The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing

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Whether you're an author, a professional, an entrepreneur, even a newcomer to the writing world, you certainly want to shape your publishing destiny. And you can - with the help of this book. You'll find this completely updated edition to be a resource of tremendous value. The book penetrates publishing's mystique; empowers you by revealing, in layman's terms, the range of self-publishing possibilities open to you - touching on novels and poetry as well as nonfiction; and validates your belief that selling ...
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Whether you're an author, a professional, an entrepreneur, even a newcomer to the writing world, you certainly want to shape your publishing destiny. And you can - with the help of this book. You'll find this completely updated edition to be a resource of tremendous value. The book penetrates publishing's mystique; empowers you by revealing, in layman's terms, the range of self-publishing possibilities open to you - touching on novels and poetry as well as nonfiction; and validates your belief that selling information in book form is an ideal business because you have a unique copyrighted product. Better yet, you can self-publish no matter where you live. Here, Tom and Marilyn Ross show you how to publish your own work. And minimize risks. And maximize profits. You'll discover extensively updated, significantly expanded advice (woven throughout) on how to use your computer to save time and money; a new discussion of electronic marketing and how to handle electronic subsidiary rights; up-to-date case studies and examples of how other publishers have successfully handled challenging situations; production tips that can cut your design and printing costs in half; complete step-by-step guidance covering every aspect of publishing and marketing your own book; fifty-seven actual samples of proven sales letters, cover designs, catalog sheets, forms - everything you'll need to be successful; dozens of tips for publishing and selling books in Canada, plus a valuable Canadian resource section; information-packed appendices that list marketing contacts, government help, vendors - hard-to-find names and addresses; proven marketing strategies to get free publicity, reach nontraditional buyers and sell books! Scores of examples of what works - and what doesn't; an in-depth discussion of exclusive distributors - plus coverage of the increasing role of superstores and other changes in bookselling and thirty creative ideas for generating capital to launch a publishing company.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Tom and Marilyn Ross are major gurus of self-publishing. This is the indispensable guide to this process, and for those of you considering self-publishing as an option, get The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582970912
  • Publisher: F+W Media
  • Publication date: 12/15/2001
  • Edition description: Expanded & Revised
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 780,183
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Should You Take Control of Your Own Destiny?

The author, the professional, the entrepreneur - anyone who wants to control his or her own destiny will find this book's message of value. It unmasks the mystique of publishing and empowers you in new and well-paying ways. In fact, selling information in the form of a book or booklet is the ideal business because you have no direct competition and can do it from anywhere! You become an "infopreneur." Close encounters of a profitable kind become a distinct possibility.

Of course, creators of fiction and poetry have chosen to control their destiny since the days of Zane Grey, Virginia Woolf, and Walt Whitman. Today's midlist authors are joining their yesteryear colleagues in droves. Proven midlist authors, those who have written and published strong, well-received books through traditional New York publishing houses for years, are now finding the doors slammed shut. The warm welcome they once received has turned to a cold shoulder.

Talented, experienced writers are investigating do-it-yourself alternatives to getting their new books into print. Additionally, they're taking charge of their out-of-print works, serving as midwives to rebirth these books.

Let us identify the three routes to publishing and clarify some terminology. A person can be self-published, subsidy published, or commercially published.


Self-publishers are sometimes called micropublishers, private publishers, alternative publishers, independent publishers, or small presses (though usually the latter two denote publishers of several titles). But whatever label they may wear, they are, in a word, "mavericks." And they are a part of a larger whole known as the small-press movement - which, by the way, is growing at a breathtaking rate and has achieved not only respectability but extraordinary results.

Subsidy Publishing

So that no one is confused, let us briefly clarify what we mean by "vanity/subsidy" publishing. In subsidy publishing, the author gets only a royalty on each book sold - after paying the publisher to publish the book. The book may be stigmatized because book reviewers and bookstores usually avoid subsidy titles. Book sales are typically minimal. A new version of vanity publishing - electronic vanity publishing - has emerged over the last several years, however, and we will be taking a penetrating look at this process.

