Monday, August 24, 2009

Morgan Mandel's Basic Guide to Self-Publishing - Day One - Why Self-Publish

I can’t tell you why everyone self-publishes, but for me it was a combination of factors. The germ was planted in my head at the Love is Murder Conference in February, 2009, in the booksellers’ room. Popular mystery author and book promotion guru, Austin S. Camacho, and I were discussing our books and the industry in general. I mentioned I’d made the mistake of spending too much time promoting Girl of My Dreams instead of ensuring a home for my next novel. My present publishing house had apparently stopped publishing. I was stuck. Readers were asking when my next book would be out. I had no answer.

Austin asked me why I didn’t self-publish. He did. That was a surprising admission. I knew he was doing fantastically well at Echelon Publishing. He admitted that was true, but publishing his own books was also netting him great rewards. In fascination I listened to Austin explain the basic fundamentals. It sounded possible, but could I afford it? He ran the numbers by me. The cost was less than I’d thought. I could invest some of my earnings from Two Wrongs and Girl of My Dreams toward a new book. My manuscript was ready. I liked the idea of being my own boss. I could decide on my cover art, my publication date, and lots more. The thought was tempting.

Still, what if it didn’t work out? What if wasted my time and my money? Could I stand up to the prejudice against self-publishing? Could I convince people I had a quality product?

The only way I’d know is if I tried.

Tomorrow, find out how I got started – legalities, technicalities, references.

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Morgan Mandel








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39 comments :

  1. Really looking forward to the rest of this series.

    Was your last publisher the Hard Shell Word Factory?

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  2. Yes, my first two books were published by Hard Shell Word Factory and are still available.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
    http://www.morganmandel.com

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  3. I hear more and more authors going in this direction. I think that many have very interesting stories to say, but seldom given a chance via publishing houses, and once out through self publishing, they gain quite an interest.

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  4. That's true, Aggie. The field is widening. Being published by a traditional publisher is not the only option for authors these days. One size doesn't fit all. This is the age of freedom.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com
    http://choiceonepublishing.com

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  5. I self publish sometimes. My most recent self-pubs have been how-to books. I wanted to keep these in print... so it suits me to produce them myself. Most of my other books have been commercially published, though. I make a LOT more money from the commercially published ones, but I think the others are worthwhile too.

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  6. Hi Morgan, Your book turned out fabulous all around. It looks great and it's a great read. I'd say that's a strong argument for laying your fears to rest about self-publishing.

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  7. Interesting post. I usually find very few authors who actually push self-publishing. Many seem to do it because they can't get traditionally published. Thanks for the post! I look forward to reading the subsequent ones.

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  8. Hi Morgan,
    Wish I'd known you when I tried unsuccessfully for 2 years to find an agent, then decided to self-publish. Now I'm happy, but the process was difficult and I still feel a bit "less than" traditionally published authors.
    Karen

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  9. Hi, Morgan! Thanks for the mention. I think you've done a great job on your book,including the hard work of publishing and marketing. But then you started with the most important ingredient - a well-written book with engaging characters!

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  10. I'm nowhere near ready to either submit to agents/publishers or self publish. This is something I'm wanting to learn more about.

    An author I know self published four books. Due in part to their success he now has an agent and a contract with a publisher.

    What terrifies me is the marketing. I don't know anything about it.

    Thank you for this series, I'm glad to see someone doing a blow-by-blow on the subject.

    Sandra

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  11. I know several authors who have self-published and are happy and several who are not. I think success depends on starting off with a good product, researching self-publishing options and knowing how to market. It sounds like you've got it covered and will be one of the success stories.

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  12. Times they are a changin'. Back when I started, there was a real stigma attached to those who self-published. People believed only those who couldn't gain acceptance anywhere used that option. BUT...your points and having read the excellent work of some self-pubbed people has changed my viewpoint, or perhaps lessened my fear of being judged less than talented.

