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The Case for Self-Publishing, Walt’s Way
The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!
So yesterday, I shared with a few friends news of a soon-to-be self-published book I’ve been working on for the past year. I received several positive responses including one which read, “you could probably actually get a real book deal for this one.” That person later added, “it could be bigger than just putting it on your little website.”
I chuckled to myself as I typed my response (which follows), acting on what I jokingly refer to as “my fiduciary responsibility to dispel the misconceptions surrounding self-publishing and the mythical ‘book deal.’”
“Ahhh, yes,” I began in an admittedly haughty tone. “The much-hyped, much sought-after ‘book deal.’ Contrary to popular opinion, a ‘real book deal’ is not always the prize people believe it is, my friend,” I wrote.
“As you know, I’ve self-published all  of my books as well as those I’ve co-written or ghost-written for others. In other words, I am my own publishing company. I use a printing company to print the books, but there’s no other entity involved; no agents, no editors, no publishers, no other ‘big company’ that I am signed to. I do it all myself. As such, I typically earn more money than many authors who’ve gotten a ‘real’ book deal from a major publisher (think Random House, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, et. al.) How can that be, you may be thinking. Well, for starters, as a self-published author:
I deal directly with online sellers like Amazon.com who sell my books, so I keep all the money.
I deal directly with brick and mortar retailers like Barnes & Noble and Borders who sell my books, so I keep all the money.
I deal directly with major wholesalers like Baker & Taylor and Ingram who sell my books, so, I keep all the money.
I deal directly with the buying public who order by phone, or through my websites, so (all together now) I keep all the money!
In other words, anyone, anywhere in the world who wants a copy of my book has to deal directly with me.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There have been real success stories of people with lots of talent, a winning manuscript, a great agent and a committed publishing company who’ve done quite well. Six figure book deals, Oprah appearances and New York Times bestseller status are the stuff writers’ dreams are made of, and they do happen. However, they’re not available to everybody. But, the great thing is, even without a lot of talent, a not-so-great manuscript, no agent and no publishing company behind you, you can make money—even make a living—as a self-published author. Trust me, I know.
Unfortunately, many of my fellow writers (and I’ve met a few), who’ve made the “mistake” of going the real book deal route, lose out in several ways.
1. First, they get paid anywhere from 5 percent to 15 percent of the book’s cover price as their royalty, that is, if they get anything at all, since the publishing company must recoup their expenses—including any advances paid to the author—before the author gets paid. As a result, though I may sell less books, I earn more money overall than they do. (They also get paid quarterly, or sometimes even just twice a year.)
2. They often lose control of the copyright of their work if they’re not careful about the contract they sign. In addition, they may be restricted from writing any books that, in the publisher’s opinion, may compete with the book they’ve signed away.
3. They end up having to do promotion themselves since a publishing company’s budget is allocated based on the popularity of the author. Stephen King gets the big promotion bucks. Walt Goodridge (who?) gets the dregs. So without proper promotion, the book languishes in the warehouse, or on a shelf in the publisher’s office awaiting release. In addition, the author has to purchase copies from the publisher in order to sell them on his/her own, and may be restricted in how they can sell them.
4. They don’t develop a direct line of communication with their public, so are not able to capitalize optimally on follow-up sales or future publications.
I could go on, but the bottom line is that the book deal is designed by the publisher, to make the publisher wealthy first.
Many of the people who see the “book deal” as their savior are simply not (or, more accurately don’t believe they are) creative enough to craft a marketing campaign that works, not industrious enough to want to fulfill orders directly, not committed enough to persist during the lean years, or may simply suffer from the “employee mentality” where they believe big bucks can only come from a father-figure/overseer-type company that somehow knows more than they do, or who can do a better job. They somehow feel they need the validation of a publisher in order to believe their work can sell.
I, on the other hand, write books, edit them myself, design the covers, craft marketing campaigns, develop websites, optimize their search engine ranking, write press releases, arrange appearances and interviews, do the fulfillment and thus reap the reward of freedom and control that many of the my author peers never realize. (Don’t fret, once the initial setup work is done, a lot of it can be a turnkey, hands-off operation.)
