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Sensible Solutions for reaching readersDoing it yourself is a highly visible option for writers today. Thanks to changes in the publishing industry, more and more writers are choosing to self-publish, including writers who've had lots of books published the conventional way. The technical stuff is relatively easy, but you'll need to invest noticeable amounts of time and energy along with some money to persuade people to get your book, read it and recommend it.

To explore ways Sensible Solutions might help you self-publish by editing your book and/or advising on how to market it for best results, email Judith Appelbaum.

To use tactics that generate sales for established publishers and their authors, see Ways for publishers to raise revenues and Boosting your book’s sales.

To get a sense of whether you're a prime candidate for self-publishing, take this test.

Do you fit the self-publisher profile?

If a major publishing house that has produced many related bestsellers wants to give your book its big-book treatment, then you will probably do better under its auspices than you would on your own. In other circumstances, it's not so easy to decide whether conventional publishing or self-publishing will be the better bet.

One consideration is whether your personality fits the profile of the successful self-publisher.

When the self-publishing boom began back in the 1960s, self-publishers were often a bit quirky -- people, perhaps, who wanted a physically beautiful product above all else or who insisted on writing about a subject most readers found repulsive or ridiculous; people, in other words, who probably had no choice because established publishers weren't interested in what interested them.

Today, with established publishers and self-publishers producing the same sorts of products, the typical self-publisher is far harder to describe. But three attributes are crucial.

  • Successful self-publishers love to be in control.
  • It's the first reason they're likely to mention if you ask why they decided to go it alone.

    You're in charge and you can even adjust the degree of your commitment. Suppose, for example, that you've written The Complete Small-Engine Repair Manual. With a modest cash outlay, you can make it available electronically and also have some copies printed on demand so you can offer them through local hardware stores, department stores and bookstores, and sell them at programs you give for nearby vocational schools and continuing-education centers. Then, if those markets work well, you can do a press run, begin to experiment with promotional campaigns and distribution over a wide geographical area and perhaps wind up selling many times the number of copies you sold in the beginning.

    In the self-publishing arena as in others, however, control is far from absolute, and it can't mean bossing other people around. Getting anything done will involve motivating them.

    Though you may not have a staff, you undertake to run a business when you become a self-publisher. Even if you contract with a company that takes all sorts of chores off your hands, you may have to supervise the work of an editor, a designer, a printer; wholesalers, retailers, reviewers and/or other people who will affect your book’s future. Recognizing that your concerns will be low priority for them and that their operations are not 100% efficient, will you get steamed or sympathetic? Or, to put it another way, can your definition of control include understanding their problems so you can help solve them?

  • Successful self-publishers like fast starts but have staying power.
  • Impatience is high on just about everybody's list of Reasons I Self-Published.

    Why wait months or a year or more for some conventional publisher to get your work into print when you can get it out so much faster? This argument, which is most obviously appealing with timely topics, has force even for material that doesn't date.

    Launching a product takes time, however. In fact, as business school teaches and businesses know, it usually takes years. Yes, you can get your book out there quickly, but getting it to pay off is another matter, and more often than not, where self-publishers are concerned, this comes as a big -- sometimes panic-inducing -- surprise.

    "Stick with it," "don't get discouraged," "build on whatever happens" -- keep on keeping on is the message veterans send first-timers. Large, established book-publishing firms, which must make room in their catalogs for hundreds of new titles at least twice a year, can't afford to pay attention to a book for more than a few months unless its initial rate of sale is impressive. But a self-published work can be -- and must be -- granted the gift of time.

    With time, it may well attract a following. Many books that make no splash when they're released become profitable over the years as appreciative readers begin to wield the single most powerful selling tool any publishing company ever has: word of mouth. And once word of mouth begins to operate, it's relatively simple for self-publishers to capitalize on it.

  • Successful self-publishers are either idealistic realists or realistic idealists.
  • Unlike a writer whose book circulates in the hands of a publishing company's sales force, self-publishing authors must often navigate serpentine, swampy marketing terrain themselves, dealing face-to-face with distracted people enmeshed in complicated systems.

    Much of this real-world activity is no fun in and of itself. But most writers who self-publish take it in stride because it gets them what they want -- a shot at enriching the world with their words.

    So ask yourself one last question: Is what I have to offer important enough to be worth the effort (which will be considerable), the time (remember, that's long) and the money (including what you’ll need to spend to attract readers)?

    If the answer is Yes, if you believe that the analyses and aesthetic experiences and entertainment and insights and information and ideas captured through your work will make substantial contributions to personal lives and/or to the culture we live in, you're a likely prospect for self-publishing, an option more writers choose with every passing day.

    Sensible Solutions, Inc.

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