with you! I give several to children, parents and teachers to hand out to their friends and so on. I’ve even handed some out while browsing a bookstore!

    Reviews! Get your book(s) reviewed. As you know, REVEIWS are like GOLD to an author and we LOVE the GOLD!

    All my best to everyone!

  51. Jenipher

    Hello everyone!

    I was curious if anyone had a good place they published they’re book?
    I’m seeking to self publish very soon and keep running into brick walls.

    Any help would be VERY appreciated!

    smiles,
    Jenipher :)
    Jenipher@cherryrunway.com

  52. Self-Publishing | Katriona Chapman Illustration

    [...] 5000 copies would be a minimum to impress a publisher, according to Peter Mayer of Overlook Press http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/2010/03/11/how-self-publishing-can-lead-to-a-real-book-deal/) There’s also a good article here on getting a self-published book taken up by a publishing [...]

  53. Merits of Self-Publishing « Writing My Next Chapter

    [...] She also cites two examples of books she’s worked on with self-published authors. Check it out at: http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/2010/03/11/how-self-publishing-can-lead-to-a-real-book-deal/ [...]

  54. Gayle Selisch

    Hello,
    I self published a cookbook and sold over 300 copies in 2 weeks. I know there are many bad cookbooks, boring cookbooks, and “not another” cookbook sent out in hopes of getting picked up by a real publisher. The comments I have received have been quite good. How do I get someone to take a look at it? It contains history, humor, instruction, tragedy, healing and awareness, along with over 100 recipes that have been enjoyed by hundreds of people.

    Thank you.
    Gayle

  55. Julie Johnson

    I self published a set of music theory workbooks (Basics of Keyboard Theory) in 1992, after receiving rejections from just about every music publisher in the country. They were an instant success. For the past 22 years I’ve made more money than I ever dreamed possible, and I’ve been able to keep control of the content. While self-publishing is not for everybody, it was definitely the best route for me. Now that my husband and I are nearing retirement, I’m planning to approach the music publishers again. They will be getting a well-established, successful product, and I will get the expert marketing that will expand my customer base. My hope is to write more educational materials under their guidance. Give self-publishing a try! It’s better than doing nothing with the book into which you have poured your heart and soul!

  56. Alan Rinzler

    Julie,

    It’s wonderful and inspiring to read about your success as a pioneer in self-publishing. Congratulations on your 21 year success story!

    You obviously have a great series of books for a very focused niche market. Any music publisher would be fortunate to get the list, so now that you’re ready, make a good deal!

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