Self-publishing Guest Post: The Book Doctor on Self-publishing

Q: How would I go about publishing an original one-hundred-page poetry book? Generally how much would the profit be from such a book?

A: You have quite a few options and potential paths when it comes to publishing. Before you decide to self-publish or try to sell a book to a publisher, first you must know your goals and assess your abilities. My fifty-minute seminar on CD called “I Finished My Book; What Should I Do Next?” covers the decision-making process, so you’ll know which way to go, whether you want to self-publish or attempt to find a publisher, and if you self-publish, whether you want to use a traditional printer, print-on-demand (POD), or a company that helps in the publishing process. I crammed the seminar with information and included many pages of supplemental printed material, so you can understand why I can’t answer your question in detail in only a few paragraphs.

Here’s a little information to help, though.

If you already know you want to self-publish, your next step depends on whether you want to handle all the pre-printing details, such as editing, internal and cover design, ISBN numbers, and finding a printer, or whether you prefer to rely on a company that handles those details for you—for a price. Read a good book on self-publishing and learn all aspects of it before you make your decision. Also carefully scrutinize the company you choose as a printer or publisher—know there is a difference—and carefully ensure that the services the company provides are the services you need.

You also asked how much profit to expect. Let me first ask a question: When did you last buy a poetry book? If you are like most Americans, you have not bought a single poetry book in the last ten years. Although millions of people write poetry, not many write it well, and even fewer buy poetry books. Poetry books rarely make any profit at all.

Although few Americans make much if any money from poetry, it is the highest form of literary art. Once writers master poetry, they can apply those skills to their fiction and nonfiction and increase their chances of making money with their prose.

My news should not discourage you, however. If you put a great deal of time and effort into marketing, you might make some money after all. At least one poet I know used POD for his books and travels the country giving readings. He writes excellent poetry and performs it well, and he has sold close to a thousand copies of his book. He chose POD, which gives him less profit per book than if he had chosen a traditional printer, but he did not have to invest a huge amount of money up front or store thousands of books, so the tradeoff suits his needs.

As you can see, the answer to both questions—how to go about getting a poetry book published and how much you might profit—are the same: It depends on what you are willing and able to do, and none of the paths are simple. Educate yourself first and then decide what works best for you.

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Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at

Sizing-up Your Self-published Book

As you continue to develop your content, target your market, and research self-publishing options, it will become at some point important to consider your book length.

The most important thing to recognize is the difference between your manuscript page size (which is most likely 8.5 x 11) and your published book trim size (which will most likely be smaller). Whenever a publisher discusses page count, or per-page pricing, it is based upon the size of the published page.

The most common published book trim sizes are 5.5 x 8.5 and 6 x 9, although many publishers will offer several more options. Check out our recent post on book sizes recommendations for more on choosing your book’s trim size.

If your manuscript is 100 pages long at 8.5 x 11, you probably have closer to 200 pages of finished text when the book is published. The good news is, your book just got twice as long, which in many cases improves its perceived value. On the other hand, some authors will be surprised when they see pricing based upon 200 pages instead of 100. Be prepared.

Keep in mind that production cost is directly related to page count, and POD books, as a result of their many advantages, are still a bit higher per-book than traditionally offset printed titles. The more pages your book has, the more it will cost to print. Most authors keep their books between 100-300 published pages.

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Social Media Marketing for Self-publishing Authors

As of June 2010, about 65 million “tweets” are posted each day, equaling about 750 unique 140 character “micro-blogs” sent each second, according to Twitter. This massive communication stream has elevated Twitter into the Big 3 social networking sites according to

If Facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd most populated in the world right now with over 400,000,000 users.

Many will contend that LinkedIn is the most valuable social networking sites for gaining business connections, and Evernote just hit 5 million users in record time. And there are countless others – Myspace, Foursquare, your personal blog, Meetups – that you can and should be utilizing to network with others and active promote your self-published book.

Sure, if you’re not a current social media wizard, there will be some upfront work involved – gaining the learning curve and building connections. But here’s the kicker: social media is exploding, its completely FREE, and there are increasing ways to measure its ROI. With self-publishing POD services your book will also be available virtually everywhere books are sold, an additional digital advantage since you’ll never need to stock an inventory or personally ship pre-printed copies. It’s all connected for you.

