by C. Hope Clark  (reprinted with permission

Some folks think I'm anti-self-publishing. I'm not. But I don't think an author should self-publish without having seriously weighed traditional publishing. He should be able to articulate clearly why one method is better than the other.

In my experience speaking with writers, most are afraid of the rejection, the complexity, the big New York flavor of traditional publishing. They don't say it specifically as they ask me about self-promotion and sales, but their reluctance and tentative feelings splash all over the email, in between the lines, throughout the quandary of "why haven't my books sold?"

Sadly, many don't know that traditional publishing exists.

Amazingly, many believe that it's the norm to pay money to become published. 

"I want it. I'm willing to pay for it.  Therefore, I'm a published author."

The New York Times published a piece on January 28, 2009, entitled "Self-Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab." I've said this before in these newsletters. More people want to write a book than there are people wanting to read.

If a writer doesn't avidly read other books, he doesn't have the right to publish. Frankly, if he isn't well-read, he usually isn't a good writer. He's definitely not growing if he isn't studying the craft.

Sure, there are those who turn a serious dollar and land a publishing contract after they self-pub. They rank on the level of winning the state lottery. The difference is that the writer has some control in being successful. Those that are successful do these things:

1. Time their book release to an event, a major release, or in line with a carefully orchestrated promotion.

2. Rabidly promote themselves online and in person.

3. Choose an evergreen or highly charged topic. 

4. Invest time and money into the promotion.

5. Develop a brand, an image, an instant type of recognition.

Kevin Weiss, chief executive of Author Solutions (i.e., Author House) estimates that the average sales of a self-pubbed book is 150. 

Robert Young, chief executive of is quoted as saying, "We have easily published the largest collection of bad poetry in the history of mankind."

Cathy Langer, lead buyer for the Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver, gets flooded with requests to buy self-pubbed books. "People think that just because they've written something, there's a market for it. It's not true."

For those yearning to publish a book, answer these questions truthfully, alone in a room where you aren't afraid to hear the answers:

1. Am I willing to pay an editor to proof this book to perfection?

2. How many books do I expect to sell?

3. How will I sell those books?

4. Who will be thrilled to read this book?

5. How will I find those people?

6. Am I willing to invest at least a twenty-hour week to promoting my book?

7. Will my marketing tools be in place before the book is published?

8. What is my platform?

9. What is my follow-up act to this book?

A book is an investment - by the reader. When a reader buys your book, he buys the package. He purchases your writing with the understanding you struggled long and hard to make HIS life better for taking the time to read.

That is your mission - to empower readers. If you think it's otherwise, you won't sell books. Personally, I believe that self-publishing enables too many writers to publish before thinking through the entire process. While traditional publishing takes an eternity in comparison to self-pubbing, that time brings a book closer to perfection.

People have time to plan, think, analyze and tweak the book, the marketing and the image.

If you can wrap your mind around an entire package of book, reader, promotion and sales, you'll be successful no matter how you publish.

BIO:  C. Hope Clark believes writers should know how many books they'll sell before the first one comes off the press. Leave nothing to chance.


  Bobbi's Self-Publishing Checklist