Features

Do it yourself

"Do it yourself" Continued...

Issue: "2009 Books Issue," July 4, 2009

Self-published books also don't make it into bookstores because many aren't returnable and book reviewers won't review them, for the most part. There's still a stigma attached, although that may be changing.

Redlin's marketing plan focused his initial efforts on friends and relatives, local bookstores, and local media, which resulted in sales of 500 books in the first three months: "I am extremely satisfied with that." Next he plans to contact national bookstores, religious bookstores, and Amazon.com.

Nemo has been using his professional network to "pitch my books to reporters and editors. As a result I've gotten some great national and regional media attention, from Sports Illustrated and Major League Baseball's websites to local television, talk radio and print media coverage." He estimates that he's sold nearly 1,000 books since they came out several years ago.

Forbes' memoir is nearly 600 pages long: He says selling the book has been the "most challenging and disappointing facet of self-publishing." Since his wife was an artist, he's signed books in area art centers and galleries, and also sold the book through the Jim "Catfish" Hunter ALS Support Chapter in Raleigh, N.C. He's sold about 170 copies in 10 months, and with $20,000 invested, and 5,000 books in print, he would like to sell more.

Burns sells his book at his farm's various retail locations, through his own website, and at special speaking engagements. He says that in the year since the book came out, he's "discovered how competitive the book selling world is! I am very happy with our own local sales but less satisfied with the larger venues."

Whitener's book just came out. He says the hardest thing is not knowing what makes sense to spend money on: Should he put his book in his publisher's catalog if it costs an extra $500? How about a website? Bookmarks? Business cards? Everything has a price-and since he's not in the publishing business, he doesn't know what works. He knows he has to be committed to the marketing: "People won't know about the book if you don't tell them."

Since people self-publish for all kinds of reasons, no one model suits everyone. Some like Redlin want to oversee the whole shebang. Others, like Forbes, work with a company but buy the books up front. Others, like Burns and Whitener, choose one of the complete packages. Still others, like Nemo, choose one of the low- or no-cost platforms. The common denominator: Self-publishing is a labor of love. "It gives a certain satisfaction," Tom Ford explains. "It was almost like building a house."

And occasionally success happens-look at The Shack, or Still Alice by Lisa Genova, which started as an iUniverse book and became a Barnes & Noble "Discover Great New Writers" pick. As Nemo says, "It is extremely, extremely difficult to have success in self-publishing. But if you enjoy what you're doing and surrender all expectations and results over to God, you'll do exactly what He wants you to!"

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.

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