Should You Consider Self-Publishing?

For nearly as long as I have been in the publishing industry, the term “self-publishing” has carried with it a certain stigma. Publishers who specialized in it were branded “vanity presses.” We hope to change that perception with the announcement of WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson. This imprint officially launches today.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/fstop123, Image #5631322

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/fstop123

Although we receive thousands of submissions from aspiring authors, we only publish about 500 new titles per year. Until now we have had nothing to offer these authors other than a rejection letter and our best wishes for “finding just the right publishing partner.”

Because of my blog, I hear from scores of these authors every month. They have grown weary of trying to get their book into print. Unable to find a publisher—or even an agent—they are discouraged and ready to quit. It seems there are simply too many authors, too many manuscripts, and too little shelf space.

As a result, many authors have given up on traditional publishers. They have taken matters into their own hands. For the first time since such figures have been kept, print-on-demand titles outpaced traditionally-published titles in 2008 according to Bowker, the agency that publishes the Books In Print database and assigns ISBNs. Self-published print-on-demand titles make up the bulk of this expanding category.

Why is Thomas Nelson entering this segment? Three reasons:

  1. We think there is huge growth potential in this category. Increasing numbers of people are moving from being merely consumers to being creators. They want to express themselves creatively. Just witness the phenomenal success of user-generated content sites like YouTube, Flickr, and Scribd.
  2. We want to offer a legitimate alternative to traditional publishing. Why should all the power be in the hands of publishers? If prospective authors are convinced their book should be in print and are willing to fund it, they should be able to do so without the fear that they might be ripped off.
  3. We want to find the new voices for tomorrow. Publishers aren’t omniscient. We miss numerous opportunities every year. Finding the next bestseller is like searching for a needle in a haystack. WestBow Press provides us with a kind of “farm team.” We intend to watch the sales of these titles carefully. We will offer traditional publishing contracts to those authors whose self-published books begin to gain traction.

We also want to work with agents and consultants as “WestBow Press Affiliates,” so that they can help more authors realize their dream of getting published. Rather than simply send a rejection letter, they can now offer a legitimate alternative and earn a referral fee in the process. (If you are interested in our affiliate program, please send an email to Pete Nikolai, who is overseeing it.)

Is self-publishing right for everyone? Obviously not. But it might be right for you. It is worth considering if any of the following apply to your situation:

  • You are passionate about your book idea but can’t seem to find a publisher or agent who “gets it.”
  • You are weary of the rejection letters and just want to get your book into print—now!
  • You really don’t care about selling a gazillion copies and becoming famous. You just want something to give to your family and friends.
  • You are a public speaker and need a book to sell at your events.
  • You want a published book to explain your business philosophy and provide a “calling card” for prospective clients.
  • You know that even if a publisher agrees to publish your book, you are probably not going to get A-list treatment. You might as well do it yourself and keep the lion’s share of the profits.
  • You are the pastor of a church and want something to drive your sermon series more deeply into the life of your congregation.

The name “WestBow Press” is particularly significant to us at Thomas Nelson. West Bow Street in Edinburgh, Scotland is the place where a young, eighteen-year-old visionary named Thomas Nelson first started his publishing company in 1798. It is our hope that WestBow Press can be the place where authors with a dream to be published can also launch their writing careers.

In creating WestBow Press, we are partnering with Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI), the world’s leading self-publisher. I have personally visited their offices in Bloomington, Indiana, along with my senior executive team and several of our publishers. I can vouch for the fact that ASI is an extremely well-run organization. Their primary strength is customer-service. They have hundreds of publishing professionals on their staff and deliver the kind of quality that you would expect from any trade publisher.

If you are interested in learning more about WestBow Press, please visit the new Web site.

Question: Have you ever considered self-publishing? What questions do you have about it?
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