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Posts Tagged ‘self-publishing’

  1. Self-Publishing From a Bookseller’s Perspective: Part 2

    November 1, 2015 by Diane

    Ancient books at a flea market.

    In my previous post, Sue Wilhite and I swapped stories about the worst self-published books we’ve received as booksellers. We included three tips on how authors can avoid having their books end up on the “dusty and forgotten” shelf. Now we continue our cyber-conversation with seven more tips for ye who venture into self-publishing.

    Diane: Okay, we talked worst books. Now let’s swing in the other direction. Best self-published book.

    For me, (other than Peter Bowerman’s two books: The Well-Fed Writer and The Well-Fed Self-Publisher, which I’ll recommend later) it was the book This. Only This: Mindfulness Strategies for Discovering Peace in Every Moment, by Michael H. Brooks. It has a nice heft, the cover is well-designed (he even asked for input from indie booksellers), and the content is fabulous. The author spent a good chunk of money on editing, designing, and publishing his book. It shows.

    Which reminds me…

    Tip # 4: Include the title on the binding.

    I can’t tell you how many books I receive that don’t have the title on the binding. Either the book is too thin (needs more material, perhaps?) or the publisher didn’t include it in the package. Big mistake. Unless the book is facing out on the shelf, which is unlikely on a shelf full of books, no one will notice it.

    Best self-published book for you? And why does it rank best?

    Sue: If I do say so myself, my own self-published book, 21 Templates that Run Your World: Keys to Unlocking Success in Business, Money and Love, is a great example. I was lucky enough to get advice from the late Jan King, who clearly spelled out the risks and benefits of traditional publishing versus self-publishing. She also steered me to a great cover designer, as well as a great editor, and I was able to get a professional interior designer within my budget.

    Interior design has nothing to do with your furniture in this case; it has to do with the formatting of the pages of your book, so it doesn’t look like a high school term paper that happened to get bound.

    Diane: You also do a terrific job selling the book. Makes it easy for the bookstore.

    Next question: What can authors do to boost their chances of getting their book on the shelf without sneaking it on themselves?

    Sue:  Research the store and what they might want. Talk to booksellers; they know the industry and what is likely to sell. Make friends with your local bookstore people; they’re usually nice folks!

    Diane: Which brings us to:

    Tip # 5: Build relationships with booksellers.

    The key is to make friends, not pester us; booksellers are sometimes on deadline with distributors or publishers, ordering books. But if we’re free to talk, we’re happy to offer feedback.

    Sue: Another tip:

    Tip #6: Keep nonfiction short and to the point.

    If you’re creating a nonfiction book that’s going to relate the sum total of everything you’ve learned, or you’re sharing a technique that you’ve developed, break the material up into multiple parts. I can’t tell you how many huge tomes I’ve received. Three hundred, four hundred, even seven hundred pages in oversized books that end up costing the earth to print. In order to recoup printing costs, the author has to put a price on the book, like $50 or $75, that people will not pay. It destroys any chance of the book being a best-seller, let alone selling at all.

    Bookstores need to sell books – that’s their job. Don’t make it harder for them! It’s better to create a smaller basic book with just the essential important information that inspires customers and can help create word-of-mouth buzz.

    The best news about this strategy is that you can create two or three sequels that will be snapped up by your raving fans, and make far more money than selling twenty or fewer at $75. You can also refine your information based on feedback – you can be more nimble in response to customers telling you what they liked and didn’t like.

    Diane: That’s a great strategy

    Let’s wind this up with some general advice for authors who are considering self-publishing. I’m going to suggest a couple of books for starters:

    Tip #7: Educate yourself on how to self-publish

    1. The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living, by Peter Bowerman. This is a magnificent self-published book, chock-full of information on everything from the whys to hows of doing it yourself. You’ll learn the nuts and bolts of building a writer’s platform; marketing your book; how to navigate distributors, wholesalers and Amazon; and how to get your book into the hands of booksellers (who won’t use it for entertainment purposes on rainy days).
    2. The IngramSpark Guide to Independent Publishing, by Brendan Clark. From pre-production to marketing, this book covers each step along the way. Learn how to set up an account, upload content, create high quality print and e-books, distribute to retailers and libraries, and generate “buzz” for your book.


    Sue: Enroll as many advance readers as you can. Create raving fans who can convince the bookstores to carry your book. Be professional in all stages of the book’s lifecycle. Get to know the publishing industry, including book bloggers. Remember that, if you want to sell your book, your creative output is also a business.

    Diane: Great tips. Here they are again…

    Tip #8: Build a fanbase to help promote your book.

    Tip #9: Treat your creative output as a business.

    It also helps to give bookstores a free copy to review (consider it part of your marketing budget). If the bookseller likes it, they might take it on consignment, or order copies outright. So…

    Tip #10: Give booksellers a review copy.

    That’s our top ten tips. For a recap, see below.

    Thanks, Sue, for taking time from your over-scheduled schedule to share your thoughts. Where can my readers find you, and what exciting new projects do you have on the horizon?

    Sue: You’re so welcome! Thank you for inviting me! My website and blog is . I’m one of those people who’s bored if I’m not working on multiple projects at once, so I have a new oracle deck (“The Quantum Oracle”)  and two books (working titles: “Stones of Doubt” and “Untangled,” both nonfiction), and I’m wrestling my 6-week individual coaching program into something I can present as a 6-week group coaching program. Oh, and an online course based on my popular class “Prosperity Through the Chakras.” Stay tuned!

