Independently Published

What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear the term self-published?

For a number of people, especially those in the publishing industry, the following word comes to mind:

“Substandard”

Personally, I find the term self-published confusing. Does that mean that the author published it through a vanity publishing house such as Xulon, Winepress, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, PublishAmerica, etc.? Does it mean that they published it through Lulu.com or CreateSpace.com and have that company listed as the publisher? Does it mean that the author, herself or himself, is the publisher and listed as such? Or, does it mean that the author published the book through a publishing company or business they own?

While self-published books are gaining ground in the industry, a prejudice against them remains. Many awards, book review publications, and even author and publishing associations do not allow “self-published” books or authors.

If you have self-published a book—by which I mean that you are listed as the publisher or a company you own is listed as the publisher of the book—then I suggest you use the term Independently Published to avoid stigma.

The English language is constantly changing. Words fall in and out of favor as different connotations become associated with them. For instance, “handicapped” used to be acceptable when taking about a disabled person. After a while, the associations with that word became negative, so “disabled” came into vogue.

The same is true for self-published. The term has gathered too much negativity. I suggest we start fresh. Let’s use the term independently published because that does describe what you have done—published your book autonomously.

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Reaching the Average Christian Reader

I recently had lunch with a dear Christian friend. As we talked, she shared with me her desire that her just-turned teenage daughter grow in her relationship with God and read God’s word regularly. Knowing that my friend had done devotional studies with her children when they were young, I asked her if she had thought about doing a mother-daughter Bible study with her now teen daughter to encourage her continued involvement with God and His word.

My friend responded that she had been to her local Christian bookstores and searched and searched for mother-daughter Bible study material, but that she had found none geared to a teenage child. Knowing I am an author, she then suggested I write one.

I told my friend that there was no need for me to write one. I was certain that some small publisher or self-published author had already written an outstanding mother-daughter Bible study for teens. I explained to her how small publishers were starting to fill in the gaps in Christian material that the major Christian publishers were missing. Sadly, Christian bookstores have not yet recognized this and begun to offer more breadth and depth in the books they sell.

I was sad to hear yet another story about how a local Christian bookstore had failed to offer the right mix of books to imagewrap.imgadequately nurture their patron’s faith.  My friend really had no idea how to go about finding resources that were not in her local Christian bookstore.

How many Christians are like my friend? They have a need for a book or material that their local Christian bookstore does not stock, yet they don’t know how to find the quality Christian materials that they need any other way.

How do small publishers and self-published authors better reach this audience?

I wish I had the answer. I don’t. I did explain to my friend about small publishers and self-published authors and how they were creating materials to meet her needs. We did go online and search for mother-daughter Bible studies and found a small Christian publisher who had published a wonderful series for Christian mothers and their teen daughters that my friend could order online.

I don’t have the answer on how to better reach the average Christian. I do know that I am doing my small part to promote small publishers and self-published authors. How about you? Are you just promoting your own books, or are you also letting your friends and family know that small publishers and self-published authors have something great to offer Christians even though most of these materials won’t be found in their local Christian bookstores?


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A Little Yeast and Self-Publishing

A number of self-published books cross my path. I look at all of them and read many of them. I am in the middle of reading one right now. The author and the book shall remain nameless.

For years self-published books have had a bad rap. As more authors have self-published and this arena has grown, the way the industry (and subsequently society) views self-published books is beginning to change (Thank you Lord!). For instance, recently, the American Society for Journalists and Authors (ASJA) accepted a self-published author into its membership for the first time in the history of the organization.

The bad rap that has nagged self-published books for years is not entirely undeserved. Take the book that I am currently reading. In the first chapter the author has made a number of errors in referring to Biblical stories. The author stated that Sarah was Abraham’s stepsister. For those that know their Bible, Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister; the daughter of his father, but not of his mother (Genesis 20:12). This author also states that 11 of Jacob’s sons were born in the land of Canaan. Again, for those that know their scriptures, 11 of Jacob’s sons were born in Haran (in Northwest Mesopotamia, now a part of modern Turkey) outside of Canaan (Genesis 27). In addition to this author’s gaffes in reference to scripture, the first chapter contains three typos and one grammar error. Of course, I only found one. My husband, the Grammar Gestapo, might find more.

