Self-publishing your own book means you are, officially and technically, a publisher. Congratulations! But in a practical sense, that doesn’t mean much at all. You’re someone who creates books, the classic definition of a publisher, but there’s little chance you think of yourself as a publisher. For good reason too. As an author, more than a publisher, you focus on creating.
If your goals are to create books, you may think you have no cause to think like a publisher.
Today I say, challenge that perception.
What is a Publisher?
A person or company that prepares and issues books, journals, music, or other works for sale, according to the web definition.
There are a few different forms of publishing relevant to authors.
The Traditional Publisher, often referring to the large-scale publishing companies who create and sell works from mainstream authors. Then there is the Vanity Publisher who really is just a print and layout company. They’ll make your book and sell you copies, but that’s where their role as a publisher ends. And then there is the Small Publisher (also referred to as Small Press or Independent Publisher), who will take on most or all of the roles a Traditional Publisher would, but will operate on a smaller scale and offering much less (if any) advance to the author.
And there’s you; the self-published author.
It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Even if you think of yourself and refer to yourself as an author or an artist, by creating and preparing (printing or making an ebook in this case) a book, you are a publisher.
Why should you think like a publisher?
First, because publishers are in the business of selling books, and presumably you’d like to sell some copies of your book. And second, because thinking like a publisher may be the key to opening up a new chapter in your author journey.
Make more money and do something cool and new. You’re with me so far, right?
Write like an Author, Sell like a Publisher
You’re a writer.
You put the story together, found a self-publisher that fit your needs, and hired a designer to create a cover. You hired an editor and went over the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb.
Then you shift gears.
Now you put the book into various distribution services, making the book available online and available for bookstores to order. Now you’re creating a website and integrating ecommerce to sell direct. You curate social media followers, and you attend events and even did a local tour of bookstores to sign copies.
All that stuff above? That’s publisher work.
An Example Better Than Words
I could type thousands of words detailing reasoned arguments. Or I could just show you an example.
Meet Lynette Greenfield.
From her own author bio, Lynette is “an Australian writer of fiction, poetry, and children’s titles. All of her work is based on life events and her work has often been described as, honest, intensely passionate, and often confronting.”
In 2018, Lynette shifted her focus from writing to operating a complete publishing company. Limelight Publishing is the classic example of an independent, full-service publisher.
“[Limelight’s] focus is on the entire publishing process; the whole picture, from manuscript to print, and from marketing to sales.”
That sums it up better than I could have. An independent publisher in 2019 can work with this focus because the tools are all in place now. This also helps to separate Independent companies from the Vanity Presses of old. You very well might end up paying for some services when you work with a Small Press. But the transactional nature of your relationship doesn’t mean your Independent Publisher stops working with you.
The Perfect example
Limelight checks all the boxes. They work with you on the creation and design to ensure your book is the best it can be. Then they stick with you to help market, promote, and sell your book. A huge part of this move to provide more encompassing services is due to the innovations in printing technology.
“To create store products, Limelight Publishing uses a print-on-demand service, which allows us to print products as they are ordered without carrying any inventory.”
Here it is. The biggest factor holding small publishers back is the cost to maintain inventory. From printing to storing to fulfilling orders, holding books on hand remains the biggest constraint to small publishers.
But no more.
Well, okay, print-on-demand isn’t exactly new. What is new is the ease of integrating a print-on-demand service directly into existing websites and online stores. It has never been easier to create and sell a book using print-on-demand. Period.
“In the POD model, the authors can simply and easily get paid for what they produce, not what they have the potential to produce.”
Lynette wrote that sentence to me in an email and I keep coming back to it. Traditional, Big Five publishing is modeled around a small number of ‘sure thing’ authors. These are the books that will sell out. That will more than cover the author’s advance and cost of designing and editing. Making a profit on these blockbuster authors allows big publishers to take chances with new authors and scout for new talent.
That model can’t work for an independent publisher. A print-on-demand model can. Because the costs are tied to actual products sold and produced, the publisher can operate at a much lower overhead.
Does This Sound Familiar?
It should. You’ve done all this already. This is why I keep coming back to the idea that an author who is finding success with self-publishing is well-positioned to find success as a small publisher too.
Lynette Greenfield and Limelight Publishing are just one example.
Finally, here’s where we get to why this information is prescient.
Because Lulu has made the tools readily available and easy to use.
Sure, you could use Lulu.com to create and print books, shipping them to customers all around the world. In fact, there are a number of small publishers who use Lulu.com to do that very thing.
But doing so also means navigating a royalty payment system designed for individual authors. And it means either fulfilling the orders manually or diverting your buyer to Lulu.com to purchase a book.
We can do better.
I bet, if you’ve read any of these blogs or opened a Lulu email recently, you’ve heard something about our API and our Lulu Direct app for Shopify.
These tools allow you to insert print-on-demand into your own web content. And, as crazy as this might sound, that’s basically the only thing separating you from being a full-on publisher.
If you’ve created, published, and sold a book using Lulu.com or any other self-publisher, you’ve done the bulk of the work a publisher would do. You’ve taught yourself the skills to make publishing available to a wider audience. That may not be every author’s dream, and that’s just fine. Being content with self-publishing your own work is great.
I’m talking to the authors who’ve seen another book online or in the bookstore and thought “I could do that better” or who have seen a social media post from a fellow authors and thought “oh they didn’t include a link.” You are the authors who are perfectly positioned to evolve the publishing industry.
Ready to take your publishing up a notch and start your own publishing business? Then you might like this Quick Start Guide with 6 Steps to creating an online store for your publishing business.
Meet Limelight Publishing
We invite you to meet Limelight Publishing! Started in 2018 by Lynette Greenfield, Limelight brings the best of independent publishing standards to readers all around the world. Utilizing established print-on-demand technology, Limelight is able to offer superior author royalties and one-on-one support during the publishing process.
Learn more about Limelight Publishing
Check out their Online Bookstore
Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.