Commercial Publishing

Commercial, or trade, publishing houses are those that foot the publishing bill. The vast majority of these traditional publishers are located in New York City. The industry has been transformed over the last two decades by mergers and consolidations. There are now five huge international conglomerates that account for 80 percent of all book revenues. They are Random House, Inc., Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins Publishers, Penguin Putnam Inc., and Warner Books/Little Brown. These conglomerate publishers have placed a much greater emphasis on the bottom line than was done in years past. In reaction many medium-sized houses have started around the country. They typically specialize in specific niche subject areas, such as gardening, health, cookbooks, parenting, novels, or regional travel guides.

Who Can Benefit From This Book?

Interestingly, the employees of these independent presses will find this book of great use. It opens new vistas for new employees - giving them a quick overview of the industry. Even seasoned personnel discover within these pages answers to various questions, plus innovative marketing strategies often ignored in the rush to meet deadlines.

And because self-publishing is but a microcosm of the whole publishing industry, universities offering publishing courses will find The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing an unequaled textbook. So will printers and other suppliers who want to easily educate their potential customers without personally answering dozens of time-consuming questions.

Success is following your dream ... without tripping over a nightmare. We show you how. Self-publishing is an exciting alternative to the millions of rejection slips unpublished authors collect each year. Repeated rejection can smother the hopes of ordinary men and women. But for the hearty, the courageous, it serves as a challenge. They decide to launch their own work. They become self-publishers. This book is for them.

It is also for entrepreneurs seeking to exploit their knowledge and create a dynamic new marketing tool and revenue stream. Here, they will discover proven methods for packaging and promoting ideas, concepts, experience, and skills. Authoring a book gives a businessperson fresh visibility and credibility - a reason to be "news." And it's an unequaled promotional piece; brochures are tossed - books, however, are saved on bookshelves.

The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing is also for doctors, other health care providers, ministers, educators, therapists, attorneys - any professional who wants to share knowledge or philosophies. Many men and women are opting to capitalize on their expertise in this way ... and attract new patients and clients in the process.

And, of course, fiction writers and poets can use self-publishing as an alternative to the increasingly competitive world of commercial publishing.

Making a Career From Your Writing

A book is the ideal "product." Unlike a gadget or process that others can modify only slightly and pass off as their own, you book is protected by a copyright. You have 100 percent control. No one else can market an identical product. Another reason a book is preferable to an invention is that a patent has a limited life span; an author's copyright goes on and on. Fortunes have been amassed by them through direct marketing techniques. This guide shows you how to establish a publishing venture to sell you specialized information.

Writing an information-based book makes you an instant "expert." You are noted and quoted. People will pay for expertise in other forms, too. Many authors begin by teaching courses on the subject, then graduate to paid speaking engagements and high-priced seminars or teleseminars. Often, an expensive newsletter follows to keep readers up-to-date on the subject. From there, consulting is a natural leap. A few consultants charge as much as $10,000 a day. Yes, properly orchestrated, a book can lead to a fascinating and lucrative career as an author-speaker-consultant. Each side of the triangle supports the other.

Associations, professional societies, churches, and other nonprofit entities will find this manual of great value. Such groups often discover that publishing books enhances their reputations, expands their spheres of influence, and is an effective fund-raising tool. For associations, books provide ideal forums for lobbying efforts.

A corporate history, a colorful CEO's story, or a how-to book related to a company's products or services can benefit that corporation. Many have found that such a publication stimulates business. A book helps establish corporate identity and attract investors. And many corporations find it makes sense to publish proprietary information previously used solely in-house. This product gives them a new revenue base.

Special Information for Canadians

We're pleased to say this revised fourth edition also contains information of use to our Canadian friends. Those who wish to self-publish in Canada can now find relevant information on copyright, ISBN, CIP, associations to join, plus specific marketing advice for successfully publishing in the provinces. Appendix C contains a list of Canadian resources. (Of course, much of this information will also be of use to United States' citizens who want to sell into the Canadian market.)