    Even those who contracted with Publish America suffered from their bad reputation. If I had to do over...I would have self-published my two humorous books. The contract there is ridiculous and the royalties laughable. If it works...I say go for it! So, I'm waiting for the rest of the saga. :)

    Ginger

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  13. Thanks for this series!

    I truly believe the Internet has changed how successful authors can be when they self publish. I think more terrific changes are to come.

    Cannot wait to read more!

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  14. I've always thought that if series authors whose contracts got cancelled, would simply honor their fans and publish subsequent books in the series themeselves... well, that would go a long, long way toward building credibility about self-publishing. This is a win/win/win scenario. The author already has readership, the fans are kept happy, and the industry gets an influx of well-written literature. It's that last that will tip the scales in the long run - when readers realize that self-published books are top caliber. Imagine if Mary Higgins Clark published her own. She'd likely make even more money. ;)

    As to marketing, I'd love to see a legal co-op of self-published authors who are juried into a marketing arrangement for the sole purpose of bringing many titles under one umbrella. This is the toughest act to follow when it comes to trade shows. You have very little power with one or two titles in that vast sea of offerings.

    Keep the comments coming - it's all very fascinating.

    Dani

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  15. I'm glad to see such an encouraging response to self-publishing. I feel it's a method whose time has come.

    Thanks, Debra and Austin. I'm glad you enjoyed Killer Career.

    I hope I can help a few others who are on the fence about self-publishing. It is lots more work, but if you're game, it's worth a try.

    And, I'm happy to say I've gotten Killer Career into Barnes & Noble brick and mortar stores. I couldn't do that with my two prior small press books. (You'll learn more about this in a post later this week)

    It's a start in the right direction.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com
    http://choiceonepublishing.com

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  16. I shall definitely be following this series. Thank you. Sounds like you're going to give us some really useful information.

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  17. Thanks, Morgan. I'm reading your series with interest. I just self-pubbed a middle-grade fantasy since it didn't strike a note with agents. However, it's a darned good book, so I did it myself.

    I self-pubbed a previous book, which would never make it because it was a slim book of short stories of a memoirish flavor, but most tall tales based on stuff my father claimed to have happened when he was a kid in West Texas in the Depression Era.

    It's mostly humorous and I've done fairly well with it, especially in Large Print editions. I mistakenly queried it as a kids' book, but found that my real audience were older folks who grew up in a rural environment. They love the Large Print section.

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  18. A friend of mine is working on self-publishing his book - I'm definitely gonna send him over here to read this!

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  19. Great intro to the series. I think a whole bunch of us are really looking forward to learning some of the ins and outs of this self-pubbing business. Thanks so much for taking the time to help us.

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  20. A large print edition of Killer Career is a possibility also, but since the printing charge is by the page, it would cost more to produce. That means it would cost more for the reader to purchase also.

    Morgan Mandel

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  21. I'm glad so many people are showing an interest in my self-pub series.

    If I can be of help to any of you, that would be great.

    I'm not a total expert on the subject, but I managed to get the job done. I'm happy with the finished product and that's what counts. That leaves hope for others who are unsure of themselves.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com
    http://choiceonepublishing.com

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  22. Morgan,

    I was published by a small, niche publisher and decided instead to self-publish my series after total dissatisfaction with my publisher.

    I am now self-publishing my Brenda Strange supernatural series with my own imprint, Black Car Publishing using Lulu.com

    There really is a digital revolution going on and more and more authors are opting to self-publish.

    I plan to follow your self-publishing exploits. I also am blogging about self-publishing at my blog, The Henderson Files.

    Patty G. Henderson

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  23. As long as one avoids vanity or subsidy presses, there should be no stigman to self-publishing.
    Readers only know the difference if they pick up a poorly edited book!

    L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”
    www.circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com

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  24. There are many of us out there, as you may notice. Self-publishing is really catching on!

    As Diane says, people notice the poorly written and/or edited books that are self-pubbed. There are many great ones out there.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com
    http://choiceonepublishing.com

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  25. I'm really looking forward to reading this series! Thanks for writing it!

