I have served as my own publisher, and I would recommend it for anyone who is publishing a first book. So I will recount the steps by which I was able to get my book written, printed, and up for sale on Amazon.
I started my book in 1994 as a short training manual to be used in an EarthSave Toastmaster’s group I lead. I expanded on it as a way of testing the truth of Dr. Charles Vaclavik’s book, “The Vegetarianism of Jesus Christ.”
I dreamed up the optimistic name for my publishing company, Great Ideas Press Ltd. I set up a Washington corporation and reserved a web site by the same name. I got state and federal tax identification numbers. I called Bowker and got 20 ISBN numbers for free. I think Bowker charges for them now. I contacted the Library of Congress and was issued a Library of Congress number.
I spent many years researching, writing, and rewriting my book. My method was to print the book spiral bound and ask friends to review it. I would mark it up and print it again, and again. The book has gone through 22 complete redrafts and reprints.
It is important to own your own ISBN number. If you work through iUniverse or similar companies, you will not own your own ISBN number, and there will be problems later if you decide to break away.
Further, it will be almost impossible for you to make enough money working through iUniverse to recoup your up-front investment or ever to turn a profit.
Another alternative is to send your manuscript around to publishers and hope one will print your book and market it for you. They might print it, but even if they do, they will not market it. You will still have to do that. You might be paid a few dollars per book, hardly enough to cover your marketing cost. They will rewrite your book and you will lose editorial control of it.
The math favors acting as your own publisher, at least until you are famous. I can print my 448 page book for $6 each if I print at least a thousand, and that includes shipping the books to me. If you don’t happen to have $6,000 laying around, then print them by the hundred. Color covers are less expensive per cover if printed in large runs, so print at least a thousand covers at a time. Then you can print runs of the inside pages by the hundred and have them bound for around $11 per book. If you are just getting started and want to print only 20 books of 448 pages, perfect bound, with a full color cover, you will spend around $16 per book.
Amazon has at least three divisions. The Amazon Advantage program is best for those who are already well accepted and have publishers. Advantage pays you only 45% of the list price and you have to pay for printing, storage, and shipping. If you print a thousand books at a time, these are the numbers: $30 x 45% = $13.50 – $6 = $7.50. There is little left for marketing. If you are printing a hundred books at a time, you are losing money.
For the start-up self-publisher, the Amazon Marketplace program is ideal. Amazon collects the money for you and pays you 80% of list price, plus money collected for shipping. Then you box up the books and send them out. The math is $30 x 80% = $24 – $6 = $18. If you print smaller runs, you can still turn a profit. With the Marketplace program, the list price is not marked down. This means I can sell boxes of books to bookstores through my distributor at a deep discount, and they can make a decent profit and not lose sales to Amazon Advantage with its discounted price.
In order to get your book into the bookstores, you will need to convince a distributor to take you on. The best way to do that is first to build sales through Amazon.
I recommend you buy an iMac with lots of RAM and Creative Suite 3. Programs on PC based computers tend to crash when a book gets really big. And a 448 page book with lots of illustrations gets really big. Put money into hiring a graphic designer and web site designer and watch them work so you can do an increasing amount of your work on your own. Hire a good web site designer and watch her work. Creative suite includes Dreamweaver.
Obtain written permissions from everyone you quote from, except for short “fair use” quotations. Get written agreements from artists as to how many books you can publish before you will owe them more money. Or buy all rights or all rights for use in publication.
On the inside front cover I show my phone number, e-mail address, and mailing address. If you have any comments or questions, contact me.
That brings me to another question: Why is it that writers and publishers do not give readers their contact information? Do they not want feedback? I suspect it is unthinking conventionality.