Taking the "Self" Out of Self-Publishing:
What You Need to Know When You Decide to Publish Other People’s Books

October 2004
by Ellen Poulsen

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The self-publisher is baptized by fire. You’re sadder but wiser, as the old song goes. And like an old song, you are perennial. You go back to do it again.

Your press has earned a solid reputation. Other writers admire your ability to break the mold. Niche publishers sneak a look at your back-cover art and copy the format for their books. You stand out among the established companies as a tough little press, the new fish that won’t be intimidated by bigger ones in the pond.

Aspiring authors notice you too. Your imprint acts as a magnet. It draws manuscript proposals to your mailbox. You’re in the break-even stage, and want to expand your business horizon. Like a ghost in the graveyard, you believe in your niche and stay there, accepting only those authors who write in your subject area. It deepens your foothold. But the ground can still feel like quicksand as you wade through the labyrinth of royalties, advances, and other aspects of dealing with an author who isn’t you.

The transition from publishing your own work to publishing books by others is wrought with conflict. The self-publisher has traditionally closed the schism between author and the industry by wearing both hats. Now, the seams are ripped apart by business dictates. As a writer, you understand the angst of the struggling author. But you’re a publisher now. Your sign reads, “The Buck, If It Ever Shows Up, Stops Here.”


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