    Sue Wilhite

    Sue Wilhite


    Here they are again, our top ten self-publishing tips:

    1. Make sure your book is a good fit for the store you’re targeting.

    2. Make sure the cover art represents your book. Is it professionally done? Does it tell the reader what the book is about?

    3. Get a professional editor.

    4.  Include the title on the binding.

    5. Build relationships with booksellers.

    6.  Keep nonfiction short and to the point.

    7. Educate yourself on how to self-publish.

    8. Build a fanbase to help promote your book.

    9. Treat your creative output as a business.

    10. Give booksellers a review copy.

  2. Self-Publishing from a Bookseller’s Perspective: Part 1

    October 26, 2015 by Diane


    Ancient books at a flea market.

    As a buyer and seller of books for an independent bookstore, I receive a good amount of self-published titles from authors, not to mention daily email submission queries. How many of these titles make it onto the shelves?

    Maybe 10% are good enough for me to buy outright.

    Another 10% might sell, but I’m not positive, so I’ll take a few on consignment for three months to see if customers will fork over their credit cards to take these books home. If the books move, I’ll reorder, buying them outright.

    Approximately 15% make it to the shelves we’ve dedicated to self-published books that don’t quite make the grade to the regular shelves.

    The remaining self-published manuscripts, for a variety of reasons (which I’ll get to shortly), end up in the “come and get ‘em” pile. Unfortunately, most authors don’t come and get ‘em, so the books pile up behind my desk on a shelf marked “dusty and forgotten.”

    My heart bleeds for these authors.

    How does a bookseller decide which titles to purchase? How can you make sure your masterpiece doesn’t end up dusty and forgotten?

    Self-publishing: the good, the bad, and the atrocious

    I invited fellow bookseller Sue Wilhite to join me in a cyber-chat about the subject. Sue co-owned San Jose Bookshop, and currently coordinates author events for a successful metaphysical indie in Silicon Valley. She is the self-published author of two titles: 21 Templates That Run Your World, and The Ultimate Oracle. A prosperity coach, tarot expert, intuitive, and all-around wise soul, Sue is generous with her gifts and wisdom.

    We started off discussing the increase in self-published titles, then shared our perspectives on what authors can do when it comes to self-publishing, and tips on how to earn a spot on a bookstore’s shelves.

    Here is part 1 of our chat, and tips #1 – 3.

    Diane: At first the books trickled in; now they’re coming in droves. Sadly, a lot of these books are just not a good fit, or they’re poorly written, or they have some confusing title like: What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes? And How Can I Be One, Too? Which actually has useful information inside, but the title reminds me of one of those hard-to-decipher license plates.

    Why do you think there is such a plethora of questionable self-published books out there, giving self-publishing a bad rap?

    Sue: I think there are several reasons for the recent flood:

    1. Several indie authors have pulled off 7-figure book deals recently after going the self-published route. Some, if not all of them, even gave their stuff away for free on Scribd or Wattpad, and built up a fervent fan base. Anyone who has any drive to put pen to paper and let others read it may see the successes and think “I can do that!”
    2. It’s easy to self-publish. The lack of editorial gatekeepers means anyone can string some words together and put out a printed book.
    3. There’s a larger number of books and other resources out there purporting to tell would-be authors how to do it.


    Diane: And out of that recent flood, some are downright sinkers. Let’s talk worst book ever.

    The worst that comes to mind is: Memoirs of a Gigolo: My Early Years, by Lord Christian Halliday. (Good grief, were there later years?) I didn’t actually receive a copy of the book, just the marketing material. In his letter, the author insured me that even though he would devote zero time to promoting this “provocative romance” (because he was deeply involved in writing the sequels) the book itself would fly off the shelf. Obviously, Lord Christian Halliday, (a persona, I presume), didn’t bother to research the store he sent this material to, because we are a metaphysical bookstore, and unless this gigolo is a Wiccan or Shaman or Buddhist, we will spend zero time considering his book.

    But we will spend endless hours researching Lord Christian Halliday online out of curiosity.


    Tip #1: Make sure your book is a good fit for the store you’re targeting.


    Tip #2: Make sure the cover art represents your book. Is it professionally done? Does it tell the reader what the book is about?

    The cover of Lord Christian Halliday’s book is a photoshopped mansion with a mid-sized car parked in front. Hmm. The cover of Volume 3 features an open coffin revealing a woman’s head, except the coffin appears to be child-sized. Is the woman folded up inside? Is her lower half missing? What does an oversized head in a coffin have to do with being a gigolo? It’s a puzzlement.

    Sue: I think that’s a great example! We had one at San Jose Bookshop that we kept behind the counter to read to each other on rainy days. We’d open it up to any page (it was about 3 inches thick, maybe 500-600 pages, so we had lots of material to choose from), and try to read a paragraph out loud without laughing. We nearly always failed. Usually, it would end with us bent over double, our ribs hurting from laughing so hard, tears streaming down our faces. Let’s just say the author was really, really fond of dangling participles, and the images conjured up were horrible. I kind of regret leaving it behind when I left.

    Diane: An entertaining read, but not in the way the author intended. Which brings us to:

    Tip #3: Get a professional editor.

    Sue: Another horrible book had a bad cover design as well as bad editing: it looked like a talented tween had drawn it in crayon. In the acknowledgements, the author thanked her precocious 15-year-old sister for editing, putting to use the AP English skills she had acquired. If the book had been a graphic novel, or was for a younger audience, the hand-drawn cover might have worked. But most adults will wince or smile, and pass it up without even checking out the editing. Editing is not just about correcting grammar, it’s about flow and coherence and communication. It takes skill and practice. So, yes, get a professional editor!

    -next up: the good, why these books are good, and more tips for authors who want to self-publish