An Interview with Kevin Weiss About Self-Publishing [Video]

If you are writing a book—or thinking about it—you have no doubt considered self-publishing. Thanks to recent developments in technology, it has never been easier or less expensive.

A few years ago, we launched a self-publishing division at Thomas Nelson called WestBow Press. We did so in partnership with Author Solutions, the largest self-publishing company in the world. They have proven to be great partners.

A few weeks ago, I got to sit down with Kevin Weiss, President and CEO of Author Solutions. In this eight-minute video, I asked Kevin five questions about self-publishing:

  1. What is self-publishing and how does it differ from vanity publishing?
  2. What advantages does self-publishing have over traditional publishing?
  3. What kind of authors can benefit the most from self-publishing?
  4. Who are some examples of self-published authors who have succeeded?
  5. What should an author expect to spend to self-publish a book?

While self-publishing might not be right for everyone, it is worth exploring. You can learn more on the WestBow Press website or read my previous post, “Should You Consider Self-Publishing?

Question: Have you considered self-publishing? What questions do you still have? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.leahadams.org Leah Adams

    I self published my  Legacy Bible study ( http://www.leahadams.org/legacy/ ). I felt this was the avenue the Lord was directing me to take when I finished writing the study. It has worked ok. Of  course, I would love to have it picked up by a traditional publisher, but I wanted to get it in front of ladies and knew if I waited for a traditional publisher that might or might not happen. 

    I am pleased with the way the book turned out. I was disappointed with a few things such as the marketing of the book (pretty much non-existent), however, I realize that is what I need my platform for.

    Great interview.

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    I self published my first book  back in 2009. I had to learn a LOT of things along the way. Since I went with a no frills publisher, I had to do the formatting, typesetting, layout and cover design myself.  It took me three proofs to get it right. Since my book was fiction, I had to hire an editor and work through with her to get the content right. This was my largest expense, but well worth the money. Working with her over a three month period was like going back to school. She took my clunky sentences and performed magic. She taught me so many things. 

    Overall, the process took almost a year, with lots of roadblocks and frustrations along the way. Holding that finished product in my hands and seeing it on the Amazon website, made it all worthwhile. For most people, unless you are computer savvy and have lots of patience, I would recommend going with an assisted self publisher like WestBow.

    As you have said, so many times, getting published is only half the battle. You need to build a platform to get the word out. I can’t wait for your new book to come out, Michael. I certainly need some help to finish up my platform. Thanks for all the resources you provide here!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for sharing your experience, John.

    • Kevin Weiss

      John – you are the truest form of self-publishing. Bravo.

      • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

        True that!

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      So what wisdom did you glean from your experience, John, that you can pass on to the masses? And how is your novel doing?

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        Self publishing has a lot of pieces, and many of them can stop you dead in your tracks if you can’t get past them. Don’t be afraid to get help. Find some people in your area that have published before and seek their wisdom. As far as my book, it’s doing OK but I know that to really take off it needs a spark. I think my best hope, like Andy Andrews, is to have Mike’s wife Gail read it. :-)

  • Timothy Fish

    I think it is so true that it really is about “control”. One of the reasons I like self-publishing is because I get to say what goes and what doesn’t. I get to decide if and when the book is published. But I hear a lot of complaints about “assisted self-publishing.” Whether they are founded or not, it seems to me that these complaints are rooted in the issue of control. These authors have the idea that their $1,250 should buy them more control than what it does. When they pay their money and they perceive the company as being non-responsive, they feel they have no control and they start complaining to anyone who will listen.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I have seen this, too. Customer service is the key. People need to do their homework and check the experiences of other authors.

  • Anonymous

    I self-published *How to Write with Flair* last July, and I’m amazed at the results.  The royalty rate is very good, and marketing has been a blast for me.  Colleges and writing groups picked it up, so I’m thrilled.   Here’s what the book looks like:  https://www.createspace.com/3471782 and if anybody wants to learn about the journey of why I self-published, it’s right here:  http://livewithflair.blogspot.com/2011/04/why-and-how-i-wrote-writing-book.html .  Thanks for remembering to consider self-publishing!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Nice cover Excellent!

    • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

      Congratz!

    • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

      Just checked out the book…very neat design! I wish I would have known about this book when I was taking Comp 1 and 2 last yr…lots of my classmates would have picked it up!

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      The book looks like a good one and your testimony about self-pub encourages.

