August 1, 2004
Self-Publishing For Profit
Q: I’m interested in self-publishing a children’s book. What are some good sources of information?
— D. Moore, Via the Internet
A: In traditional publishing, the publisher screens books for quality and marketability and invests in producing, marketing, and distributing those that pass. The publisher also takes certain exclusive rights, even though the copyright remains in the author’s name. The self-publisher does all of the above for his or her own book and retains all rights.
If you’re looking to do this as a for-profit venture, be realistic: Self-publishers often publish a book because no other publisher will handle any of his or her writing. And if no publisher indicated any interest in your writing, do you think you can make a profit at it?
Another thing to keep in mind is that self-publishing is not an easy way to make a buck. Aside from printing costs, if you’re not investing in ongoing marketing efforts you won’t sell books (or make a profit). In addition, a large number of your books may be sold at deep discounts (up to 60%), which cuts into profit margins. And unless you’re selling them door-to-door, there will be shipping charges.
This isn’t to say that you can’t succeed, but this is the stigma associated with self-publishing. Also, since generally no third party, such as an editor, screens the manuscript, the content of a self-published book is sometimes considered suspect by the publishing world.
An excellent starting resource is the Small Publishers Association of North America (www.spannet.org). I also recommend reading Complete Guide to Self Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to Write, Publish, Promote, and Sell Your Own Book (F&W Publications; $19.99).