Sunday, May 25, 2008

Book Review: Self-Publishing Manual, by Dan Poynter

Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book, 465 pages (Para Publishing, Santa Barbara, CA, Sixteenth Edition, 2007). Includes helpful glossary and index.

Since I'm moving toward self-publishing another book, I needed an education on the publishing process. Poynter fit the bill.

He writes with excellent qualifications: started publishing in 1969, has written over 120 books.

If you're interested in self-publishing, or just want to know more about the publishing process, get your own copy of this book and mark it up well. It has so much relevant content (think: hundreds of specifics you'll want to implement) that you'll want to refer back to it over and over as you work your way through the publication process.

Even if someone else is publishing your book, I'd highly advise studying this book and mapping out the process, since I hear horror stories of publishers who think their responsibility begins and ends with printing the book. Read this book, and you'll know what needs to be done, and when.

Example: many review organizations, which can be critical to the success of a book, won't look at published books. Understandably, they want to review galley proofs before the book is published, so that their reviews can alert bookstores, distributors, libraries, etc., of the latest books that people will be wanting. Since the greatest publicity for a book tends to come when it's initially published, review organizations don't want to put out a review three months after the main publicity has gone out. Plus, they need time to read and review the book.

If you miss these deadlines, you miss out on some valuable publicity. Poynter ends with a valuable timeline, which you can revise to account for all the specifics of your own book.

Content includes publishing options, writing and creating your manuscript, starting a publishing company, designing/layout/printing, announcing your book, pricing, promoting, understanding distribution channels, advertising, storage/packing/shipping, coping with being published.

In one sense, its overwhelming to see the hundreds of things I need to do to publish my book. I think, "Crap. Can't I just spend my time researching and writing and just ship it off to the printer? Now I've got to think about all this stuff."

On the other hand, it's freeing. Now I understand why so many good books don't get into people's hands. The publishing world works with rules that those outside the industry don't understand. Understanding the industry empowers us to get our books out to those who want them.

In order to deal with the feeling of bewilderment that comes with having hundreds of items on a to-do list, I'll start with Poynter's helpful "Calendar" of events in his appendix, personalizing it for the things I need to do for my book. After putting the to-do items in chronological order, I'll be responsible for only the items that I need to accomplish today, or at least this week.

Why not just delegate all this stuff? Poynter advises,

"Learn the entire business by doing everything yourself before you begin to farm out some
of the work, because doing it all yourself will provide you with a better understanding of publishing.

Another thought: After reading several books on publishing and marketing, I've discovered that these books aren't just parading out the same materials in different forms. Each book teaches me many new things about the process. Some concentrate on the process of getting your book well-positioned and marketed through Then there's the business of e-books. Concerning book marketing in general, the ideas are practically endless.

So keep reading about book publishing and marketing. Learn the process. We don't have to do everything they say. Even taking one great idea and running with it could revolutionize the impact of our next book.