  • Diana

    I am happy to give up control to an agent/publisher who knows the ins and outs of the industry.  I am running 2 businesses and I I know the benefits of using experts.   The right agent and publisher can make a big difference as I have seen in my recent review of Christian fiction. 

  • Phyllis Dolislager

    Thanks for sharing this. I did not know that Author Solutions was affiliated with WestBow Press. I also didn’t know they had a package for zero cost. I’ll have to do some research.

  • http://twitter.com/philrothschild Philip Rothschild

    Another excellent video Michael. This video will help me answer dozens of questions I receive about self-publishing. I’ll be passing the information along.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great. Thanks, Philip. I’m glad it was helpful.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this post.  My wife and I have been thinking alot about publishing our unique adoption story (I’m an adoptee, along with my sons).  My wife has built a small platform through our adoption blog (www.alwaysandforeverours.blogspot.com) and we love the idea of using our platform and our story to encourage others to adopt.

  • http://www.peaceforthejourney.com elaine @ peace for the journey

    Thanks for shining a light into the concept of self-publishing. I self-published a devotional book last May with Winepress ( http://www.peaceforthejourney.com/2007/09/resources.html ).  I had a very positive experience and liked having a large measure of control over the finished product. I’ve written a couple of other manuscripts that I’d like to see in print in the future. I’ve actually talked to a rep from Westbow and am impressed with the customer service that’s been extended in my direction.

    So much to consider these days. Great interview!

    peace~elaine

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      While WestBow has the occasional customer service hiccup, I have been very impressed with what we have experienced in our partnership with them. Customer service is a huge priority for them.

      • Kevin Weiss

        I want to add to what Michael said. We do have the occasional hiccup in the production process. We take them very seriously. Over 30% of our business comes from referrals, affiliates, and returning authors. We monitor this closely – if you feel the system isn’t working for you, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly – kweiss@authorsolutions.com.  

        • http://www.peaceforthejourney.com elaine @ peace for the journey

          Every one has been very kind and willing to answer all my questions. I still haven’t decided what to do with my current manuscript, so it’s nice to have people who are willing to give me some of their time along the way.

        • wynngate

          While I found this interview inspiring, I must unfortunately report that my experience with Kevin Weiss and AuthorSolutions was not.

          • Laurie Ann Jalbert

            What was your biggest problem using AuthorSolutions? Being a new author, it’s hard to chose what company to go with.

  • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

    Very interesting and timely. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

    I’ve been thinking about epublishing my first book first with the hopes of then getting it picked up by a traditional publisher. 

    What do you think? 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think that is a great way to test the market and see if you can generate demand.

    • Timothy Fish

      I’m sure the margin of error on the numbers was quite wide, but one literary agent reported that about 1-2% of the manuscripts submitted to agents are published, but the same agent reported that something like 5% of self-published books are eventually picked up by traditional publishers. Without trying to read too much into those figures, at the very least, we can say that you aren’t hurting yourself by self-publishing rather than submitting to a literary agent.

      • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

        Thanks for the information Timothy. Appreciated. 

      • Anonymous

        So, Timothy, I have a question on that topic.  How, exactly does the “picked up by traditional publishers” work?  Not something I’m ready for now, and maybe never, but just wondering.

        Does the author, having some level of success self-pub’ing contact a publisher?  Or, do publishers browse the self-pub’d best seller lists trolling for potential clients and contact the author?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Let me explain from my perspective. At Thomas Nelson, we regularly review the sales progress of the books that are published by WestBow. The books that do well are candidates for publishing at Thomas Nelson.

          • Anonymous

            That makes sense.  What about a book self-published via another route, such as Amazon’s CreateSpace?  Is anoyone looking for those that sell well, or are they pretty much on their own?

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            Possibly. However, the self-published author can use their sales as part of the rationale for why a traditional publisher should pick it up—if that is what they desire.

          • Anonymous

            Thank you, Michael!  I appreciate the input.

            Right now, my focus is more on building a platform than on book sales, anyway.  If you have a minute, drop by and check out my blog!  =^)

            http://wp.me/1Llsq

            The format is still a bit crude, but I like to think I’ve got some decent material…

        • Sally M. Chetwynd

          I read that Christopher Paolini, the author of the Eragon fantasy series, initially self-published.  He was a teenager at the time, and his parents financed the self-publishing route.  I don’t know how they managed the marketing, but the story went ‘viral’ and a traditional publisher contacted Paolini to pick up the contract for his stories.

          • Anonymous

            Thank you, Sally!  I appreciate the insight.

