My Self-Publishing Experience
by Bryan West
Asperger's, God and Me—
with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
AUSTRALIA IS A VAST LAND full of opportunity and promise, and Aussies love a
success story. Hard work is rewarded, unless you are trying to publish a book,
of course. I began my foray into print-on-demand (POD) publishing after trying
unsuccessfully to find a publisher and agent in Australia. In recent years,
Australian publishers have struggled. As a result, they only take submissions
from agents now. Of the twenty Australian agents I contacted, eleven were not
taking on new work, and the other nine were only taking on already published
authors. Where does this leave the unpublished writer? Two choices, go overseas
Being an amateur writer, I knew I needed to get my work tidied up by an
editor. I found an endearing "traditional" publisher on the Web who
was all too
eager to take my manuscript and try to charge me thousands of dollars in the
process. I was just about ready to sign their contract
when I found Barbara
Brabec, who saw them for what they were—shonky thieves.
Having been saved by
Barbara from these sharks, I began to consider self-publishing.
I had looked at a few general self-publishing websites. I balked at two
things—the costs of printing batches of thousands of books, and the costs to
get all the work done, such as covers, editorial work, typesetting, etc. I knew
my market was a niche market more likely to sell hundreds, not thousands of
books, not to mention the other many costs associated with self-publishing.
Again, Barbara came to the rescue when she suggested POD (print-on-demand)
publishing. POD publishers walk the line between self-publishing and traditional
publishing. While some are simply book printers, others are POD publishers that
offer a complete publishing package to authors who need help with various areas
of the publishing process.
For my book, Asperger's, God and Me—which is about living with
Aspergerís syndrome—POD publishing was the perfect avenue. My market is a niche
market, which means I need to focus my marketing down specific avenues that
cater to adults and parents of children with Aspergerís syndrome. At Barbaraís
suggestion, I checked the benefits of working with
Lulu and decided they
were just perfect for my needs.
The main benefit of POD publishing is that there is no need to buy thousands
of books that tie up your money. You can order copies as needed, whether itís
one book, ten, or a thousand. The choice is up to you. I am not tying up
thousands of dollars in books packed in boxes in a basement. I order in bulk
lots of ten. I find this is perfect for my situation with the bonus being that
this affords me the cheapest shipping costs as well. My wife and I founded an
organization called Camp Autism. I can carry along a pack of ten to our Camp
Autism camps to sell, or drop in a pack of ten to local booksellers, autism
groups, etc. These packs are very manageable and convenient, and tie up little
Luluís Publishing Packages
U.S. authors can choose to be the publisher or take on Lulu as publisher.
International authors are limited to Lulu as publisher, which was my preferred
Unlike general POD publishers that merely print a book and leave it to the
author to market it, POD publishers such as Lulu open an authorís book up to
mass markets such as Amazon, Borders, Fishpond, library databases, and more at a
cost of $99.95, although I managed to publish my book for free as Lulu often
offers free Lulu publishing packages. For another example, Lulu has a deal with
Google which involves Lulu books being a search result priority. This means your
book is more likely to be on the first few pages of a keyword search result
instead of the last page few people see.
If you lack the skills required to self-publish a book, Lulu will help you
out. If you are prepared to sit down for an hour, Luluís HELP documents and
streamlined system will allow you to go from manuscript to book with little
cost. They offer a large number of packages ranging from free services up to
packages that cost a couple thousand dollars. The free price includes
Lulu-provided covers. While they do charge if you want Lulu to do it all for
you, Luluís HELP documents and staff (on call 24 hours a day) give plenty of advice
for no charge, so I suggest giving it a go yourself.
Lulu provided me with a pre-formatted template for my book. I then
transferred the edited manuscript over to the new format and followed the
step-by-step instructions, after which Lulu converted the finished document to
PDF format for printing. I chose to use one of the Lulu book covers to
save time creating my own. Lulu even goes back and adds the ISBN for free. In
the publishing process, you can add pictures, comments, titles, etc. If you
choose to create your own cover, then you have a lot of extra work to do.
I found the whole publishing process rewarding and fun. If you have
everything ready to go for your book, uploading content to Lulu will take about half an hour from
start to finish. Then you have to pay for a proof copy that is sent to you to
read and check that everything is okay. Once the proof copy has been approved, the process is complete. If you deny the
proof copy, you will need to make your changes and re-submit the book. If
everything goes without hiccup, the whole process from start to finish can take
as little as a week. I came away with a sense of achievement and accomplishment.
