Do You Suffer from a Book Publishing Myth Complex?

by Bob Baker

(This column first appeared in the St. Louis Publisher's Association newsletter.)

I unapologetically believe that most of the obstacles creative people encounter are self-imposed. Call me a delusional optimist, but I've found that most of the grim, foreboding "realities" of the book industry we authors often hear about are merely perceptions that exist in people's minds. And like all thoughts that bounce around in our craniums, we have a choice to accept or reject them -- or, more importantly, to replace them with more empowering perceptions.

With that in mind, here's my list of the top myths that authors and publishers cling to -- even though there are plenty of real-life examples around to disprove them all.

Warning: Read the rest of this article only if you're prepared to do away with the comfortable excuses that have kept you from actively pursuing your book idea. Removing obstacles can be painful, but it's the kind of discomfort that can lead to great accomplishments.

Myth #1 - Printing Books Is Prohibitively Expensive

Maybe five or ten years ago, this was true. But not any more. If you've been paying attention to advancements in new technologies such as short-run digital printing and print-on-demand (POD), you should know that producing a high-quality, bookstore-worthy book is well within everyone's grasp -- without spending half your life's savings.

Sure, if you need help with editing, page design and preparing your files for printing (and you don't have a close friend or relative who can help you in these areas), you may have to pay for those services. But when it comes to getting your book printed, the costs can be extremely low.

Case in point: I recently used a print-on-demand resource for one of my books. I paid a one-time fee of about $80 to get my digital files set up in the company's system. After that, my cost per book was just under four dollars. Whether I printed one book or 100, it cost me only four bucks per book (plus shipping and a very small processing fee per order).

Would you consider those dollar figures to be prohibitively expensive? Scratch one excuse off your list.

Myth #2 - Self-Publishing Is Small Potatoes

I've mentioned the self-publishing inferiority complex before. I don't mind repeating it because it's an important concept: Self-publishing your own book is neither superior nor inferior to traditional publishing. Either path holds the potential for exposure, sales and success ... or disappointment and wallowing in obscurity.

No matter what route you take, it all comes down to what you make of it. If you produce your own book, though, you'll be best served by not being embarrassed by that fact. Don't apologize or explain yourself. Just say, "Here's my book and here is how you can benefit from it."

Another cool thing about self-publishing is that, by doing so, you'll be in great company. Take a look at John Kremer's Self-Publishing Hall of Fame web page at www.bookmarket.com/selfpublish.html. It's filled with countless success stories about self-published authors, including Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Leo Tolstoi, Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allen Poe, Herman Melville and Benjamin Franklin.

Books that were originally self-published by their authors include Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson's The One-Minute Manager, James Redfield's The Celestine Prophecy, Robert Ringer's Winning Through Intimidation, Ken Keyes' The Handbook of Higher Consciousness, John Javna's 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth, Richard Paul Evans' The Christmas Box, Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, Richard N. Bolles' What Color Is Your Parachute and a lot more.

Still think self-publishing is small potatoes? Cross another excuse off the list.

Myth #3 - Effective Marketing Requires a Big Budget

This is another misguided perception that seems to paralyze so many aspiring authors. Of course, if you had a huge wad of cash to blow, you could easily find many ways to spend tens of thousands of dollars on book promotion "opportunities." You could buy print ads, a glitzy trade show display, a custom designed book tour van, billboard ads, space in coop mailings and more.

But if you don't have a budget for marketing, you are not out of luck. There are oodles of ways you can use creativity instead of cash and brains instead of your brawny bank account to get the word out and generate sales.

In the first chapter of Shel Horowitz's book Grassroots Marketing, he briefly describes a $10 marketing budget. That's right, a mere ten bucks! It includes using free e-mail and web site space; a series of e-mailed, locally faxed and hand-delivered press releases; appearances on radio and TV shows; a well-designed and compellingly written flier; and articles written by you that appear in online and print trade publications.

All of the marketing tactics on Shel's list cost little or no money. And with some creative thought applied, all of them can be effective at making people aware of you and your book. I can confirm this, because during the first couple years of my own publishing journey I spent $30 to $40 a month total on self-promotion. And now, several years later, I'm a full-time author. Marketing does not require a big-time bankroll.

Now take out a big red pen and enthusiastically scratch another excuse off your list. All you have left to do now is get busy preparing your book for the world to see.


Bob Baker is the author of "Unleash the Artist Within," "Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook" and "Branding Yourself Online." Get a FREE subscription to Bob's newsletter, "Quick Tips for Creative People," featuring inspiration and low-cost self-promotion ideas for artists, writers, performers and more. Visit PromoteYourCreativity.com for details.

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