Using This Book When Working with Commercial Publishers

But what of authors anywhere in North America who currently have a book placed with a regular commercial publisher? Will this handbook be of any help to them? It's indispensable! It's imperative that authors take the initiative to help their books stand out from the herd.

Approximately 2 million different titles are currently in print. Two million! And there exists a sizable statistical gap about the number of books published each year. Most in this industry would say that about 50,000 new books come on the market each year. Yet with the advent of easy electronic publishing, we'd guess that closer to 100,000 new titles are being released annually. The discrepancy between the two figures is enormous. If the latter number is close, every author had better be extremely proactive in creating quality books and promoting the heck out of them! Otherwise he or she will never be separated from the cascading chatter of competition.

Unknown writers are hurt by the fact that a disproportionate chunk of advertising dollars is siphoned off for authors with established track records, celebrity status, and brand names. The policy of many mainstream publishers is to market one in every twenty books hard, take a few healthy swipes at one out of every three, and wait and see about the rest. This wait-and-see attitude is death to the average author's work. Happily, it needn't be. A book that is perceived as strong in the marketplace will command the necessary resources to become strong. That's where you can play an enormously vital role. This guide will give you the savvy and clout needed to leverage yourself and your book to a position of power.

This is vital to your success ... every bit as important if you are published by one of the major commercial houses. Joni Evans, previously executive vice-president and publisher of Random House, revealed in an interview in Lear's magazine, "Only 10 percent of the books published by any house earn out their advances."

Do you realize what this really says? Nine out of ten books fail! All you'll ever receive is the advance. Imagine spending years of your life writing a wonderful book, then settling for a paltry advance of a few thousand dollars with the expectation that great things are around the corner. And that's all you ever get. No wonder self-publishing is on the rise. If bigger was always better, dinosaurs would rule the earth. The good news is that to develop and successfully market a book, you don't have to visit a channeling medium or take a course in reading tea leaves.

For the author whose title has already languished to out-of-print status, this book offers tips on how to bolt from the trade publisher that has let your work languish. Books that were neglected through disinterest or blundering have later soared to great acclaim and profits through the efforts of their authors. Here, once you've recaptured the rights to your book, you'll learn how to republish and market it successfully ... without being shackled to a big house's agenda.

Lastly, this guide is for the people considering paying to have their books produced by subsidy (vanity) presses. We examine the realities of this form of publishing and offer thought-provoking comments on this controversial method of getting into print.

How to Use This Book


hile certainly not a new field, self-publishing is becoming increasingly popular. The Los Angeles Times stated, "Self-publishing has become respectable and even fun" (not to mention a moneymaker for those who approach it properly). Writer's Digest magazine called it "the do-it-yourself way to success." No less than U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times, and CNNfn on the Web have featured recent stories about this growing phenomenon.

Self-publishing isn't a fad. It isn't a trend. It is a revolution! The Internet opens awesome new opportunities for authors and publishers, which we'll be exploring in depth. The information explosion is fully upon us. Good news, indeed, since how-to and self-help are the bread and butter of self-publishing.

Publishing is not an act of God; it is a series of actions. To receive the greatest benefit from the information contained in The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing , we suggest you first read the whole book before starting to apply any of it. Then, go back and take things one step at a time. This is the point when you'll be able to use the Self-Publishing Timetable on page 439. The timetable shows you each of the major steps you must take in the order they are taken. There is also a glossary of terms to define unfamiliar words, phrases, and acronyms.

To add a bit of variety and fun, each chapter concludes with Web Sites, Wisdom, and Whimsey. These sections provide snippets of insight, invaluable Internet resources, and a dose of humor to enliven your day.

For simplification, we'll be referring to a "book" throughout. If you're doing special reports, booklets, monographs, or chapbooks, please substitute the appropriate word. For additional clarity and ease, a list of resources and marketing contacts, a bibliography, and a comprehensive index are included.

