When is Self-Publication a Good Option?

6102164_sI am getting ready to do something I never thought I would do—self-publish a book. Two books, actually. As I have explained in my article “Book Publishing Options,” this has become a much more viable option than it used to be.

For one thing, anyone who wants to publish a book can do it. That does not mean that everyone who can write a book and have it published ought to. You might fork over a thousand dollars or so and have your book published, but will you be able to sell it? Here are some situations when self-publication may be a good option.

 1. You just want to publish your book, in spite of the cost, even if you have to give the books away.

Maybe you want to write your story and give it to your family. Actually, if you look around, you could find a way to publish it for far less than a thousand dollars if you want a basic book that is attractive but doesn’t have to sell well. Just remember, unless your story is exceptionally compelling and very well written; and unless you’re prepared to promote it, you won’t have a lot of strangers buying your book.

2. You have an outlet where you can continually sell your book year after year.

If you are a well-known speaker you could sell your book at the back of the room when you have speaking engagements. Or maybe you have a business in which you can promote your book successfully. If you produce a book which links with your speaking topic or business, you may be able to sell it successfully from those outlets.

I live in Invercargill, New Zealand, which isn’t the end of the world, but isn’t too far from it. People in this Southland region are very loyal to their region. A variety of children’s books have been written that feature animals or vehicles or items of interest for Southland. They have strong local interest, but are of little interest elsewhere in the world. This kind of book is a good candidate for self-publication.

3. You have already established yourself as an author and you know how to promote your book.

Maybe you’ve already sold books through traditional publishers, but are finding it hard to sell it to a publisher in a tighter market. Or maybe your books are selling and you want to make more royalties on your next book. You’ve set up a website and a blog and are using a number of social websites. You will have to work hard to sell your book, but you may sell well if you are prepared to do that.

4. You have a book with special appeal that gives unique opportunities for promotion.

After two years I am close to finishing the first draft of an amazing true story. In 1993 Mary Weaver was providing childcare for an 18-month-old baby when the girl’s eyes rolled back and she quit breathing. Mary called 911 and performed CPR, but within a day, the baby died. The girl was found to have massive head injuries. Mary, a godly Christian woman who had never hurt the baby, was accused of first degree murder.

This story ripped the town of Marshalltown, Iowa down the center. It became widely known across Iowa as a miscarriage of justice that could happen to anyone. Mary and her lawyer went through difficult days, but saw God work in ways that rippled out far past Mary’s own story.

When I tried to pitch this book to mainstream traditional publishers they all said the same thing. The book would be too hard to sell. Mary is not a celebrity and it happened too long ago.

True stories are often hard to sell. Readers often tire of “pain and suffering stories.”  Stories like Joni Eareckson Tada’s are the exception rather than the rule. So if I can’t get a traditional publisher interested in my book, why am I willing to take a chance on self- publication?

During our last furlough in the States many people asked what I was working on. As I gave a few- minutes summary of Mary’s story I found people’s eyes light with interest. They wanted to know more. In a few cases, people quizzed me at length about her case.

I am co-writing Mary’s story with her lawyer, Steve Brennecke. This book gives a personal look into their faith journey through exceptionally dark days. Where was God when this gross miscarriage of justice occurred? We know this book will raise questions by readers. They will want answers for their own questions. We want to encourage them toward greater faith. In fact, we plan to publish a companion Bible study book that shows how Bible characters survived the spiritual disasters they faced. We believe this uplifting story can encourage others as it has encouraged us. Most of all, we want to give glory to God by showing how he worked in this difficult case. If we can do that, we will have succeeded.

We also believe Mary’s story has strong regional interest in Iowa. Mary had a large support group and her case had great media support. Her story evolved over a period of about four years in which the drama was replayed over major Iowa news media. Her case had lasting effects which eventually drew attention from People magazine, two national news programs, and the LA Times.

Since this story is a true one with strong local interest, we believe it lends itself to many kinds of book promotion. We can’t guarantee that we’ll make much money, even any money, on this monumental project, but we feel the Lord leading us forward in a number of ways. At least with self-publication we can publish the book. We will do our part and leave the rest in the Lord’s hands.

You can follow our journey to self-publication by following my blog. From time to time I intend to comment about this process.

As a writer, I need to understand book publishing options, target audiences, and various means of promotion to know make good decisions about publishing my book. As a Christian I need to follow the Lord’s leading. Gaining more information and looking into various opportunities allows the Lord to lead me more effectively.

For those of you with a book in your heart and confusion in your brain, may you find the direction you need today.

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