Given the harmonic convergence of opportunity and profit potential--as well as the help of a burgeoning industry of freelance writers, editors, graphic artists, printers, publicists, distributors and packagers--it's never been easier to publish your own book.
But that doesn't mean publishing a successful book is easy. Like any business venture, launching a book involves investigating your market, creating a knockout product, and promoting the heck out of it. If you have sufficient resources, you can get help with virtually any part of the process.
But you must begin with a viable concept. Nathan urges would-be publishers to visit their local bookstores. "See what's on the shelves, and ask yourself what makes your book different," she suggests. Talking to bookstore managers, book distributors and fellow publishers will also help.
Major publishing houses rely on traditional outlets--bookstores--to sell their goods. Independent publishers, on the other hand, often use alternative marketing to boost sales and profits. Poynter, for instance, made his first book (a technical volume on parachutes) a hit by selling it to parachute stores. "It just made sense," Poynter says. "The percentage of people going into a bookstore who have an interest in parachuting is small, but 100 percent of people going into a parachuting store want to know about parachutes." Figuring out how to maximize nontraditional and direct sales--as well as the traditional bookstore and library markets--is a crucial step in any book venture.
Once you know the market exists, make sure your resources are adequate. Publishing costs vary widely depending on the nature and scope of the project. The Jester Has Lost His Jingle required massive capital to produce because of its full-color illustrations, length and large initial print run. On a more modest scale, Poynter estimates minimum printing costs on a 3,000-copy print run for a small book with no color at $5,000; figure an additional $1,700 or more for cover design.
Printing costs are only one of many expenses. At the very least, plan on hiring an editor, a cover designer and a graphic artist. You should also anticipate ample promotional costs. Psychologist David Grudermeyer, who is a year into the publication of the book he co-wrote with his psychologist wife, Rebecca, Sensible Self-Help (Willingness Works Press), suggests budgeting $50,000 to $100,000 for production and promotion.
Saltzman stresses the importance of a quality product. "This business doesn't run on sentimentality," she says. "Bookstores aren't buying this book because they sympathize with David's [personal] story. They're buying the book because they think it will sell." Nothing short of a great book can accomplish that.