Secret Weapons of Successful Self-Publishers

A hot topic on many online writing and publishing forums is whether or not to self-publish. The naysayers complain about lost money, poor quality, low sales, and the many other challenges that go with publishing your own book.

For the past few years I've provided editing, ghostwriting, and production management services to self-publishers. We've pretty much accepted that there always will be challenges. That's just part of the process.

However, from writing to print-on-demand to marketing, my clients and I have stocked our self-publishing arsenal with a few secret weapons to help facilitate a successful experience.

1. Invest in editorial quality control. When my clients invest in my services they know they'll receive the benefit of my 20 years of publishing and corporate experience. I work with pastors, education consultants, social service providers, educators, child advocates, and activists. Because I have strong content knowledge in these areas, I add value to their projects beyond editorial.

2. Become a shameless self-promoter. Through their ongoing public speaking engagements, my clients aggressively market and sell their books. A couple of my clients love to give away books, too, which further endears them to their audiences. Self-published books that fail usually lack a strong marketing plan and push. I've learned from my writing stars that you must be a relentless marketer. You can never rest or give up.

3. Don't skimp on services. My clients may not have the deepest pockets, but they would never skimp on services that compensate for the skills they lack. Self-publishing projects fail when authors overestimate their skill sets. There's no shame in asking for help. Because my clients know I respect their genius, vision, and mission, they don't mind me seeing their raw, unvarnished work. They enjoy brainstorming with me about ideas that may not be fully formed.

4. Publish through inexpensive online self-publishing platforms. My clients and friends have published through iUniverse.com, Lulu.com, and Selfpublishing.com. They have used traditional printers as well, but the online platforms provide A-to-Z services, including editing, proofing, layout, design, filing with the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress, securing ISBN numbers, setting up distribution through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. When you're just starting out, this is a good way to go.

5. Diversify your revenue streams. My clients don't depend on their self-publishing projects alone for income. They pastor churches and teach on college campuses. They are regulars on the lecture circuit. They produce CD's and DVD's. If they had day jobs, they wouldn't give them up. And even when the work is slow, they keep working.

6. Give of your information, time, talents, and products. My clients are generous to a fault. They believe in "give and you will receive."

7. Self-publishing projects must offer value to people's lives. According to Publisher's Weekly, "764,448 titles were produced in 2009 by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers" while the output of traditional books slipped to 288,355. There's a reason for that. Self-publishers have identified needs that traditional publishers couldn't or wouldn't touch. My clients wouldn't continue to self-publish if they weren't meeting needs (and making money).

Self-publishing projects fail when authors cut corners on content development, editing, design, and marketing. I'm an advocate of self-publishing and would strongly encourage anyone considering this approach to start raising money right away to ensure a quality product. I can't say how much to raise because I don't know your circumstances, but investigate the online services mentioned in this article. Get estimates from professionals in the field. Put together a budget.

When venturing into a self-publishing project your mindset is all important. Keep the faith without going overboard. Set small, manageable goals regarding book sales. You may not sell millions, but what if you sold 2,000 or 3,000 books? Could you consider that a success? Definitely. Be inspired by the stories of big sellers, but don't lose your head. Define success according to your own terms. You can do it!