Strategies to Achieve Success in a Growing Self-Publishing Market

Dear Professor Bruce: I am a writing consultant and an aspiring author. I am working on a book that I want to be published, but I know how difficult it is for an “unknown” to get a contract with a traditional publishing house. I heard that self-publishing is becoming increasingly popular, but I’m wondering whether there’s still a stigma about “vanity press” and if there are ways to inexpensively market your book and make a profit.

Self-publishing (also known as “indie” publishing) has grown dramatically, tied to advancements in digital technology and the Nook and Kindle: Self-published titles have increased 160%, from 51,237 in 2006 to 133,036 in 2010, according to publishing analyst R.R. Bowker. Today, with so many quality indie books available, the main concern among writers isn’t fighting the negative perception of self publishing but figuring out how to differentiate their title and getting strategic advice on how to achieve success.

Terri Giuliano Long, author of In Leah’s Wake, which she self-published, offers some excellent tips:

Key to the process is using social media to the fullest extent: creating a web site, setting up blog posts and blog tours, and developing a following on Facebook and Twitter.

Social media has removed the former divide between authors and readers. While people don’t buy books simply because they like the authors, communication is important. The reading and writing process feels more personal and collaborative. This is a plus for everyone involved.

Developing an Internet presence takes time but is not expensive. A publicist specializing in social media can be a great help, but that requires more of a monetary investment.

As far as profitability, e-books and books printed on demand have a much longer sales cycle than traditionally published books whose shelf life used to be determined largely by retail stores. And even though e-books prices are priced as low as 99 cents, authors can do well (unknown authors offer their books for only 99 cents to lower the risk for readers who might not otherwise take a chance.

For authors who aspire to publish traditionally, indie publishing can be a platform that leads to other things such as being released by a more traditional publisher.

For more information, visit

Bruce Freeman, The Small Business Professor, is president of Proline Communications, a marketing and public relations firm in Livingston, NJ and co-author of Birthing the Elephant (Ten Speed Press). E-mail questions to Bruce(at)

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