Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


In Between the Lines of Self Publishing

Filed under: backlist books,book contracts,eBooks,self-publishing — gator1965 @ 1:41 pm

“Hey, John!” screams my buddy, Numbnuts, “I self-published my book for $3,000; NOW they aren’t even going to promote the damn thing! Ain’t that something?”

“Numb,” I reply, “I TOLD you before you have to check the contract IN DETAIL, before you sign anybody to self-publish. There are still a lot of scammy people out there even though self-publishing is more accepted in today’s publishing environment.”

Soooo True, and that’s why I am addressing some of the realities and perils of self-publishing today.

Fact is, self-publishers do no or little book promotion; but, as the self-publishing industry heats up, some will probably offer more promotion (at an increased cost) to attract business…AND here is where you will need details and specifics in your contract…Plus other considerations.

Laura McFarland of the Rocky Mount Telegram dot com wrote an excellent piece
on the issues of self-publishing:

People have read his books.

Steven B. Pavelsky’s name never has been on The New York Times best-seller list. He has not made millions, or even thousands, of dollars in royalties or been courted by publishing companies.

In fact, Pavelsky paid to publish two of three books he has written, which have sold fewer than 2,000 copies between them. He plans to self-publish a collection of short stories he is working on, and he has no idea how it will be received. But none of that matters to him.

“If you spend your whole life trying to get it published, and you are not a John Grisham or someone, then you might not ever get read. This way, there are people reading me and there are people discussing my stuff,” said Pavelsky of Leggett.

In the last decade, the self-publishing industry has exploded, said Mark Levine, author of “The Fine Print of Self Publishing.” Changes in printing technology and a gradual shift in the book industry’s attitude toward self-publishing have helped the practice flourish. Hundreds of thousands of people every year pay to have their books done by publishing houses, vanity presses and websites such as lulu.comand, Levine said.

“The traditional publishing industry has been in such a free fall. It has been crumbling so quickly at all levels. Book stores are going out of business. Borders has laid off tons of people. The whole industry has changed, and what that has done is allowed more people to successfully self publish today,” Levine said.

Holding your book in your hand for the first time is an amazing experience and worth the time and money if that is what the writer wants, Levine said.

But there are pitfalls people who are considering self-publishing need to be aware of before they sign contracts or money changes hands, Levine said. Whether authors write a book to share with friends and family or to launch a career, they need to familiarize themselves with the publishing process and research the companies they are considering.

Before starting the process, authors need to finish their books and invest shaping and editing them, Levine said. Part of the reason self-publishing has developed a negative reputation is that people are writing books that aren’t edited, lack organization and are poorly made.

Though Yvonne Rhodes of Rocky Mount finished writing her second devotional in January, she has spent more than three months editing it. As with a devotional she published in 2004, Rhodes will send the manuscript to Morris Publishing in Kearney, Neb., and order 400 copies. The cost is expected to be about $2,000, which she has been saving for about a year.

“My other book I did send to Zondervan. I sent that one to an editor there, but she wrote me back and said at that particular time they weren’t in the market for that type of book,” Rhodes said.

Rejection from a traditional book company or fear of it is the main reason people choose self-publishing, Levine said. Traditional publishing houses have slashed the number of new authors they are signing. Even with some of the books they do pay to publish, they require the author to pay for marketing.

“A lot of authors don’t have any perception that they need to spend a lot of money to market the book. There seems to be a perception by authors that it will be out there and people will find it,” Levine said.

Kelly Traylor didn’t realize how involved promoting her book, “Summer at the Point,” would be when she published it in 2009 on A family member recommended the site, so Traylor didn’t look at other companies.

Traylor said she realizes now how much she didn’t know about publishing a book. Many of her sales came from telling people about the book. People can order the book from, but unless someone knows it is there and looks for it, there is nothing to draw attention to it, she said.

“I need to do a little bit more research before I pick a company if I do decide to self-publish again. I actually need to see how much work is involved on their part, and I would probably talk to some authors who have used the company before instead of just taking one person’s word on it,” said Traylor, a registered nurse at Nash General Hospital.

Most of the sales of Pavelsky’s “Dark Waters” and “Racing Plastic Pink Flamingos” also were due to word of mouth. The costs iuniverse.comwould have charged to promote the book were too much for him. Still, he liked the company and plans to publish his short story collection through it.

The biggest problem in the way most self-publishing companies are structured is the way they mark up printing costs anywhere from 50 percent to 140 percent, Levine said. Often, if an author wants to recoup some of his or her money or even make a profit, he or she has to charge more than most people are willing to pay for the book.

“It is difficult enough to sell a book if it is priced right. But if you are selling a 250-page novel for $18.99, it is not going to happen,” Levine said.

Authors need to look at all the services a company offers, including editing, cover design, copyright and promotion, Levine said. Read contracts carefully before signing them, and do not take anything as a guarantee until it is in writing.

Price shop several companies and look at feedback from other writers who have used them, he said. Many companies offer package deals, but authors should make sure they include all the services they will need. If not, how much will additional services cost?

What it boils down to is picking a company who will deliver on their promises, work hard and not offer unrealistic guarantees to convince an author to sign with it, Levine said.

“It is like picking a day care for your child, and for a lot of people, their books are like their children,” he said.


Among the famous authors and the books they self-published are:

•Howard Fast — “Spartacus.”
•Christopher Paolini — “Eragon.”
•Virginia Woolf — “A Room of One’s Own.”
•Richard Paul Evans — “The Christmas Box.”
•Beatrix Potter — “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.”
•James Joyce — “Ulysses.”
•John Grisham — “A Time To Kill.”
•Mark Twain — “Huckelberry Finn.”


  1. The things I can tell you! I'm a professional writer. I've made a living, albeit small, as a freelancer for more than 15 years. I decided to independently publish my new book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women's Stories earlier this year. If you want to read about my experiences with indie publishing go to One of the key statements in the WWB! post is that a writer doesn't understand the need for book promotion. My book is on A place where millions of people come to buy books. I thought it would be easy to drive people there! I'm learning. It's a process. Reading the small print is only ONE of many important issues with the indie publishing. Writers BEWARE! If you expect instant recognition, your living in a science fiction world. You're going to get a business education, social media degree, and a long-term contract to salesmanship before you make a success of it or at least have a chance of making a success of it. As I said earlier: READ MY BLOG.

    Comment by livingintheheartland — 05/04/2010 @ 12:53 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Pam!You have learned invaluable lessons in your self-publishing journey…Some people pay big bucks for a course to learn what you now know from experience…The best teacher! Life lessons stick…Here is an excellent post with comments at the Book Publicity Blog that you will find interesting

    Comment by John Austin — 05/04/2010 @ 3:48 pm | Reply

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