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  26. Great topic, Morgan! I chose to self-publish my first book and am doing the same with the second. Self-publishing is NOT traditional publishings poor relation. It's an entity unto itself with unlimited possibilities. In fact, I know TWO self-published authors who have each sold over a million copies of their books. So keep the info coming -- a lot of us are going to benefit greatly from it!

    Dani said, "I'd love to see a legal co-op of self-published authors who are juried into a marketing arrangement for the sole purpose of bringing many titles under one umbrella." What a grand idea! I'd like to explore this possibility (complete with competent editing services offered) for everyone's benefit. This would be one way for self-published authors to have a voice and to gain the publicity that sells books.

    Linda

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  27. Wow, knowing one person who sold a million copies is something, but two is really amazing. I can only dream...

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

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  28. This is a unique take on the decision to self-pub--someone who's already had a book published, but still finds advantages. Anxiously awaiting the next installment!

    On September 25, at an indie bookstore in NJ, we're having a panel called Alternative Routes to Publishing Your First Novel. The panel will feature three authors, including formerly self pubbed sensation, Maryann McFadden, telling her story--from self published to auction.

    Area writers and readers, please check out my blog for more info as the date approaches!

    And thanks, Morgan, for sharing your story.

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  29. Jenny,
    That sounds like a great event. That's the whole idea behind self-publishing - offering an alternative. No one should feel obligated to follow the same path as everyone else, just as no one should be forced to take a different path. The whole idea is choice.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com
    http://choiceonepublishing.com

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  30. In my humble opinion- and I do self-publish- an author who is outgoing, good at making connections and can sell himself can do okay with POD, sort of like the difference between a singer who can command the stage and another who cannot.

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  31. I spent 15 years in self-publishing and I grossed around $1.2 million pa in peak years, all from my own front room. But that was in non-fiction business books, selling direct to business owners via conferences.

    Trying to self-publish fiction in a consumer market is a different game, I've found. Book production and distribution is easy nowadays, but marketing fiction without the apparatus of publishers' reps, etc is a riddle that seems to have evaded everyone so far.

    If you've cracked it, you've broken the publishing model. There goes the old ball game. And good riddance to it. I'm keen to learn more... :)

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  32. Currently, I'm e-pubbed and small print pubbed with as solid a publisher as you can get in this biz.
    However, I have two OtherWorld Romance mss that are way out of the box that I'd like to put out there.
    So, I'll be paying attention.

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  33. Once you have a good product, the key is marketing. It's tough finding the right buttons to push, even if you're with a big pub. I've got some friends with traditional publishers who didn't make the sales quota.

    Sure, I'd be thrilled with a bestseller, but if I can't get that, I still have the small thrills along the way, kind of like that Miley Cyrus song, The Climb.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com
    http://choiceonepublishing.com

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  34. Morgan, I look forward to following this, also. I've been putting my own books out since 2003 and the atmosphere is better for it now than it used to be. I have three out. The one coming out in November I've done differently in a way that gives it a better chance of competing with traditionals. Anyone considering it needs to do a lot of homework. This should be a nice start!

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  35. I'm looking forward to this series. Thanks for the info?

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  36. I do believe the playing field is becoming more and more level, but yes, it's a good idea to get a handle on what you need to do before you jump in.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com
    http://choiceonepublishing.com

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  37. I've self-published, but have found people incredibly snooty about the project - and that includes agents and publishers too.

    Maybe they're afraid self-publishing will make them obsolete, or they are generally worried because a minority of self-published books aren't terribly well written?

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  38. Great post!
    I think I'll try it both ways:
    self-publish one, and try the
    traditional route with the other.
    Then take it from there.

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  39. People have their opinions and it's not easy to change them. What I'm trying to let everyone know is you don't have to follow the pack. You can do what you want. What's right for other people may not be right for you.

    Or, you can do both. There's nothing wrong with that. I've got two books published by a small press, now this one self-published. I may go with a traditional press on one, but I think I'll try self-publishing my book on Rascal. That should be fun.

    Morgan Mandel

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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