Thursday, June 19, 2008

Anna Gets Her Answer

Anna- You won the book - and to have your answer posted here. I need you to contact me at with your address! Please get in touch with me within a week. Thanks to everyone who visited and to those who asked a question. We'll see you back here on Tuesday for another interview with a great author! Lorna has also been kind enough to answer the other questions posted to her interview, so check out the comments section. Here's Anna's question:
Great interview!
What do you think is the single most important consideration for someone to do before deciding if you should seek a traditional publisher or go through a print on demand publisher.

From Lorna:

Dear Anna,

If you have a way to sell your books yourself, you should consider print on demand or other forms of self-publishing. Can you reach your audience without a middleman? Do you have the time and energy to devote to marketing and distribution, in an effort that could involve years? The traditional publisher serves the role of middleman for most writers, by getting your book out to stores and providing publicity to attract buyers. But if you are already in a position to provide this yourself, then you can cut the middleman and earn those profits directly. For example, someone who does a lot of public speaking might be able to write a book about his or her topic and sell it at speaking engagements. Someone who is part of a niche group with a concrete way to reach that group might be able to write a book directly for the group, and wouldn't need a publisher's help in reaching an audience.

The key is to be honest and realistic about your abilities. I know a novelist who self-published in the vaguely optimistic belief that she would be able to sell her novel off her website, based on assurances from her website designer. She published her book, sold it to friends, and then nothing much else happened with it. I think she thought all she had to do was put her website up and readers would magically appear through the wonders of the Internet, requiring no promotional effort on her behalf. I know another writer who self-published but put a lot of work into promotion, both on the Internet and "in real life" (by calling bookstores, doing book fairs and book signings, submitting her book to book reviewers, etc). Despite all her efforts, her sales also have been minimal.

Sometimes a book is simply not going to attract buyers, no matter how much promotion is put into it. This could be due to its topic or -- and here's why you need to be honest with yourself -- how it is written. I can't tell you how many self-published novels I've picked up and been appalled by, due to grammar mistakes, misspellings, and overall poor writing. I don't know whether friends are afraid to be critical with these writers or why exactly they think they can write a book, but I do think it's important for authors to find someone independent to critique his or her manuscript before even thinking about publishing (whether self-publishing or traditional).

Traditional publishers are looking for great ideas that appeal to large groups of buyers, which also are well-written (which is especially true with fiction). But this is not enough for traditional publishers. They also demand a "platform" -- a way that the author can reach the public. Maybe the author is a celebrity or an established expert in the field or has a blog that gets 100,000 hits a day. But in some way, the author usually has to be able to bring more to the table besides a great book, well-written, to get a book deal from a traditional publisher. If you think you can provide those things, then you might as well try to get a traditional publisher before striking out on your own with POD -- unless, as I said before, you have an easy way to reach your audience and distribute your book yourself.

I also wanted to make a distinction between self-publishing and POD. If you are able to afford self-publishing, where you pay a large upfront cost to have a large quantity of books printed and stored, then you might want to consider this over POD, because you will make a lot more money per book so long as you can sell them. That is a big "if," though.

Sorry if I've rambled a bit, but to sum up: The key consideration in deciding whether to self-publish or use POD is the ability to actually get your book to your audience. If you have a book that you know you can sell to a specific group of people, and you know how to get the book to them (through distribution channels or directly), AND you have the time and considerable energy to commit to this for what may be years to come, then consider self-publishing or POD.

Good luck! Hope this helps.




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