If you want to self-publish, or otherwise pay for publication, there are many choices, all dictated by your budget and your reasons for wanting to self-publish. But understand this: You are only self-publishing if you own the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) on the book. This means that you’ve gone to www.ISBN.org and purchased a bank of ISBNs or have bought one from an authorized reseller. You are not self-published just because you are paying for publication with one of the so-called POD publishers. This is a very important distinction. View the list of publishers who have the right to sell single ISBNs to a self-publishing author at www.isbn.org/standards/home/Pubresellers.asp. Note that some big-name POD publishers are not listed.
Being a self-publisher also means that you will do all the things a traditional publisher does with regard to production and sales of books. Most self-publishers choose to subcontract much of the editorial, production and distribution work to specialized companies, and subcontracting is encouraged over doing it all yourself. Doing it yourself often results in a homespun product that has little chance for sales because many do-it-yourselfers cannot tolerate the steep learning curve of book publishing. For example, professionally produced books are not designed in Word software; instead, Adobe’s InDesign is an industry-standard page-layout program.
Remember that every publishing choice carries the responsibility of professional delivery. If you choose to self-publish, or any of its for-pay equivalents — and want to be professional — you too will spend much money on the employ of editors, typesetters, cover designers, printing, and other overhead costs involved in creating a professional product. You will almost always get what you pay for (or don’t pay for) in publishing.
If you don’t want to become a self-publisher but want to control your product’s production, you can choose a standard vanity publisher or one of the inexpensive, print-on-demand versions to get into print (research carefully the low incidence of success doing this). You can even approach an existing, successful independent press with a co- venture proposal (this is not the same as vanity publishing) and share expenses and profits.
No matter your choice, do not blindly go into publishing. When your money is at stake, it’s even more important that you learn about the industry and thoroughly understand the publishing process before you spend a substantial sum. Take your ego out of the “I want to be published” equation and thoroughly learn the market for your book’s genre. Put on paper both your reasons for wanting to self-publish and your publishing expectations, then study books, such as Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual (Para Publishing), 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer (Open Horizons).
Visit the websites of national and regional publishing associations, such as IBPA, the Independent Book Publishers Association and Small Publishers Association of North America, and state or regional organizations, such as the Florida Publishers Association, or genre-specific groups, such as Sisters in Crime. Get a good grasp on what kind of time and money it’s going to take to compete with the other 80,000+ publishers in the marketplace. One great place to start is to attend the IBPA Publishing University, held just before BookExpo America.
Do not jeopardize your future or your children’s future by “betting the farm” on the success of a book. If a book’s success were predictable or happened according to a formula, no publisher would ever be unsuccessful with any title. Think of book publishing as a gamble, like the stock market (gasp), a gamble for which the odds increase in your favor for every minute of in-depth research you do and for every step of professional advice you follow.
Betsy Lampe has 20 years of experience in the book publishing industry. She is president and editorial director of Rainbow Books, Inc., a 30year-old, family-owned, independent publisher of self-help/how-to nonfiction and a very small line of mystery fiction (characte-driven medical murder mysteries and cozies). Rainbow publishes approximately 20 titles per year. It is a house member ofAAP, PAS (founding members) and FPA (founding members), and its books are distributed by Ingram, Baker & Taylor and many, many other specialty distributors. Betsy also works as association executive of the Florida Publishers Association, Inc. She can be reached at BetsyLampe@aol.com.