To our knowledge, no other reference work contains so much detailed information for authors, publishers, and entrepreneurs ... nor so many examples of stealth marketing strategies that work. We hope you find the reading interesting, the material helpful, and your endeavors profitable.

But doing a book is not just about money (though we believe wholeheartedly that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being well paid for your efforts). Writing and publishing books is a trust, an honor. It gives us the opportunity to change lives - thousands, sometimes millions, of lives - to help people solve pressing personal problems, be more successful at work, or be richly entertained. It's about making the world a better place while creating books for social good, to inspire, to have fun, to cope more effectively. Authorship - and the publishing process that accompanies it - is an awesome responsibility accompanied by a wondrous privilege. True believers do it with spirit and with passionate commitment. May you join in their ranks. To your success!

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Table of Contents

Should You Take Control of Your Own Destiny? 1
Part I
Today's Publishing Scene 7
1 Your Portal to Self-Publishing: Enter Here 8
2 Cyber Options Beyond Your Wildest Imagination 23
3 Subsidy Publishers: Another Alternative 43
Part II
Start-Up Considerations to Get You Off on the Right Foot 53
4 Scoping Out a Marketable Subject 54
5 Product Development: Writing Your Book or Booklet 72
6 Establishing Your Publishing Company and
Generating Capital 97
7 Mastering Operating Procedures 113
8 Must-Do Important Early Activities 140
Part III
Creating a Quality Product That Attracts Buyers 161
9 Wow! Design and Typesetting 162
10 Affordable Book Manufacturing-The Printing Process 203
Part IV
Killer PR: The Great Equalizer 221
11 Initializing a Nationwide Marketing Plan with
Publicity Pizazz 222
12 Using the Web to Rally "Buzz" and Business 246
13 Provocative Promotional Strategies 264
14 Turning Book Signings Into Stellar Events 293
Part V
Selling Books the Usual Ways 303
15 Milking the Standard Channels of Distribution 304
16 Crafting Ads that Reel in Results 334
17 Direct Marketing Smarts 358
18 Tapping Into Lucrative Subsidiary Rights 369
Part VI
Nontraditional Venues for Generating More Sales 381
19 Originating Extraordinary "Out of the Box"
Opportunities 382
20 Seminars, Classes, and Trade Shows Can Multiply
Your Profits 401
Propelling Your Business Through the Stratosphere 415
21 Bagging the Big Game: Selling Your Self-Published
Book to a Goliath Publisher 416
22 Enlarge Your Kingdom: Move Up to "Small Press"
Status 429
Putting It All Together 437
Afterword 438
Self-Publishing Timetable 439
Appendix A: Piloting Your Successful Marketing Plan 444
Appendix B: Organizations and Other Info Sources 446
Appendix C: Canadian Resources 450
Appendix D: Selected Book Manufacturers 456
Appendix E: Marketing Contacts 458
Appendix F: Other Helpful Information 469
Bibliography/Recommended Reading 471
Glossary and Definitions of Acronyms 480
Index 503
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Customer Reviews

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( 31 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 22, 2010

    A gift

    This was a gift to a friend. She said it was great. Very useful information, will help her move her her writing along

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2009

    It's been a great help!

    Since becoming interested in self publishing, I have found this particular book to be the most helpful. The chapters are clearly defined and outlined and the book is organized in such a way, no one can get lost.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2006

    They are just as good as EB White and William Strunk

    Marilyn Ross's Complete Guide to Self Publishing was the best book that I have ever purchased. Because of all of her comprehensive information and guides I wrote my own books and already the orders are coming in. All of Marilyn's books are quintessential tools to help others self develop and in the right way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2006

    Traveler, Writer and Photographer

    I gained invaluable insights about writing, publishing, promoting and selling my own book after reading and studying, 'The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing.' The varying applications have aided me in my growth as both a writer and person. As preference, I write topical commentaries centering on community building initiatives. The lesson most revealing in my behalf, is, writing desirable material with consideration of one's audience. Considerably, my audience has grown substantially in light of this objective approach. Honorably, I received a letter of warm support in respect of my essays from a former Rhodes Scholar. Thank you Tom and Marilyn Ross.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2005

    A Wonderful Resource and Source of Inspiration

    This book is chock full of information to follow up on and advise an author in navigating the rapids, eddies and clear lakes of the publishing world. I found myself more inspired and empowered to write while reading it, as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2005

    take all the guesswork out of self publishing

    If you are serious about publishing your work,this is the book you have been looking for. For my money, it is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2005

    For once, complete really means complete...

