Is Self-Publishing For You?
It depends. To help you decide, answer the following five questions:

Visit the Self-Publishing Resource Center's Home Page


1. What is my motivation and purpose for publishing my book?

Writing a book is a lot of work. Publishing one is even more work. Is your purpose clear and well enough conceived to sustain you through the experience? If profit is a motive, this venture must be treated as a business. Typically, from start to finish, a writer will spend 10% of their time writing the book, 15% publishing it and 75% marketing and promoting the finished book. Keep your purpose clear!


2. Is my book written for a specific market niche or group of people?

It is more expensive to promote a book to a wide general audience. Marketing costs are less when the target audience is specific, definable and accessible.


3. Do I have a way to sell books direct?

Selling books direct (at retail price to your target audience) is the most profitable way to recover your initial self-publishing investment. The standard heavy discounts to wholesalers and bookstores can be costly for slow-moving books. In fact, without a solid marketing plan, selling books to bookstores can be the least profitable way to distribute your book. Think of alternative ways to distribute your book: organizations, associations, corporations, conventions, fund raisers, back-of-the-room sales after lectures or workshops, to list a few.


4. Am I willing to go out and promote my book?

A general rule for authors . . . a book stops selling when the author does. No matter who publishes your book, the author is responsible for creating the demand. Books will not sell well sitting on a bookstore's shelf, unless interest is created in your book. Writing a book is about 10% of the effort, publishing is about 15% of the effort and marketing is 75% of the effort!


5. Can I sell at least 500 copies?

Beyond friends and family, who will be interested in your book? Knowing your market and how to reach those people are important questions to answer before investing in self-publishing. If profit is your motive, the initial cost of producing and printing (fewer than 500 copies) may be higher than a realistic retail price. Of course, the more you print, the less they cost. However, that decision must be weighed against the possibility of many unsold books sitting in your garage. The fact is... 95% of all books published sell fewer than 7,500 copies. Most self-publishers initially print 500 - 3,000 copies. Develop a solid marketing plan to give you a more accurate estimate of how many books may sell. If you choose to forgo printing a quantity of books, another option is using an online publisher who will publish and distribute your book online. Most online publishers have Print-On-Demand capabilities, which means you can order a small quantity of books for your inventory. The downside is that each book will cost you more to produce, which means a higher retail price to be profitable. Books like any other product are price sensitive to the end user.

* * *

Your answers to the previous questions should help you determine if self-publishing is a viable option. The next step is to read books on this subject before you make a final decision. Good luck!

Copyright © 2003 Mark Ortman

If you would like to reprint or repost this article, email your request to for permission.



A Simple Guide to Self-Publishing | A Simple Guide to Marketing Your Book

Articles | Is Self-Publishing For You? - Take The Quiz | BOOKNEWS Newletter | FAQ | Best Books on Publishing
Publishing Links | Consulting Services | Lectures &Workshops | Other Wise Owl Books | Contact Us | Order Page