Over the coming weeks, Self-publishing Advice will be sharing social media news, information, tips, and resources to help you gain the most oomph for using these dynamic and powerful venues for generating buzz for your books.

We’ll also be actively implementing them here on our blog and other social media sites. So stay tuned, and in meantime, check out these new icons below and visit us on Facebook and Twitter, or send a Digg. We are eager to connect.

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Bestselling Author and the BIG Move to Self-Publishing

Ten years after the success of his debut novel, bestselling author of “Kidnapped,” AJ Davidson, has made the switch to independent self-publishing. With the availability of full-service publishing options on the rise and the high profile moves of established authors to independent publishing, AJ discusses the increasing appeal of this new model for traditionally published authors.

Q: What was the deciding factor for moving to independent publishing?

A: Initially I wasn’t entirely sure if Indie publishing was right for me. The deciding factor was how traditional publishers seem to be narrowing the range of their lists with each passing year. I recently compared 1970s best sellers with the 2010 best sellers and was staggered to realize how many of the chart-topping writers of yesteryear are still there four decades later. Kudos to the authors for consistency, but the dearth of new names is a sad indictment for the publishing world. The smaller presses are more adventurous, but more often than not the marketing will be left to the author, and if that’s the case, then Indie publishing is the way to go.

Q: Now that you manage the marketing independently as well as the publishing, do you find it difficult to switch back and forth between writing and marketing?

A: I have found the change in my writing to be a dramatic one. In the past I was the only one I had to please with a piece of prose. Now I’m much more aware of the readers’ attitudes. As I write I find that I ask myself constantly how the readers would react. This transformation is due largely to the immediacy of Indie publishing. With a traditionally published book there can be years between writing and publication. Your agent might suggest minor changes. It may then take time for the manuscript to be accepted. The publishers will nominate a slot, often a year or more in the future. Libel lawyers may have to cast an eye over it. Copy and proof editors will refine the work. Artwork will be done. By the time the book hit the shops, the writer will have moved on, often immersed in another project. I often felt a sense of detachment from a book by the time it was published.

Q: The list of well-known authors that are moving toward Independent publishing structures continues to grow. Do you think this is opening up possibilities for less established authors or monopolizing what was formerly their only option?

A: I’m optimistic about the future of Indie publishing and would buy shares in Smashwords faster than in Barnes & Noble. The fate of the traditional bookstore will be down to specialization. I doubt if they can continue being all things to all people. We already see some very successful stores concentrating in one or two genres. This genre specialization will develop, and no doubt the giants of the retail industry have a trick or two yet. I expect some form of stratification will enter Indie book publishing.

Perhaps a division between the one book author and the multiple author. Certainly we have seen a rise in the popularity of book series in the last decade and readers do enjoy embarking on journeys with writers they admire. It is anyone’s guess where will this leave the authors of a single text. Bad news for the Harper Lees and Margaret Mitchells.

Q: You give your work away for free. Can you explain your strategy on this?

A: Giving away the occasional free book is an established marketing tool. The first Walter Mosley book I read was a magazine freebie, and I became a huge fan. It’s a great way of increasing consumer awareness. I have had readers read my free e-books, then go buy the paperback. I still have the Mosley book, but I also bought another edition of it.

Q: How relevant is your success with traditional publishing to your reputation as an independent author?

A: Being a traditionally published author who switched to Indie does lend a degree of credibility. But reputations do not sell books. Positive word of mouth is the magic key to high number book sales and the only thing that will generate that is a damned good story. Admittedly the snowball rolling down a hill effect will be faster for a moderately well known author. It would be nice to be still amongst the best sellers in forty years time.

From the Huffington Post, October 29th 2010

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Self-publishing Guest Post: Transacting Book Sales

The Book Doctor on managing book sales transactions for the self-publishing author.

Q: When I bought your book at a recent seminar, you used a credit card company that notified me via e-mail of my charge going through. Can you tell me about the company? Who are they, and how do I contact them? I need to have the ability to accept credit card payments when I sell my books, so I am shopping around.

A: The company I use is ProPay, and it can be found at A colleague highly recommended ProPay, and I have been completely satisfied with the service I get. Through ProPay I can take almost any credit card by e-mail, phone, or in person and later transfer those funds to my own bank.

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Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at