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Need a Publisher?  Why Not Do It Yourself?

 A Guest Article by Diane Lau

Picture this:  You’re best-selling author of a great small publishing house, happily doing advance promos for your soon-to-be-released fifth title, when suddenly you learn your publisher is closing business. 

This was my situation early in 2006.  This was the second time in my career I lost a publisher.  The first time, back in 1998, my response was to start up a little sole proprietorship myself, so I could publish the two books I had contracted for release before my publisher declared bankruptcy.  I used a printer that could do very short runs for an acceptable price, and although I still haven’t fully recouped my $2,000 investment, the experience was worth it.  And all this while I kept my little company operational, using it to sell those two titles and to produce a few ebooks for free distribution.

When I lost my publisher this year, deciding to publish myself was practically a no-brainer.  The changes in technology in the intervening years have completely transformed the publishing industry.  The advent of ebooks and print-on-demand (POD) means book production can be done with extremely low up-front costs.  Internet distribution enables readers around the world to find small press books and buy them.  The web also provides countless free or inexpensive marketing opportunities that didn’t exist in 1998. 

So, I asked myself if there was anything another small, independent publisher could do for me that I couldn’t do on my own, and I could think of almost nothing.  There was added incentive when I crunched the numbers:  I found I could lower the prices of my titles and still make substantially more profit than my royalties had provided.   

So I made my decision—I was going to do it all myself.  I recreated my two print books and six ebooks, as well as print and ebook versions of the new title I was planning to release.  I worked directly with Lightning Source, Inc. to publish my books.  (LSI is the company many “self-publishing” services use for ebook and POD production.)  While holding down my full-time day job, I completed the work in less than five weeks, including publication of my new title right on schedule.  It cost me less than $750 to publish all those books.  By contrast, I calculated what the “self-publishing” company AuthorHouse would have charged in fees for what I did on my own, and it was over $3,000! 

I’m happy to say the new books look even better than the original versions (not that my old publisher wasn’t good, they were simply not as obsessed with perfection as the author!).  And as I guessed, my income is even better than before.  But best of all, I have peace of mind:  I know everything is in my control.  No one will price my books too high for them to sell, or make a bad design decision, or fail to use their profits to help promote them.  And no one but me will ever again make the decision to remove my titles from availability! 

The technological advances that have occurred in publishing obviously afford authors opportunities we never dreamed of even five years ago.  But there’s another reason these development are so exciting.  Let’s face it:  big publishers become less and less interested in new authors every year.  (A big-name author told me recently they won’t even carry his books!)  Independent bookstores close, and the big chains carry fewer small press titles.  In other words, the trend in Big Publishing is to neglect new authors as well as the non-mainstream needs of readers.   

Meanwhile, however, there is a revolution among writers and readers to bypass the old system.  The new wave is small electronic presses, “self-publishing” companies, and authors like me who directly publish themselves.  It’s wonderful how authors and readers connect every day without any involvement by Big Publishing.  It’s a very exciting time to be an author. 

So, if you’ve been discouraged at a lack of success in your writing career, hop on the internet and check out some of the opportunities you may have overlooked.  Consider your own capabilities beyond just writing, and look for the tools you could use to get your words out to readers.  And if you have even basic skills in business management, marketing, graphic design, and web design, I encourage you to consider the option of starting your own publishing company.


Diane Lau writes romance fiction as Diana Laurence.  Her ebook Do-It-YourSelf-Publishing (www.dianalaurence.com/diyp.html) details her blueprint for being your own publisher.  It is available in pdf for $2.99 from Powell’s Books, $2.75 from Diesel eBooks, or $2.54 off from Living Beyond Reality Press (www.livingbeyondreality.com). 



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