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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lessons Learned in Self-Publishing

Today we welcome my good friend, and experienced author, blogger and book reviewer, William R. Potter for a guest post.

What have you got for us today, William?

Big Name Pay-for-Publishing VS True Self-Publishing

I wish I had known more about the Self-Publishing/Print-On-Demand Industry before I chose to self-publish my first book with a big name vanity publisher back in 2008. Many authors are now choosing to publish with do-it-yourself publishers like CreateSpace and Lulu. I went for a full service POD publisher for my first book. This was a mistake and here is why.

The big pay-for-publishing companies (iUniverse, Xlibris, AuthorHouse etc.) don't make their money selling their authors' books. Their income stems from selling expensive publishing packages and marketing/publicity campaigns to their authors.

The suggested retail price for many books published by these companies is preset by the publisher with no author control. It is often way above market standards. Imagine $19.99-$24.99 for a 250 page trade paperback book and $9.99 for a Kindle ebook. Compare this to the 10 bucks for best sellers by world famous authors. A 250 page book POD published should retail for $15.00 or less and the ebook for no more than half the print retail.

On average, these overpriced books sell 5 copies or less (not including to family or friends). One big name publisher admits to many titles not selling a single copy at on-line stores like (In rare instances, some self-published authors have sold hundreds, even thousands of copies from these same online stores.) Learn as much about self promotion as you can online and be prepared to work hard to build your reputation.

Books from these companies often have a terrible reputation. The books themselves are believed to be of poor quality and the writing is thought to be weak and in need of professional editing. (Printing quality has improved greatly over the years but the stigma remains.) Hire a professional editor to make sure your manuscript is at its best. Also, don’t cheap out on cover design as readers do judge books by their covers.

Some interested readers might shy away from your book when they realize it is published by one of these companies because of the industry reputation. My recommendation: Mail a print copy of your book to reviewers and run contest giveaways at your website or blog to get your book out to the reading public.

The marketing packages these companies push on their authors are overpriced and often ineffective. An opt-in e-mail campaign sent an ad for my book to one million prospective readers for $600. Only 1500 people opened the e-mail and none made a purchase. This service is available direct from Opt-in e-mail companies for about $100. Avoid these marketing schemes. My "big name" calls me about every three months with some new angle to sell my book.

Proofreading done by staff editors is often little better than the Spell Check on most word processing software. I purchased copy editing from my publisher for over $1100.00 and still found more than 120 simple spelling and grammar mistakes in my manuscript. Don’t use staff editors at any SP firms. Research and hire a highly regarded proof reader.

My overall recommendation is to avoid these companies. Free do-it-yourself print publishing through CreateSpace and Lulu is much more cost effective. E-publishing direct to Kindle or B&N NOOK is also free. is a great way to get your work out to many ebook readers at the Sony bookstore and the Apple iBook store.


Thanks for stopping in with this informative post, William.

To the rest of you guys, I have to tell you that I have read William's Crime Thriller, DEAD OF KNIGHT, and it is a terrific book. Well-edited and authentic action. See my review on Amazon for more details.

William's Biography:

William Potter attempted his first novel at age eleven when he scribbled a few lines about a giant rampaging crab. The teen years kept his imagination in a state of unrest and he used poetry to journal personal thoughts, achievements and events of those times. He returned to his love of storytelling in his twenties, writing numerous short stories; and now in his forties, has published two books.

Lighting the Dark Side-Six Modern Tales represents his short story work from the past several years and is his first published book. Won the 2009 Best Short Story Collection at Allbooks Review International.

DEAD of KNIGHT The first book in the "Jack Staal" thriller series. A Hard boiled detective/police procedural. Available at Amazon, B&N. Book two Dead to Rights will be released Fall 2011.

Falling Down The Hole. Peter cox had it all. A wonderful wife, beautiful intelligent daughter and a successful career. A freak kitchen accident would rob him of his sight and his will to live. Falling Down The Hole. Spring 2011.

William resides in New Westminster, Canada with his wife and two children.

Find William on The Independent Author Network (IAN), Twitter, and his home page at


  1. Hi John,

    Thanks for posting this article.

    I hope it helps authors to make an informed decision about self publishing.

    I'll be checking in here to answer any questions or concerns from S.P.C. readers.



  2. Thanks, William.

    If you readers have a comment or question for William, please leave it here.



  3. thanks for the useful advice. I never go with these companies, but I have to say that I had assumed, obviously naively, that their editorial services would be ok. it is also interesting to learn about the poor response rate to the email ad. it should have been higher than that, especially considering it was an opt-in list. presumably the list was either out of date, had lots of dead wood in it or not focused enough?

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, and also for warning us.

  5. Thanks for the advice. I had stumbled upon IUniverse and was wondering about it and it's prices and how decent service a site like that would give. Glad I found this first.

  6. Hi Terry,

    I assumed the same and boy was I wrong about the editing. The email ad was a scam. The latest gimmick they are selling their authors is converting books into a movie scripts for some insane price. The marketing consultants can't even get my book's title correct when they call to try to rip me off.

    thanks for commenting.


  7. Hi William

    Thanks for this post. I'm considering self publishing my first novel (mainly because my word count will be unpalatable for traditional YA publishers) and it's good to know who and what to avoid!

    Despite the fact I'm self publishing, I still want my book to be a professional product so I plan to spare no expense on copy editing, front cover design and the like. But clearly there are a lot of sharks out there so I'll be doing a lot of research before I dive into the somewhat-murky waters of self publishing and promotion (apologies for the corny extended metaphor!).

  8. Hi Cally,

    A pro cover and editing will have your book looking and reading nicely. Then I recommend you go with Createspace/Amazon for publishing with Kindle as well. You will have complete control of price etc.

    Patricia: iUniverse is the better of the big pay-for-pub. But still expensive. You would pay $1000 US for a decent quality book.

    Good luck


  9. Thanks for the great advice. I self-published my first book as an eBook only on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. I've been working on a print copy with CreateSpace because it seemed very cost effective. So far I've gone through a few proofs and think the quality is pretty good. I was wondering if I might be missing something with the pay-to-publish services, but it sounds like I won't miss a thing.

  10. Hi Karen,

    The only thing you'll miss at the big pay-to-publish is about a 1000 bucks to get the same book out.

    Thanks for all the great comments