  • http://www.godmessedmeup.blogspot.com pamhogeweide

    Great interview.

    There is another  model developing that lies on the continuum between assisted and self-publishing such as what newbie Civitas Press is doing : the publisher assists with book development of titles they are willing to acquire. They partner with the author in the process (with no money up front)  including editorial support and book cover and book interior design. The book is released in e-form and it’s print copies released through  POD. 

    This model determines the start-up investment the publisher is putting into the book. Once the book has recouped it’s investment through sales (generally about 1000 copies) the author will begin to earn on the book, about 60% per copy.  

    The author still has to buy their own book for personal distribution.

    In this model the author appears to have more control than with traditional publishing, yet not  100% as with true self-publishing. It is a kind of assisted self-publishing but instead of having upfront fees, it recoups it’s investment (of mostly time though there are some costs) purely through sales.  The author only pays for the books the author wants (no minimum required) and any other incidentals the author chooses to pursue, such as web development, additional editorial support, etc….

    Are you familiar with this model?  Civitas Press ( http://civitaspress.com/how-civitas-press-works/ ) is innovating this model, they’re just over a year old and are slowly building up their catalog. With this model, they are putting out a new book about every three months.  My first book is with Civitas and will be out in Feb.

    Bottom line : If I manage to sell more than a thousand books I’ll make a little money. As an unproven author, that’s a bit of a steep hill to climb. However, it is a great hill to attempt and I’m not entirely alone.   Time will tell, though the more I read the more it seems that self-publishing is destined to grow. Are other traditional publishers integrating assisted  self-publishing like Thomas Nelson is?
     

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I have not heard of them. I will have to check it out. Thanks.

    • Kevin Weiss

      Thanks for sharing this. As I said in the interview with Michael – there has never been a better time to be an author. There is more opportunity and choice than ever before.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Michael for posting this. Over the past year I have been saving your blogs about self publishing, writing a book proposal and all of your blogging tips. These tools are continue to shape my writing habits and getting me closer to writing my first book.  Thanks again.

  • Anonymous

    I self-published my book, “So You are a Believer…Who has been through Divorce…” (http://www.amazon.com/You-Believer-been-through-Divorce/dp/1463767161/) discussing God’s heart toward Christians who have experienced divorce.

    To be perfectly honest, initially I had no plans for writing a book on this topic.  I simply developed a series of Sunday school lessons that I presented to my Sunday school class. 

    The series seemed to really resonate with the class.  Those lessons generated more discussion than any other topic we have covered.

    When several people asked for copies of my notes, I decided to look into the possibility of publishing.  Upon learning that traditional agents and publishers expect a non-fiction author to have an established platform, I decided to self-publish through Amazon’s CreateSpace.

    Overall, it has gone quite well.  I have a very minimal financial investment in the project, but a huge time investment.  Not only have I self-taught myself about the publishing industry, but also how to set up a website and blog, and how to get involved in social media.

    It has been a rather steep learning curve, but a lot of fun. 

    I still have no idea what to expect in terms of number of books sold.  At this point, I’ve given away more books than I’ve sold.  However, the readers that fall in the target range of the intended audience have all loved it, and have been quick to express how much the book has meant to them, and how God has worked through my words to bring healing and a closer relationship with God.

    Thanks for the post,Michael,  as well as all the other helpful information you have presented.  This site has been a valuable resource for me, as I have begun learning this industry.

    • Kevin Weiss

      Joseph our research has told us that if authors can impact between 10 and 20 lives, they consider their efforts a success. While this doesn’t describe what everyone wants from their publishing experience, I think that it is very interesting research. Good luck with your marketing efforts …. you are doing the right things!

      • Timothy Fish

        I really like that statement. That’s one of the things I wrote down when I watched the video. I find it to be true in most things I do, but I don’t know many authors who would be happy selling 10 to 20 books. On the other hand, if an author received 10 to 20 e-mails from fans of the book, that would be huge.

        • Anonymous

          In my case, it sounds about right.  My Sunday school class is only about 10 people to begin with.  If, by writing and publishing the material, I can impact another 10 to 20 lives, that would double or triple my original intended audience.

          I still feel both humbled and amazed each time I learn that I have been used of God as a positive influence on another person’s life!  It is truly amazing!

          Of course, I would love to sell tens of thousands of books and impact thousands of lives.  However, from my viewpoint, my little project has already been a success.  Anything more is just more blessing!

