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STRATEGY

A Guide to Do-It-Yourself Publishing

Major publishing houses aren’t your only ticket to the bestseller list. These days, more and more self-publishing options are popping up.
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You've penned an absolutely amazing business book (see "Written any Good Books Lately?") -- so what's next? You need to share it with the world. Unless you're, say, Richard Branson or Malcolm Gladwell, and get picked up by one of the big publishers, you may have to go it alone. Here are some options for authorial entrepreneurs, eager to get their words in people's hands.

Option 1: Self-publishing

This is the option for someone who wants complete control of their work. You hand a file over to a commercial printer and they print out books. It is practically the same as an order for fliers or business cards. Unlike working with a publishing house, you need to create a cover, edit the text, and market the book -- all by yourself. You basically get a few boxes filled with books. That's it. This is the best choice for authors who simply want the physical books to give to clients or sell on their websites.

The cost for books that are published this way varies, depending on how large the print order is. With bulk printing, the more copies you get, the cheaper it will cost per unit. Costs can range anywhere from a few dollars per paperback to more than $20 for hardcovers, depending on how many you order. The quality of the materials also affects price.

Some sites where you can find reputable printers include:

Option 2: Print-on-Demand

Print-on-demand, sometimes called publish-on-demand, is a little more involved than Option 1. These printers will give you a limited run of books, and will print out more if orders start to stream in. Print-on-demand publishers help you create a cover from a template, help you edit, and help you market the book -- but all at a minimal level.

It will appear as if your book is similar to a Tom Peters professionally made book, but without the publishing behemoth behind it to market and sell. A print-on-demand publisher may list you on its website, but that's about the only marketing push you'll get. Many of these publishers make their money by selling services to new, eager authors willing to pay a premium for their first run of books. Traditional publishers, on the other hand, make money by selling books to consumers. (see the infamous Writers Beware website). Print-on-demand is good for writers who want a little hand-holding in this endeavor, but know what they are exactly getting into.

A few of the more reputable POD publishers include:

Option 3: E-books

If you wish to save your money, you could always create an e-book. The number of websites selling e-books has risen in the past few years, and the practice is becoming an increasingly viable format with the spread of PDAs and smart phones. It is cheaper than printing physical copies of your book, but may still require an editor or designer to craft a finished product. It will also require online storage and bandwidth to host it, e-commerce capabilities to sell it, and marketing to draw the attention of other websites.

Some print-on-demand publishers throw in the creation of an e-book into the package of their services. While the e-books option is the less glamorous than the other two (since you don't end up with hard copies to hand out), it may be the smarter move for someone with something to say, who happens to have a thin budget.

Some sites to help create your e-book include:

Indeed, regardless of which publishing option you pursue, the process can be something of a hassle. But when you hold that final copy in your hand (or open it up on your computer screen) and skim through a book you actually wrote, all the time and money spent suddenly seem well spent. And who knows, with a little bootstrap marketing, you just might give Richard Branson a run for his money.

Kevin Ohannessian is an Editorial Assistant for Inc.com.

Last updated: Mar 23, 2006




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