It is these types of issues coupled with amateur cover designs and poorly typeset interiors that have helped lead to the poor reputation self-published books have historically held. While the book I am reading is on a subject that I have not seen any other Christian books address for quite some time, I cannot in good conscience recommend this book to others. The errors alone are enough for me to throw away the book.1041233_hand_making_of_bread_1

I am by no means denigrating self-published books. There are many superior examples of fine self-published books that you would not be able to tell apart from any book published by a large publishing house, except by looking at the name of the publisher. Paul, in I Corinthians 5:6, says “Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” A few bad books can wreak havoc with the reputation of all self-published books.

I have published some of my own books and I would recommend doing so to others. If God has given you a message and called you to publish it, then by all means do so. However, please make sure that you do the following two things before your book sees print.

  1. Hire someone to edit and proofread your work. Make sure that the person who is editing knows their Bible and theology so that they can help keep the integral message intact while catching errors you have made. One publisher recently complained to me that the editor he hired changed some wording in a way that completely changed the Biblical message he was attempting to give.
  2. Wrap your words in a pretty package. Presentation is important. If you are working for the Lord, rather than man (Colossians 3:23), should you not make sure that your book reflects this? Would someone give a king a present in a garbage bag? The same is true for your book. It should reflect the character of God. Therefore, make sure that you have a cover design that is professional and an interior layout that is pleasing to the eye.

Many authors tell me that they can’t afford these extra services. If this is the case for you, I suggest that you hold off publishing and seek God to provide the financing for these services as an assurance from him that you are to move ahead with self-publishing.

The author of the book I am reading has a great point to make. However, I doubt that this author will sell many copies of his book because of his lack of attention to the details and the packaging. May it not be so for you.


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Free Publicity

Free publicity. It’s what every author looks to secure. The ultimate is free publicity on a major television talk show like Oprah. But, let’s face it, with about 25,000 Christian books published each year in the United States, an author’s chance of scoring face time on a major television talk show is fairly slim. However, free publicity itself is not elusive.

When I was doing fundraising for a small nonprofit organization, we used to say that the size of the donation was not important. What was more important was the quantity of people giving. Yes, every fundraiser likes to chase that big-time donation but in reality the bulk of donations generally came from individuals who were giving $20 to $100.

The same principle holds true for free book and author publicity, especially on the Internet. Yes, every author would love to have their book splashed across the websites that generate the most traffic. Yet, having your book and author name listed in a number of regular websites can add up to the one large publicity stunt.

Authors can use the free opportunities to list their books and biographies online to generate awareness of their books and increase their presence on the web.

Here are six websites that offer authors the opportunity to list their books for free.

·        OpenLibrary is a database of all books published, providing one web page for every book published. The site allows authors to list a biography and a link to a webpage or blog. If your book is not listed on the site, you can add it. OpenLibrary is an open source database that anyone can edit. http://openlibrary.org

·        Filedby is a new website that is aiming to be another database of all books published. This site also allows authors to post a biography with a link to up to two websites. www.filedby.com

·        BookHitch is a free book database. It is designed as a search engine for finding books. You can have your books listed for free on the website including where they can be purchased. www.bookhitch.com.

·        BooksXYZ is an Internet bookstore. The profits from the books sold on the site are used for education. Authors can submit their books to be sold on the site. BooksXYX pays the author a portion of each sale of the book. www.booksxyz.com.

·        Best Self Published is an online database that promotes self-published books. Self-published authors can list their books for free. http://bestselfpublished.com

·        Self-Pub.net is a website that offers information and resources for self-publishing. Self-published authors can add their book to the list of self-published books on the website for free. www.self-pub.net

There are many more websites that offer authors a free place to list their books and biographies. I did not even touch on the number of new Web 2.0 social networking sites that you can use to increase your publicity (that’s another blog entry). The sites listed here are just a starting place. Start today and use these websites to increase your free publicity and exposure on the web.

Have you used a traditional website not mentioned here that is a great source for free publicity?