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Author gives an insider’s guide to publishing

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Published : Oct. 7, 2011 - 19:07

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Jennifer Basye Sander has forgotten more about the publishing business than most of us will ever know.

The New York Times best-selling author has written and co-written more than 50 books, including “The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Getting Published” (Alpha, $19.95, 400 pages; the fifth edition goes on sale Nov. 1).

Sander, a Granite Bay, California, resident, is a former senior editor at Random House, a writing coach and teacher.
Jennifer Basye Sander teaches on various aspects of publishing.(Bryan Patrick/Sacramento Bee/MCT) Jennifer Basye Sander teaches on various aspects of publishing.(Bryan Patrick/Sacramento Bee/MCT)

Q: You have concerns about do-it-yourself publishing. Have you ever self-published?

A: Mostly I’ve been published by big and midsize houses. Twice, I have published my own projects. Both did very well, as they had clearly defined audiences and addressed an existing need.

Q: What are some drawbacks to DIY publishing?

A: Aspiring authors are being sold a bill of goods by the businesses that cater to writers who want to self-publish.

“Writers own the means of production!” was literally what one executive from (an online publishing company) crowed from the stage last spring at a writers conference where I was speaking, too. I was stunned. Kind of a sexy slogan, but so what?

Producing a book isn’t hard. Selling it is the hard part. Many hopeful DIY writers assume they have the sales part handled by having their print-on-demand books available online, and then Facebooking and Tweeting about them. But they are learning that (route) moves only a few copies.

If selling what you publish was so dang easy, then why do so many big publishers have such huge inventory of unsold, slow-moving titles? Because it simply isn’t easy at all, and no one is pointing that out.

I just talked with a friend who has spent months promoting her self-published cookbook. It’s been mentioned everywhere online, and there are links to it all over the place. Even after all of that exposure, she still has hundreds of unsold books stacked in her garage.

Q: What about fortune and fame along the DIY route?

A: Money? Tough to make unless you are a popular public speaker who sells from the back of the room. Fame and recognition? Extremely hard. For every DIY writer you read about, there are a thousand who never get any attention.

Q: Any advantages to self-publishing?

A: (It can sometimes work) provided you go into it with a clear understanding of how daunting the task can be, and a clear understanding of what it is you want to achieve.

Also, understand that DIY publishing is a great way for some writers to fulfill their dreams of holding their books in their hands ― books that were the direct product of their hard work and creativity.

Q: What’s your best advice for DIY writers?

A: Please, please, spend just as much time developing a sales plan as you do writing and producing your book. Without it, the chance for success is pretty slim.

By Allen Pierleoni

(McClatchy Newspapers)

(MCT Information Services)