Saturday, January 1, 2011

Considering Self-Publishing Your Christian Book?

Considering self-publishing your Christian book? As the author of three books between 2008 and 2010, two have been self-published. I've learned a little and have a great deal more to learn. This article becomes the first of several blog writings that attempt to get you going.

Let me first explain that by self-publishing, I am not referring to taking your manuscript to a publisher such as Xulon or BookMasters or WinePress, each of which have their unique advantages. I am referring to self-publishing as the process of setting up your own business (typically by obtaining a DBA from your local governmental authority), and then publishing your title under the name of that DBA.

There are a great deal of advantages of being a true self-publisher, possibly the most important being the ability to gain control of the entire process. You will likely spend considerably less money during the process, but there is also much more work involved. As the self-publisher, you get to choose the title for your book and you get to set the price. You determine when the manuscript is ready for publication, and you get to monitor the sales on a regular basis. If there is a quality issue for the first edition, you have control over when and how a second edition will be published. You see, there are lots of reasons for being a self-publisher – I've listed just a few.

The major disadvantage of self-publishing is that you will spend more time on the publishing end, and you will probably make some mistakes that a publisher with lots of books will seldom make. My hope in this series of articles to help you reduce that number of mistakes – I've made quite a few.

Virtually every new author, whether self-publisher or with a publisher, under-estimates the amount of effort required in marketing your book. The traditional publisher will not truly help you in this, although they should offer to put your book title on their webpage, help create a press release, and other display areas. True marketing is the process of getting the public to somehow pay attention to your work: web pages, Facebook, Twitter, public speaking, contacting bookstores and other retail locations, developing advertising campaigns, etc.

I have read that for every hour spent writing (and re-writing) your manuscript, there should be an equal number of hours spent promoting the book. This effort is regardless of whether you self-publish, as I have done, or go with one of the more traditional publishers. My experience is that with most Christian non-fiction books, there should actually be more time spent marketing than writing.

The problem that we Christian authors have is that there is a tremendous amount of competition. Each year, I am told that there are 60,000 new Christian manuscripts published; that is huge. It is very easy to get your manuscript lost in the fog, no matter how good it is. That is where aggressive marketing becomes essential.

Therefore, my first piece of advice is to set your goals with realistic expectations. Write because you are convinced that the Lord has instructed you to do so. Listen intently for His direction. And when you are released to begin, go with the expectation that your costs will probably exceed your sales. That means the money you invest will probably never be fully recovered but that's OK because God said to. Whether you self-publish or go with an established publisher, you will not get discouraged because the Lord told you.

As I was in the middle of writing my first book, Joshua's Spiritual Warfare, I came across a book on self-publishing that became the model that I have followed for each of my books. That book is Morris Rosenthal's Print-On-Demand Book Publishing, and is applicable to Christian books as well as secular books. In this book, Rosenthal writes about Lightning Source which is a key company in this self-publishing industry. If you are at all serious about self-publishing your manuscript, I recommend that you get a copy by clicking on this Amazon link.

Bon voyage,

For other articles about self-publishing in this series, see:
Index of Self-Publishing Articles by Thomas B. Clarke