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Self publish, print on demand or get an agent?

Posted: March 13th, 2010, 6:48 am
by ritaashley
So many options, so few comparisons, even less data. My book is the second edition of "Networking Debugged" for a target market of technology executives. The current edition is sold as a PDF from my web site. A few hundred have sold in the last 12 months with precious little marketing.

Self publishing (Lulu for example) seems a bit pricy for a book that will cost about $15. And print on demand isn't much better. I have no idea how to decide which is the best solution or if I should go for the gold and find an agent. Is there some value in having an ISBN number? The book, as well as its companion, "Job Search Debugged" are enticement to hire me as a career coach. Mine is a crowded space but I do have followers (though they have already read the first edition of the book) and visibility. What's an author to do?

Re: Self publish, print on demand or get an agent?

Posted: March 13th, 2010, 12:36 pm
by maybegenius
If I understand correctly, these books are directed at a specific target audience and are personally linked to your career, correct? I'm not sure if that's the sort of thing an agent would typically represent - it might be too targeted. But I couldn't really say for sure without knowing the content of your book and if it would appeal to a wider market.

Is there a reason why you'd like to branch out into physical copies of this book when the current edition is apparently selling pretty well in PDF form? Has your audience requested hard copies? I know Print On Demand (vanity publishing) is usually frowned upon across the board for anything other than very small quantities for personal use, like for friends and family, because it ends up being so expensive for the author and there's no "help" as far as marketing the book. Self-publishing is a contested area, but for your situation, it might fit your needs. Just be very careful about the self-publisher you choose to go with, as there are many scams out there that would take you for a lot of money.

In a nutshell, if these are books that would only sell to a specific target audience and are being used to gain business, you would probably be best served with self-publishing and doing the marketing footwork yourself, but only if you're confident you can sell through any stock you invest in. I'd actually continue with your electronic versions unless you have a reason for doing otherwise.

Re: Self publish, print on demand or get an agent?

Posted: March 13th, 2010, 12:54 pm
by casnow
Are there other books that have been published that are similar to yours? Have they done well? If so, then maybe traditional publishing is the way to go - if not, then maybe it is too targeted. The other thing to do would be to try and hype your book somehow (free copies, trying to solicit reviews, getting clients to recommend it, etc).
If you're a life coach, maybe instead of selling the book you should give it away in order to draw more clients... then once you have a big client base (and a built in platform), then you could pitch the book?

Re: Self publish, print on demand or get an agent?

Posted: March 15th, 2010, 6:25 pm
by Rik
There's a couple of old posts on Nathan's blog where he talks about self-publishing - maybe it's time for another post, particularly as agent Rachelle Gardner has been talking about it recently?

The key question I think you need to ask is: what do you want to achieve from publishing the book?

- if you want to be an 'author': don't self-publish
- if you want to be the next Stephenie Meyer: don't self-publish
- if you want to earn truckloads of money from your book: don't self publish

If - on the other hand - you're keen to publish your book, you want/need your book published to meet a forthcoming deadline, you're confident in your abilities as a writer/proofreader/typesetter, you have a specific target audience in mind, you're not afraid of marketing and promoting the book with no outside help, and you've got an ego the size of Peru - go for it!

More seriously, if you do choose self-publishing, then the more research you do into your options the better prepared you'll be to tackle the job. There's tons of options available for self-publishing nowadays, but many of those options may not fit with your needs and the needs of the book. Also the more work you're prepared to do yourself, the cheaper the process will be: for instance if you've already got a pdf version of the book that you're happy with, and you don't feel the need for the book to have its own ISBN (they're not essential) or to be available for purchase through Amazon and highstreet bookshops, then you can probably publish it using for a total outlay of $0.00.

Whatever you choose to do, best of luck with it. My self-published tome will be coming out before the end of the month.

Re: Self publish, print on demand or get an agent?

Posted: March 15th, 2010, 8:22 pm
by Nathan Bransford
Indeed Rik, I'm planning a post on self-publishing in the coming weeks.

Re: Self publish, print on demand or get an agent?

Posted: March 17th, 2010, 7:45 pm
by mojo25
I noticed someone in an earlier comment said that print on demand is vanity publishing. I wouldn't call it that. I work for a print-on-demand company and our clients range from Wiley to Cambridge Univ Press to NYU to niche publishers to individuals who want to print their own book.

Print on demand means just that. The printer will print your book (on demand means you can print small quantities, unlike an offset printer)--you provide digital files for text and cover, they show you proofs. You approve the proofs. They print it (hardcover or paperback). All the rest is up to you (unlike self-publishing companies which offer packages, "marketing," etc). The end product is as gorgeous or as tacky as whatever you supply to the printer. (I'd recommend hiring a graphic artist--some of the individually published stuff we do looks horrible, ie amateurish covers, badly designed text.)

Re: Self publish, print on demand or get an agent?

Posted: March 24th, 2010, 5:20 am
by aspennow
I belong to several publishing groups, and the overwhelming consensus is NOT to use Lulu. They are frequently compared to a very poor copy-and-staple operation. The only exception to not using Lulu is for ARCs, but even that limited option appears iffy. Alternatively, LSI and 360Digital get excellent reviews, altho they will cost a bit more.

Re: Self publish, print on demand or get an agent?

Posted: March 25th, 2010, 2:49 pm
by Nathan Bransford
Hey everyone, just posted a comprehensive entry on self-publishing: ... tions.html

Re: Self publish, print on demand or get an agent?

Posted: March 26th, 2010, 6:17 am
by Rik
Nathan - thank you.

I think I shall move you to the very top of my Most Wanted Agents list once my next tome is honed to query perfection (but please don't tell Kristin).

Re: Self publish, print on demand or get an agent?

Posted: May 17th, 2013, 12:15 pm
by joelt
Self-Publishing is becoming more and more excepted in the publishing world. That being said not everyone should self-publish.
If you are an expert in a field and just can't stop talking about it or if you have a large network of people who respect your opinion on the topic you write about, then it is a natural fit.
If you are an introverted novelist who does not like to use social media or will not do what it takes to sell your book then you probably need to search for some type of publisher, be it subsidy publishing or traditional publishing. I try not to be too quick to push people either way for many people surprise me and even themselves on how well they can bring their book to market.
Joel Turner
President at America's Press