Thoughts on self-publishing

Self-publishing has a lot of attractions. It's more work than it might seem, though.

Dear Bob ...

I came across one of your books on Amazon, and I noticed the publisher was listed as IS Survivor Publishing, which makes me think it was self-published.

I've been keeping an eye on the self-publishing industry, primarily because I've been nurturing my own idea for a book, completely unrelated to IT. Because I haven't gotten any traction with traditional publishers, I've been giving strong consideration to going the self-publishing route. It's a fairly simple idea, that might not take too much work (at least to write), so I'm half seeing it as a self-publishing experiment.

Anyway, if you did go the self-publishing route, can I trouble you for a little info:

  • Did you use a service like iUniverse? Or did you get more granular by finding your printer, distributor, etc.?
  • It looks like your first book was published traditionally via Sams. How would you compare self-publishing to traditional publishing?
  • Any advice for someone about to dip their toe into the self-publishing waters?
- Budding author

Dear Bud ...

I don't know if this constitutes advice or just commentary. Anyway, here's what I know based on my personal experience:

  • Yes, IS Survivor Publishing is my own imprint. I've separated my writing and consulting personas to give myself a bit more freedom of movement in both.
  • An old friend of mine who knows design, layout, production, and all the other bits and pieces of publishing (Tim Bitney, who deserves public credit) turns my writing into actual books. If I had to do anything more than create the manuscript and then answer his questions, I'd never have got a book into print and if I had, it would have looked amateurish. So far we've done four books together.
  • Traditional publishing has a lot of advantages. With a good publisher you get a copy editor, a fact-checker, and an indexer, along with professional layout, design and production. You also get distribution into book stores. In exchange you get to keep something like 10% of revenues.
  • Self-publishing has these advantages: Self-imposed deadlines only; complete creative control; and you get to keep more of whatever revenue you generate, assuming that you, like me, sell the books yourself. On Amazon.com you keep about what you'd keep with a publisher ... maybe a bit more, but not a lot. You don't get distribution into bookstores.
  • No matter how you publish, as author you have sole responsibility for publicity. Publishers only handle this for name authors who have the potential for selling a lot of books.
  • If you're planning to make enough money to live on selling your books, make other plans. Add everything up and you'll make far less than you'd make pouring coffee at Starbucks.
Hope that helps.

- Bob

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