Publishing Your First Book

I just moved into a new temporary apartment in Jerusalem, and due to a problem with the hot water, got stuck taking a cold shower. I'd forgotten how miserable a cold shower can be when you aren't taking it by choice. Many authors preparing to self publish their first book think it will be like jumping into a cold swimming pool; a momentary shock followed by rapid acclimatization and progress. Unfortunately, I think that for most authors, self publishing their first book is more like the unexpected cold shower - short intervals of misery and a sincere wish to just get it over with.

Just an hour or two ago I found myself replying to a question from a new publisher who was suffering from information overload. There's been so much written about self publishing with POD, in the media, on the web, in books and discussion groups, that it's possible to lose track of the most essential facts in a sea of contradictory opinions, some of which are written with a great deal of sincerity. It's extremely difficult for an authors with no publishing industry experience to figure out which approach is applicable their specific situation, not to mention which approaches are merely come-ons from people trying to sell them a service.

The best way to approach information overload when preparing to publish your first book is to assume that everybody is out to pick your pocket. You'll learn more about publishing by doing a little Internet research on what their angle is, how they plan profit off your savings, than you'll learn by listening to their opinions on publishing. When you find a business model where the company you are working with will only make money if you sell books, you'll have found a partner worth working with. Off the top of my head, that list would include Lightning Source, Replica, Amazon (CreateSpace, not Booksurge), companies that can get your books in print for a trivial set-up fee, and which don't pretend they can do anything to help you sell them. Selling books is your job, as the publisher.

The reason I don't include offset printers in this list, even though they are usually honest players, is because they get their money in one chunk, up-front, and it makes no difference to their business if your books sells or are recycled. With Lightning Source, Replica and CreateSpace, their set-up fees probably cover the actual set-up cost, and a little overhead. They don't make a profit by simply getting new books in the system. It's when those books sell they make money.

But the majority of authors I hear from really have no interest in going into the publishing business. They just want to get a book printed and made available on Amazon or through special orders from customers at retail stores. For that I recommend choosing a subsidy press that doesn't claim any rights to the book, but don't pay a dime for any service beyond publication, which should be $500 or less. I can't tell you how many times authors have sent me glowing descriptions of this or that service which they've cut-and-pasted right off the site of the company selling that service. If you believe that kind of advertising, you've got a number of cold showers waiting for you, and your first book will likely be your last.


A. J. Palacios said...

I've been following this blog for some time and I think it's great.
I can see people in the US have lots of options to self-publish their first book. Lightning Source, etc. Even the ISBN is easy to get.
Here in México, however, none of these apply. Almost nothing I've read in this blog can be used. I'm not telling it's not worth reading. On the contrary. But to begin with, there's no Amazon equivalent here. Ordering a $14 dlls. book from amazon results in a $30 to $60 dlls. buy because of the shipping and customs clearance.
Printing with an offset press is the only way. And no ISBN since here, the law establishes that ISBNs are only given to trade publishing houses ONLY.
I keep the faith though. I know someday I'll self-publish my novel, ISBN and bar code included.
I've made everything from layout to covers.
Thanks for the tips! I almost lose my money with Xlibris and Trafford!!

Morris Rosenthal said...


Thanks for the info. I know less than nothing about publishing in Mexico, or maybe now I know a little more than nothing, and it sounds like tough going. I've read that business in Mexico in general is wrapped up in miles of red tape, so I don't know what it takes to become a "Trade Publisher" there.