This is all good news, but what about the bad?
One Negative Comment
I experienced only one negative in working with Lulu. Lulu lists books
quickly on online bookstores, but it can take months before people can actually buy those
books. My book was listed on Amazon in about four weeks, but it took three
months before people could actually buy the book there. This was the same with
Australia's largest online bookstore. I contacted Fishpond and sent them books so they had stock. Iím not
sure what the distribution problem was here because I was able to get books
myself within a few days from Lulu after finalizing the book, but this was not a
major problem for me since I had my own website with an audience that was
waiting for the bookís publication.
Lulu's pricing structure offers the author a reasonable amount of freedom as well.
The author sets his margin and the sales price. Lulu charges a standard cost
price plus its share, which is $1 for books you buy as the author. No doubt
they make different margins for books sold through their website and Amazon,
etc. The point is, freedom is there for the author to set their margins and that
is the main thing for me personally. Royalties can take a couple of months to
come through for books sold through Luluís online sources. For books you sell
yourself, the cost and Luluís cut has already been paid for when you buy them.
The authorís revenue is instant and since that is how I sell a majority of my
books, I like that option.
What I donít like is the inability to change prices once they are set. I
opted to publish an eBook as well as a print edition, and I originally set the
eBook price at $5 ($1 for Lulu, $4 for me). In hindsight, I found that to be far
too low, and I later raised it to $9.95. To change a book's price, Lulu charges a fee or
requires the author to withdraw the book and republish it.
Initially, there was a significant problem with postage price gouging. Lulu
was terrible for a while, but they have seen the error of their ways. Their
express post is still too expensive, but at least they did listen to their
authors, eventually, rather than ignoring us.
The other thing to consider with POD publishing is you do not get shelf space in bookstores. Bookstores are not interested in carrying POD books,
so donít even consider them as a sales outlet. If you want to sell quantities of
books, you have to do the marketing work yourself and find other sales outlets.
This takes a lot of time and energy. I do sell books through Luluís online
bookstores, which involve no work on my behalf. However, I sell most of my books
through my own hard work and marketing efforts such as my website, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, Squidoo, camps and other markets as I find them. The number
of books you sell will depend entirely on how much work and effort you put into
the marketing process. And if sales are less than you hoped for, at least you
wonít be stuck with boxes of books in the basement.
I was further encouraged after reading an article by Oregon author Bill
Sullivan in a magazine called The Writer. Bill dropped his traditional
publishers in favor of self-publishing, listing several reasons for doing so. I
will just list one reason here. Billís travel guides are season-sensitive.
Traditional publishing generally takes at least twelve months from submission to
publication, so the information in Billís books was a season old before anyone
could buy a copy. By self-publishing, Billís lag time is three months, not
twelve. He can publish just in time for the season. Of course he has to do a lot
of his own marketing, which he enjoys.
Personally, I think POD publishing is the wave of the future. As traditional
publishers and markets continue to tighten up, new authors will find it
increasingly difficult to break in. POD publishing is one way to break through
and successfully sell your book at little cost to yourself. I am certainly
pleased I chose this method of publication.
Copyright 2009 by Bryan West. For more information about Bryanís book,
Asperger's, God and Me—Living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, visit
his website at
Camp Autism.org, where you can sample the
book and then click to buy a print copy or the eBook edition.
It was a genuine pleasure
to edit Bryanís book and get to
know him personally through our various email exchanges. Given the verbal
challenges he has as an Aspie, I greatly admire him for his ability to
communicate so well via the written word and meet his self-publishing challenge
head-on. By sharing in his book exactly what itís like to be an Aspie, and then
ministering personally to the parents of Aspie children who come to Camp Autism
(when he says in his book that he is barely able to speak directly to members of his own family without a
feeling of panic), he is proof positive that God had a wonderful plan for his life and
has equipped him to help others with Aspergerís Syndrome and then run a very
successful publishing and speaking business (see left).
I know Bryanís book is
helping many people better understand their Aspie children as well as adults in
their midst who may not be able to explain why they do some of the strange
(sometimes outrageous) things that are considered normal to an Aspie. I highly
recommend this book.
- Barbara Brabec
for Writers and Self-Publishers]
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