Becoming an Author is Easy,
Being Read Isn't
by Dan Ehrlich

Self Published Writers have One Major Obstacle which the Web may Hurdle
Authoring a book these days is a lot like owning a dog: obtaining it is easy, seeing to it is another matter.

The digital and online revolutions that have hit the print publication industry have also greatly impacted book publishing and marketing. The days of the traditional bookstore as the place to buy literature appear to be numbered or at least minimized. They have been replaced by online stores pioneered by Amazon and being copied by the major book selling firms.

It’s only a matter of time before publishing houses will cut out the book sellers and market their titles direct to the public, similar to how airlines now sell tickets. Some publishers are already doing this.

Just as revolutionary is the growth of self published authors….thousands upon thousands annually…people who might never have seen their books in print now can do just that and for relatively little cost.

The problem is, they may be the only ones who will ever read their works. When a traditional publishing house buys an author’s work, it will publish it at no cost to him and even pay him a cash advance against anticipated sales. To meet this anticipation, publishers spend money to promote the work…the key element in the success of any book.

Print-on demand publishers (POD), which describe the bulk of self publishing houses, merely publish your book for a fee and for extra fees will minimally promote it. But, don’t expect to get on the View or Oprah through their efforts.

Unless you can find a way to promote your book such as radio and TV appearances, newspaper reviews or even word of mouth, you probably won’t make the best sellers list.

Most POD publishers will get your book listed and sold online by Amazon, but not in traditional book stores. Of course, it would be of great help if you had a connection of sorts with Barnes and Noble, but failing that, it will be up to you to promote your book anyway you can, such as online social networking.

This leads me to the next main hurdle, figuring out how many books have actually been sold. One of the biggest problems with life during the computer age is a lack of accountability. This is especially widespread in business where firms buy and sell goods often without posted business addresses, phone numbers or people in charge.

The fact is, the federal and local consumer protection laws in place, are being disregarded by industrial and service sector firms with a “use it or lose it, it will be too costly to sue us” attitude. And there are also firms that may seem American but are actually located in Lithuania or India, where our laws have no effect.

The POD firm that handles your book may not actually print it. When copies are sold through it or Amazon, orders will go out to the actual print shop that has your book’s imprint. It will print and ship the book to whoever has ordered. Your sales figures will come though your POD publisher who gets the figures from the sales sources and the print shop. This means you have to depend on the reliability and honesty of the people in charge at all levels. For example, Amazon will not give you, the author exact sales figures. It will rate your book as for sales, but won’t say how many copies have been sold.

I feel this isn’t acceptable. I wrote a book, Across a Crowded Room, about senior dating and had it published three years ago. I know it has sold some copies. And it has a 3 star Amazon rating yet I have yet I can't recall receiving any royalty money. But, again, who has the money to sue Amazon or even your POD firm to find out you sold five copies.

And, when your contract with a POD firm ends, how does an author know his book won't continue to be sold by that firm? One fix would be a government law that obliges firms acting as vendors for authors to accurately report these figures to authors when asked. And, as the ranks of self published authors swell, along with complaints, this may eventually happen.

However, the Internet's most positive new benefit for authors is the E-Book. Through your own dedicated website you can revise, market and sell your own E-Books with no middle men involved...all money going to you. Still, there's the promotion problem to solve.

Of course the basic and safest way to sell your book is simply buying large quantities at wholesale prices and selling them yourself. I just printed up a list of local senior centers to hit. But, can I be motivated to do it?...Probably not.

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