Some of this column will be an excerpt from “$uccess, Your Path to a Successful Book,” by Maralyn D. Hill and Brenda C. Hill. This was originally published in The Big Blend Magazine.

The publishing world can be overwhelming, but don’t let it deter you if your passion is to be a published author.

It seems that changes in the publishing industry are happening as quickly as your new computer is outdated. We will attempt to cover some of the basics, but like anything else, we suggest that you research your particular area of interest.

  • What are your goals in publishing your book? In our case, the first joint effort, Our Love Affairs with Food & Travel, chefs were anxiously awaiting publication of their recipes. It was a big factor in our decision to use Print-On-Demand Publishing (POD) and be able to turn it around within four months. This commitment to the chefs was our goal.
  • What is the best timing for your subject? For example, if you are writing your memoirs for a family holiday gift in the summer, POD or self-publishing your book will have it ready before the winter holidays. This approach can assist you in planning your timing.
  • Are you on a budget? The difference between Print-on-demand (POD), self-publishing and a more prestigious and costly literary press was more than double, if we accepted the publisher’s proposal. This was a major cost difference.
  • How much editorial license are you willing to give up? For us, the traditional publisher, who would have taken twelve to fifteen months to publish, had the final say on the title, editing and cover. We self-edited, then used our own editor, and designed our own cover. It was important to us to maintain this license.

Traditional publishing is what we may all dream about, but is not realistic to expect, unless you are well-known. You can be just as successful using POD or self-publishing if you are willing to market your book.

You will hear agents and many reviewers say that independent presses and print-on-demand (POD) publishers are scorned. They used to be lumped with “vanity” presses and many still are. As more reputable firms are on the scene and wannabe authors are realizing their manuscript needs to be professionally edited and have a marketing plan, these author-subsidized methods are becoming better received. Even prestigious contests have categories for self-published authors.

An additional fact is that mainstream publishers are closing down. There are six major publishers left. All but one insist on incoming books having an agent. Jerry Simmons, author of “What Writers Need to Know About Publishing,” states that of 1500 new titles a year from the big six, 150 of the titles generate 90% of the revenue.

Brian Jud and Dan Poynter are well-known self-published authors. Penny Sansevieri wrote three successful self-published books and in 2008 was signed to a great contract for all three books with a traditional publisher. All three authors market, market and market.

No matter which method you want to use, you need a marketing plan. You will note that this is a common thread throughout my columns. If you can’t figure out who your market is and how to market your book, it will not go flying off bookstore shelves or Amazon or publisher’s websites.

If you really want traditional publishing, then I suggest you attend a writer’s conference where they will set up appointments for you with agents looking for new material. You need to be prepared, which I’ll cover at another time, or you can read about this topic in our book.

The majority of you will probably benefit from going with POD.

What is POD? Digital printing technology enables a book to be printed and bound in a few minutes. It provides a cost effective means to print as little as one or several books at a time. It does not involve the costly setup fees associated with regular offset printing.

How do you pick a POD?

  • Talk to others.
  • Read publishers’ contracts thoroughly.
  • Go on-line to writers’ forums and see what others say.
  • A Google Search for Print on Demand will get current articles on the subject.
  • Set-up costs naturally matter, but free or low does not necessarily mean best.
  • Do you want or need color printing? That limits the number of POD publishers.
  • Do you want to include a CD with your book? Some POD publishers now offer that service.
  • Do the publishers charge an annual fee to keep you listed on their website?
  • Do the publishers accept book returns from book stores?
  • What type of discount does the author receive?
  • How often does the publisher pay royalties?
  • How do they distribute your book?
  • Do they have a website with pages devoted to your book?
  • Do they provide you with the details to format your own book or must you pay extra to use their formatting service?
  • What, if any, rights do they expect to have? Be sure you maintain your copyright.

Most authors want the basic package to include internal layout, ISBN number, and distribution through on-line stores including Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Read the contract and be careful not to give away your rights. Compare royalties and how they are determined and paid. Be sure listing is available through Ingram or Baker and Taylor if you want any chance of being placed in local bookstores. Also, a return program is a plus. Finally, the publisher’s reputation matters.

Most who publish with traditional publishers, large or small, will say that is the only way to go. However, we’ve met many who were published traditionally and when their sales dropped to 5 or 10,000 annually, they were dropped. In a few cases, these individuals started their own publishing company, went with a small publisher, or POD.

Even though POD is not as cost effective as a press where you purchase 1-5,000 books at a time (and store and ship them), we feel the services POD provides outweigh the cons.

There is too much on publishing to be included in one column. So, I’ll be writing about it periodically. If you are hungry for more information but not ready to wait until next month or buy our book, you can also for additional writing tips.

In the meantime, please feel free to e-mail any questions and I will answer them in the next issue. Click Here to Email Maralyn your Writing or Publishing Question.
You deserve to be a published author and that is achievable. With passion and perseverance, you can be a successful published author.

Maralyn D. Hill, President
International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association
Books By Hills Success With Writing Where & What in the World
Member: Society of Professional Journalists

Finalist in the Writing and Publishing category of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, “$uccess, Your Path to a Successful Book,”