Also, even though the site for this book project has not even been publicized, I’ve already been making sales. People have been finding the site on their own, and pre-ordering (yes, paying real money) based on the promise of what’s to come. That’s another advantage of doing things the way I do: I can often generate money way before the thing is even complete, and earn while I do my “market research.”
So here’s how it works:
I create or find a product that I think people might be interested in and that can actually sell. I launch a website, market it effectively and wait.
With a bit of smarts, the right timing, and a bit of luck, people visit my website and place their orders. If they order the e-book or MP3 (digital audio) version of my product, my shopping cart (from cubecart.com) automatically fulfills the order and they can download the files right away. If they wish a paperback copy, I access my account with a print-on-demand company to print a single copy of the book, and I instruct them to send it directly to the customer. I never have to leave my perch on the beach where I secretly have access to a hotel’s wireless signal.
Not all of my sites earn money, of course. Some have earned absolutely nothing over the years they’ve been up. Others earn a few dollars, some earn hundreds, even thousands of dollars each month. One of my more popular sites can earn me as much as $5,000 per month (not all the time, but seasonally). Sites I’ve created for people right here on Saipan have earned from $0 (again, not all are winners) to $900 a month. It’s all a function of how much time and energy you’re willing to devote to growing it.
The twin goals for me are control and freedom, though not necessarily in that order. Sites like my “little website,” as you put it, (big smile, no offense taken) have been affording me that since 1995.” [thus ended my response]
You Can Too!
So, what’s my point, beyond the obvious bit of ego-stroking sparked by my friend’s e-mail? The point is, opportunity abounds for unique, home-based streams of income that just about anyone can take advantage of. And, even living on a tiny Pacific island, with a slowing economy, 1,000 miles from the nearest large landmass, is still no excuse for not venturing online to see if you can be one of the few and proud. All you need is a unique story to tell, a passion to share, or something to teach, and you might have a shot.
A book about your experience as an expat on Saipan, perhaps; a video demonstrating the finer art of night-spear-fishing on Tinian; an audio CD singing or teaching traditional Carolinian folk songs—ideas like this, provided they touch a chord with the right buying demographic, can generate income for you—and if you sell your products as e-books and MP3s, you may not even have to create, print or duplicate anything physical. I can’t predict how much you can earn, of course, but you’ll never know unless and until you try. Other business ideas that come to mind that can be leveraged by an online presence are translation services, consulting and graphic design.
I’ve learned, over the years, that the biggest obstacle to people pursuing their passion is simply their level of belief. Some people will never believe it can be done, no matter how much evidence is presented. I’ve had other people—writers, in fact—challenge me to my face saying they don’t believe that what I say is true. (What they’re actually saying is, they don’t believe it is possible for them.) So, they remain in jobs they probably despise, while living frustrated in the pursuit of their passion. Yes, some will say it can’t be done. I would ask those people to kindly step aside and get out of the way for those of us who are actually doing it. And the next time you see me sitting on the beach at Memorial Park in the middle of the day watching the waves, or pass me on the hike down to Forbidden Island giving tourists and residents alike my own private tour of the island, give me a shout, and if I’m not too busy, I’ll share some of my secrets.
And remember, just because you don’t personally know anyone who is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s not being done. You’ve simply not yet met anyone who is doing it…..Walt’s way!
Note: For more tips on overcoming your fears, acting on your ideas, changing the game, and creating a passion-centered lifestyle, visit www.passionprofit.com!
Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!
Walt F.J. Goodridge is author of 12 books including Turn Your Passion Into Profit. Walt offers coaching and workshops to help people pursue and profit from their passions. Originally from the island of Jamaica, Walt has grown several successful businesses in the US, and now makes his home here in Saipan. To learn more about the Saipanpreneur Project and Walt’s philosophy and formula visit www.saipanpreneur.com and www.passionprofit.com.
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WHERE IS SAIPAN?
Located in the western pacific, a short flight from Guam and 3 hours from Japan, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is a popular tourist destination rich in history, culture and natural resources. Saipan, just 5 miles wide by 12 miles long, is the largest and most populated of the 14 islands making up an archipelago that stretches 400 miles (north to south) along the edge of the Marianas Trench.
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