The fastest way to get your book out is through self-publishing, and it can be a good approach under limited circumstances. For a straightforward book requiring little design work, with no distribution needed other than being listed on Amazon, and with you supervising the overall production on your own, self-publishing can be an attractive and inexpensive alternative. For example, if you are creating a family edition of memoirs, a professional book for your practice, or a textbook for classes you offer and lectures you give, then self-publishing is can be a good way to go.

            However, there are serious drawbacks to self-publishing. There is a good chance that your book will look “self-published,” i.e., amateurish, without a commercial appearance. And you will not have any way, except listing on Amazon, to get it to the market place, which these days means to a world market. And you do have to supervise the entire publication yourself, to be your own project manager.

            As a self-publisher you must be able to see your book through the rigors of manuscript to finished book, which means you must understand some of the realities of the business. One that many authors are reluctant to accept is that books very rarely make money. In traditional publishing, most payments to authors before a book is published (“advances”) are very small—yet more than 70% of books do not earn back their advance, which means in most cases the advance (which may be less than $1,000) is all the money the author ever receives.

            No matter what self-publishers tell you, books are not about making money: they are about establishing your expertise, enhancing your brand, getting your message out, and satisfying your longstanding desire to say something at length and in depth. Books are highly personal expressions and can be a tremendous legacy, but the vast majority are not money makers. But that does not make investing in publishing your book a waste of money! If you have a way to sell books directly, such as to clients in your practice or to students in classes you teach, then you can make money—good money.

To make money through traditional publishing, a book must sell in the tens of thousands. To do this you must get it to the marketplace, and once there, there must be people who want your book enough to find it and buy it—perhaps because it is on a hot topic that “sells.”

Selling tens of thousands of books is no small feat. Tens of thousands of dollars can be invested in promotions that do not sell books. Making money in publishing is difficult.  Only the biggest publishers have substantial money. Most publishers’ budgets are thin, with minimal funds available for promotion. So publishers expect authors to have a “platform” from which to promote and sell their books.  A platform may include your media contacts and other ways that you get your name out and information about your book out.

Naďve authors imagine that once their book comes off of the printing press, it will fly out the door and they will have radio and TV journalists knocking at their door and big royalty checks rolling in. It has happened, but rarely does. Seasoned authors know that selling a book is really an excuse to sell yourself to the media and potential clients in a very sophisticated why. You look and sound good when telling about the wisdom in your book—you are selling yourself and your services while appearing to be selling books.

Most people do not like self-promoters. But when listening to someone tell about how to close a deal or ways to reduce stress, we are impressed—very impressed. That is what your book can do for you.

Think carefully about what books can and cannot do when considering the many pitches from all the self-publishing services. Again, for a simple, straightforward book requiring little design work, with no distribution expected other than being listed on Amazon, and no way to get onto bookstore shelves—and with you supervising the overall production on your own—self-publishing can be an attractive and inexpensive alternative. It may be particularly appropriate for novels, which require little or no graphics or art and minimal layout and design.

Here is a good list of self-publishers including links directly to many self-publishers. This is an excellent place to start your research. Services and costs vary very widely among companies, so be sure to investigate a number of them before choosing one. Be sure you fully understand what you get for the basic quoted prices and what will cost you extra. For example, is cover design included? Two-color or four-color covers? With graphics or without? With design elements, such as modification of art, or without? Who supplies the art? If the self-publisher supplies it, how much more does that cost? What editing is included? Substantive? Copy editing? How much extra does the self-publisher charge for the services of a professional project editor who will suggest better ways to structure your book to make your message clearer? Is such a project editor available at all, or will your book be published just as you submit it? How much extra will it cost to be sure spelling, grammar and other small but crucial details are correct? These are just a few of the many hundreds of decisions you need to make before selecting a self-publishing partner.

            Be wary of “author mills,” which rely on pulling in a lot of authors, each of whose books is published in very small numbers (perhaps only a few dozen). Here is an article explaining how author mills work and naming some specific ones—again, with links you can follow to research this element of self-publishing more thoroughly.

            One advantage to self-publishing is that self-publishers will accept any book; established traditional publishers, such as Ronin, have editorial standards and do not accept all books. We are a nonfiction publisher, and we take our motto seriously: “Books for Independent Minds.” Our specialty areas are self-help, medicine, life skills (with attitude), spirituality, psychedelia, and a “fringe series” of unusual and offbeat topics, such as ghost hunting and underground comics. Go to Ronin's site for a look at our backlist, or search for our books with any search engine.

            If you decide that the negatives of self-publishing outweigh the positives, and believe you have a book that Ronin may be interested in co-publishing, send us a query.