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Four Steps to Self-Publishing Success

Sarah Cypher
August 24,2004

The Celestine Prophecy sold over 100,000 copies as a self-published title before Warner bought it for $800,000. The diminutive, 60-page The Christmas Box moved so briskly that Rick Evans was able to sell rights to Simon & Schuster for $4.2 million. Other titles on the role of self-publishing successes include Lifeís Little Instruction Book, The One-Minute Manager, and What Color is Your Parachute. The role also bears the names of superstar fiction authors John Grisham, Piers Anthony and L. Ron Hubbard.

On the other hand, print-on-demand has made publication so accessible that no longer lists these independent books for free, since the time it invested in processing the flood of new titles was starting to sink the company. Many of these titles never sold more than a handful of copies.

Where is the tipping point?

First of all, assume the book is done. Assume it passed some kind of editorial standard Ė either a professionalís pen or the discerning eye of a qualified friend. The layout, cover, and jacket copy all say New York quality to the prospective reader. Now you need to put aside the typewriter and get out the green visor. Most print-on-demand companies charge between $500 and $3000 to get your book on the market. Self-publishing can cost $3000 and up. Even if you are publishing your book for artís sake, that money is your hard cash, and many writers should hope at least to break even. Give some thought to how you plan to sell it.

Step 1: Donít get too excited about POD companiesí marketing packages.

The materials can be helpful, but the POD companies who offer to sell you business cards, postcards, bookmarks and posters don't mention that most of these teasers will wind up collecting dust beside your desk. Marketing is about strategy, and many POD companies fail to give this fact proper emphasis. Before you add $200 or more to your bill, consider if and how you will use these materials.

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