          We’ll see where God takes it…and in the mean time, I’ve discovered that blogging can be both fun and a ministry opportunity!  So…another win!  =^)

          Thanks, guys for the input and the encouragement.

  • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

    Writing a book is a fairly new goal of mine and I enjoy hearing about all these different options. I was not really sure what self-publishing actually was until watching this video. This was very helpful!

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    I never knew West Bow was for self-publishing. Thanks for sharing that tid-bit of information!

  • http://www.icubook.wordpress.com/why-buy Mischelle007

    Great Interview! Thanks!

  • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

    Thanks for sharing the video!

  • BTylerEllis

    I’m currently in the process of self-publishing my first book. After reading Peter Bowerman’s ‘The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living,’ I’m convinced self-publishing is the way to go! (http://www.wellfedwriter.com)
    It is a lot of work and upfront cost, but the freedom and payoff will be worth it.
    I’ve also appreciated Scott Ginsberg’s books on marketing (who is also a self-publisher). (http://www.hellomynameisblog.com). And I’ve been reading about using Twitter utilizating a blog.
    I’ve hired a book designer, an editor, and someone to design my website, and I plan to use BookMasters for printing and distribution (http://www.bookmasters.com). I’m excited to send out review copies and collect some endorsements soon! Then selling on Amazon will be a huge plus!
    I’ve got three questions. I plan to sell my book as a downloadable eBook as well. Do I need an ISBN number for an eBook? Also, any tips on how to deal with taxes as a self-publisher? Finally, can you share more about what marketing assistance (publicists?) is available for self-publishers?
    Thanks Michael.

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  • Anonymous

    First of all, loved the multiple camera angles.  

    Key takeaways: 
    Self-publishing is about control.
    Success redefined as influence.  How many people do you have to influence in order to make the effort worthwhile?
    Range $299-$14000.  Avg. $1250
    Build a platform.

  • http://www.hope101.net Lori Tracy Boruff

    This is my platform:
    1) speak 50+ times a year  
    2) have an internet radio show – Hope101.net
    3) have my online bookstore- Hope101store.net

    What now? Edit and Publish the book saved in my computer :)
    How?  WestBow Press!

    I’m checking it out – could be the missing link.
    Thanks for the interview and answering great questions!

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    True! Self publishing is great alternative to traditional publishing . But, most importantly, getting published reflects only  half of the story. There is still lot more to done to become successful as a writer. One must have right mix of marketing strategy (including the built-up platform) to succeed in the market.

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    I haven’t watched the video yet but your question is very relevant. On Thursday, I contacted Westbow through the website and have an email from Richard, a “personal publishing consultant,” I received in response to my initial inquiry. I respect the process and the professional manner in which Westbow handles its publishing responsibilities.

  • http://www.facebook.com/louise.thaxton Louise Thaxton

    What a GREAT interview – and a whole new perspective about “self-publishing”!  I was in doubt but no more! Thanks so much – I needed to hear these things!

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    Good interview, Mike. I spoke to Richard Robertson this evening about Westbow Press. I’m impressed with the sense of support and mission he exuded in our conversation. You opened the door to Thomas Nelson and its affiliates. People like Richard keep it open.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I’m so glad to hear that. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/appmama123 Jessica Kirkland

    Informative video. Thanks. 

  • Sally M. Chetwynd

    Dear Michael,
    Thanks, as always, for your marvelous posts. This one is of particular interest to me right now, as I do some final edits on my own novel, which is due for submission to a self-publishing house this month. I have forwarded this post to several friends also interested in publishing.

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  • Jennifer Hutchins

    I just published my first book with Westbow Press, and I can honestly say it was a very enjoyable experience. I am not very technically minded or computer savvy, so self-publishing on my own would have been overwhelming. With Westbow, I was able to focus on my writing while leaving the publishing details to someone else. What a remarkable service you offer new authors who just want the opportunity to share their stories! Thank you.
    http://www.littlehomeschoolontheprairie.com/my-book.html

  • Anonymous

    Watching this clip really helps me right now, I’m starting to write my first e-Book, Looking forward to refreshing myself on your thoughts about publishing. Any good post recommendations?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Search for e-book in my search bar. I have written at least one post on how I produced my ebooks. Thanks.

      • Anonymous

        Thank you and have a great Sunday.

  • Theresa m kane

    My characters in my childrens picture book. How do I have them copy righted,and can I use them in other stories? I wish to also do calenders and puzzles,do you do anything in this field? 

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