Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Self Publishing: A Cautionary Tale

Today’s Wall Street Journal puts forth a cautionary tale for any author thinking of self-publishing. If you are or have ever considered self-publishing, you should read “Writing the Book on Self-Help: A Publisher’s Cautionary Tale.”

C. Ben Bosah decided to publish his wife’s nonfiction book rather than trying to query agents or New York publishing houses. And along the way he made about every mistake there is. He ordered too many books. He chose the wrong title for the book. Didn’t line up a distributor ahead of publication. Couldn’t get the book into bookstores so even when he got publicity, no one could find the book to buy. Didn’t get cover blurbs.

And now, even though his wife’s book was a finalist for a 2007 Benjamin Franklin Award offered by the Independent Book Publishers Association, his garage is packed with cartons of books.

There are so many resources for writers thinking about self-publishing. If you’re thinking about it, do your research and talk to others who have taken that route. Just about every writer wants to see their work in print. But to avoid long-term anguish and regret, don’t plunge into self-publishing without preparing yourself.

For some people, self-publishing works and is satisfying. I’m not saying never go that route. I am saying prepare yourself for the trip.


  1. I agree that you must be prepared before you do anything, however you must never let procrastination get in the way. I prefer to see myself as an independent publisher, however since I am linked to hip with my wife, her book is considered self published. The lessons from my experience should be cautionary, but must not lull people into inaction.

    Because the material in the book was compelling as determined by the 14 women who saw the draft copy of the manuscript, we opted to form an imprint, and run with it. The idea of the manuscript collecting dust in some literary agent's inbox did not appeal to us. The experience has been a thrilling one and we are working on getting out our titles for next year. The rewards, beyond cash, has been 'priceless.'

  2. Good advice Helen, it is such a strong urge to get your book into print that sometimes you can be tempted to jump into things.

    Nothing against self-publishing, it does work for some, but on the whole if your work is good enough and you are bloody minded enough to keep going, you will find a publisher.

  3. Thanks Ben. Will your wife continue writing on the same subject matter? Or are y'all branching out into other areas? It would be interesting to learn how the two of you are promoting the book. Good luck with the book.

  4. Hi Mike. Overall, I think the POD companies like lulu, etc., have gotten better about helping authors, but it's still a difficult route to take. If an author really does their homework and knows what they're getting into, then they can make an informed decision. But too many authors are in such a rush they believe that if they print it, stores will stock it and people will buy it.

  5. Helen:

    We are doing two books at least next year. One is targeted to adolescent females. The second will be for a much broader audience and will address issues that affect both genders and how we presently manage them.

    There's a chance that there will be a second volume to Letters to My Sisters. And it will be more user friendly. The actual format is still being fleshed out.

    However, I need to some space in my garage, which is where you come in. You need to get your library to add a copy of the book to their collection, and it is not a bad idea to have one on your bookshelf. Cheers and have a good evening.

  6. Thanks Ben. It's clear that despite some missteps, you and your wife are continuing forward and working hard. I wish you the best of luck.

    And to other writers reading this ... notice that Ben ended his comment by urging me (and others) to buy his book. A writer has to be many things other than just a writer (or in Ben's case, a publisher). You will also have to be a salesman/woman. You can't be shy about promoting your book.

    Thanks again, Ben, for participating in this discussion.

  7. Princess Bubble12/29/2007 2:56 PM

    We self published our book, Princess Bubble, and have recieved nation media coverage.

    But we put in millions of hours of work and are very passionate about the message.

  8. Congratulations! It is definitely not easy to get national coverage. You have a message to present with your book and it appears you've worked hard to get that message out. I browsed around your site.


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