First of all a couple quotes “Writing is re-writing” and “Every Master was once a Disaster.” I am unsure of the original source, but I have heard them from Harv Eker a few times. If you are self publishing get a lot of feedback from a lot of people. You will rewrite a lot of your book. Put your ego away and do it. Just remember what your original vision is, and don’t give that up because of one negative reviewer. Get and aggregate of the feedback, and rarely make drastic changes based on one readers comments.
If you get a lot of really significant change requests that conflict with your vision, then it may be time for evaluation of how attached you are to it. You are the author, not the committee, but if you won’t have any readers it won’t do you much good.
If you are going to get a traditional publisher, then work on getting an agent and publisher first. The publisher will provide editors and proofreaders for you. They will also provide cover design help as well.
Here are 4 levels of choices when self publishing a book.
- LuLu – offers a wealth of options and support for authors, all available ala cart – you only use what you want. They create an online store and ship the book for you too. The result is you can publish your book at $0 cost and they only pay you the profit per book (you set the price.)
- Ingram Lightening Press – They are actually one of the printers for LuLu. Their offering is geared towards publishers (like LuLu). It is still print on demand, so you can still print only what you sell (thus $0 risk), but you end up doing a lot of the other services that LuLu did.
- Your local copy shop – like Kinkos – They will print and bind exactly the number you want, and for a price competitive with Lightening Press, but they are local. Usually you will end up printing a few ahead and have a small inventory. A little more risk, but still very minimal. This is a great source for books that you will be selling in person.
- Your local offset printer – here is where you will print in large quantity and get the best price per book. Your risk is higher, but your profits could be better if you have enough demand to justify the size of the print runs.
Warning: There are a lot of “self-publishing” companies that bundle a bunch of books in your order along with author services. This results in a hefty initial investment. Usually their goal is to sell to you, not your customers. Based on my evaluations, they are no better priced then the ala-cart packaging offered by LuLu where you only pay for what you want. Figure out what services you want and do the math.
A good strategy would be to start with LuLu. Then move up the risk scale and reduce your price only as you have the demand to justify it. Reinvest your profits and you minimize your risk. Once you have enough profits and demand from LuLu to justify buying a few hundred books at your local copy shop, then you can start to offer the books in person (speaking engagements is a great way!)
I hear some people considering print on demand debating if they want to sell through Amazon and other retailers, or just stick with LuLu. The advantage of LuLu is they take a smaller percentage. Amazon expects a 55% discount off cover price, and then they split the difference and sell the book under cover price where they still make a profit.
Here is a little trick for that: Start out only selling your book through LuLu. You offer it on your website and through your mailing lists. You will see sales ramp up slowly. At some point you will see them start to plateau or taper off. You decide when the right time is to offer a second edition of your book (which LuLu allows) that is basically the same book, but you added an ISBN, and you now charge 25-40% more for. This edition you setup for distribution through Amazon and other retailers. They take their discount off cover price, and then mark it up.
The result is the Amazon/retailer price is a little more then what you are offering it through LuLu and your web site (you do the actual math to make sure you have a good figure). You always offer the best deal through LuLu and your site to your “people,” where you have the largest profit. Then you get the results from the larger net that Amazon and other online retailers offer, but at a smaller profit per book.
If there is interest I could put up some actual figures and charts for you.
One thing about selling books online, is if possible, you want to come out of the gates with a lot of sales in your first month. This gives you a ranking on the sales ranking for the day, which can create positive momentum since people are more likely to see you there. A great way to get a lot of sales on the first day is with pre-orders. You take the order information in advance, and then sit on it. When the book goes live on Amazon or where-ever, then you and a bunch of friends (or contract employees) enter all the pre-orders. This generates the sales to shoot your book to the top of the list where other people will see it and start buying it. This hopefully keeps it on the top of the list.