Publish, Not Perish

Sites help DIY entrepreneur/authors get their words out

Photo: Alex Jones

Adrienne Graham found self-publishing success. (Photo by Alex Jones)

Once upon a time the path to a successful writing career meant producing a manuscript and hoping that a large publishing house would pick it up. But with an increasing number of sophisticated and professional online services, ordinary entrepreneurs can now create for themselves extraordinary publishing opportunities.

Besides the potential financial benefit and the real cost savings, there’s another big reward: self-publishing via print-on-demand, or POD, and digital downloading are both great green strategies. “POD benefits authors since they do not have to publish a minimum number of books,” says Gail Jordan, director of public relations at Lulu.com, a provider of publishing and printing services.

Sites such as Blurb.com, Lulu.com, and CaféPress.com have seen a boom in writers self-publishing. And in 2008, printer giant Hewlett-Packard launched MagCloud (www.magcloud.com), which lets aspiring publishers produce their own magazines with no up-front printing and shipping costs. Bloggers who want to see their words in black and white can head to Printcasting.com.

For Adrienne Graham, author of Go Ahead, Talk to Strangers: The Modern Girl’s Guide to Fearless Networking, print-on-demand through Lulu.com was the logical choice. Graham, CEO and chief talent acquisition consultant at Hues Consulting and Management Inc., says the process was challenging, but worth it. “Publishing my own book has made it easier for me to showcase my expertise and have something concrete for people to see.”

Graham first purchased her own ISBN numbers, including barcodes (to own her book rights) for roughly $325 from Bowker.com. “Self-publishers should know that if they get one from a place like Lulu.com, BookSurge, iUniverse, Amazon.com, etc., they won’t own [book rights], the company will,” she warns.

Using POD, Graham says she was able to cut costs because she paid only for the copies she printed and shipped. “The plus is that you control how, when, and where your book is distributed; you don’t have to wait for a book deal; and get a bigger profit. The downside is you have no publisher behind you footing the expense, and to get distribution to major chains, you have to either hit the ground [running] and really market hard or let the company set up distribution.” Since March 2009, Graham has sold more than 2,400 copies of her book.

As in the book space, Hewlett-Packard’s MagCloud offers POD services to would-be magazine publishers. “It’s a green, cost-effective solution designed for smaller, self publishers,” says Stacey Wueste, vice president of SMB segment and environmental strategy, Imaging and Printing Group at Hewlett-Packard. Users simply set up an account and upload a PDF of their publication (up to 100 pages). Hewlett-Packard charges 20 cents per page and handles shipping. “I guess it all comes down to how much of your time, energy, and money you want to invest in bringing your creation to market,” says Graham, who plans to self-publish two new books this year.

This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

ACROSS THE WEB