By Tom Freiling
Thinking about self-publishing?
It certainly seems like a good time to finally write and publish your first book. Americans will purchase 675 million print books this year, and twice that many in eBook editions. That’s more than one billion books sold! The demise of retail certainly hasn’t resulted in the demise of the book. On the contrary, books are selling in record numbers.
On the face of it, it looks easy to publish your book the DIY way. How hard can it be to get a slice of that giant one billion bookselling pie?
Not so fast! For a first-time author, today’s bookselling landscape can be described as the best of times and the worst of times. While it’s easier than ever to get published and reach readers, many new challenges abound. Before you take a deep dive into the world of DIY book publishing, let me offer some perspective.
In 1990, there were about 500,000 individual book titles for readers to choose from. They were purchased in bookstores that would each stock between 50,000 and 100,000 titles. This meant that readers literally had personal access to about 10% of all books when they visited bookstores and up to 50% of all new releases. I was publishing books back then, as I still do today, and I remember how easy it was to sell thousands of copies of just about anything. The law of supply and demand made it so.
Today, however, we’re in a vastly different bookselling world. The law of supply and demand makes it harder to sell a new book. Readers now get to choose from more than 18 million available titles on digital platforms like Amazon.com. That means there are about 40 times more existing titles competing for each new book than in 1990.
Imagine walking into a bookstore that carried 18 million individual book titles. That would make it all but impossible to make your book stand out, right? This is what new authors are competing with in today’s bookselling marketplace.
Is it even possible to successfully write and publish a book these days?
The answer is a resounding YES! There has truly never been a better time to publish a book, and we work with authors daily who experience success as first-time authors. How? Our authors benefit from my team, who lend them their combined 100 years of experience. Our authors get to partner with professionals who help them avoid the pitfalls that trap so many DIY self-published authors. It’s why we see our books climb the ranks on Amazon.com and even find themselves on bookstore shelves.
Millions of wanna-be best-selling authors hire amateurs, often complete strangers they find online, and then upload the files to a glorified book printer instead of actual book publishers. Literally 99.99% of these DIY titles end up in the ash heap of publishing history. They become dated the day after they are released.
I talk to at least one discouraged author every week who tells me how they invested time and money on a failed attempt to publish their book – all because they worked with amateurs. Sometimes the author is trying to save money and conserve resources, which is understandable but also counter-productive. Other times they somehow believe with a little Google research, they can strike gold. It rarely works out.
An experienced book publisher offers value in many areas, including better marketing and publicity, more widespread sales, and distribution. But the greatest value an experienced book publisher offers you starts at the very beginning. Good marketing begins with a good book. Book publishers understand the importance of manuscript development, high-quality and intentional writing, and branding and positioning both the author and book for the marketplace. Also, a good publisher will give you frank feedback that, in the end, will make for a better book.
Just because it’s easy to write and publish a book these days doesn’t mean readers expect less. Readers today are highly selective. They have so much information at their fingertips; they really do expect more. So if you want to reach readers – lots of readers – you need to publish a book that’s thoughtfully written, well-edited, with a specific audience in mind, and beautifully designed to capture their attention. It’s never been more important to get it all right.
DIY book publishing is like DIY in many other areas of life and work. Yes it’s sometimes cheaper and maybe faster, but it rarely gives you the kind of quality you need to become a successful author.
There are no guarantees in book publishing, but when you work with experienced publishing professionals, you can at a very minimum guarantee to be positioned for success, which puts you in top .1%!