    I went through many of the options before selecting this volume on self-publishing. Nothing else was so thorough and inspiring. I keep it on my desk as a reference and reminder to make time every day for my side project to publish the book I am writing. Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2005

    A 'MUST HAVE' for every would-be publisher

    After working with a traditional publisher for nearly a year, they 'pulled' the project. Another few months heading down that path again, and I decided to take the project into my own hands -- I wasn't going to have another year go by and still be at the beginning. I knew nothing about publishing, much less self-publishing -- my background is sales and marketing! Fortunately I found the Ross's book. I literally followed it step-by-step and was fortunate to find a great team to help me -- an exquisite graphic artist for design, a genius with pre-pub, and a wonderful editor. The Ross's tell you everything you need to do, provide very helpful checklists, a thorough index for when you forget where you read something, and an easily understandable style for the novice. By book is nearly in tatters! But the good news is, 7 months after our initial print run of 3,000, we are now getting ready for our second printing -- I'd better open my 'bible' again and see what they have to say about that step! Thanks Tom and Marilyn - I could never have done it without you! Carol White Live Your Road Trip Dream

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2005

    Great Information + Great Motivation

    I have read four books recently on 'How To' processes for writers and this was easily the best. It provides unbeatable information for the self-publisher, and even more importantly it provides a strong dose of motivation. I immediately ordered the authors' book marketing guide 'Jump Start your book Sales'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2004

    The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing -- Worth Studying

    Thanks to The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, my wife and I are now proud self-publishers. This book is an excellent text that lays out the steps necessary to wisely self-publish. It contains plenty of great ideas plus paths around the pitfalls. A highly recommended read and study guide for those seriously interested in a life-changing experience. Is it easy? No. Is it worthwhile? YES!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2004

    A 'must own' mentoring guide for every aspiring writer

    The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing is an important addition to my personal library. I continually study and review pertinent sections of it, as I am progressing with my own 'baby' writing project. Marilyn and Tom, thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise. I am grateful to learn from successful professionals like you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2004

    Complete Guide Delivers

    I found this book to be an invaluable source of information for the small publisher seeking to market his/her book. The chapters were well organized and the advice given (plus specific details so you can follow up) was extremely useful to me, personally

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2003

    Self-publishing guide an absolute must-have!

    We would like to express our sincere thanks to Marilyn and Tom Ross for their dedication to small book publishers. In the early 90's we wanted to publish consumer books written by my husband, JD Gallant. Had it not been for 'The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing', we would have been totally lost in how to begin the process. We learned loads from Marilyn and Tom. We would have never had the courage or know-how to proceed in the book publishing arena without the Ross' help. Our small book publishing firm (Quill Publishing) gave way to a nonprofit, consumer organization that is a big Internet presence today. The Ross team has been a great inspiration to thousands of small book publishers and, no doubt, their existing publications will continue to help thousands more. We highly recommend this publication - it will open your eyes and possibilities for your projects. Connie Gallant

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2003

    This book is the key to success for all authors - self published or not!

    This book has been the key to my success - it is an absolute must read for all authors - self published or not. We as authors make the difference to our sales and Tom & Marilyn provide us with some very unique and effective things to try. I have found that everything that I have used from the book has lead to great success. I highly recommended this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2003

    Make Your Dreams Come True!

    C. Resch, author of Alana's 12-Step Guide To Fun Golf (ISBN-0-9743851-0-7). The Complete Guide To Self-Publishing has served as my mentor before, during and after publication. If you dream of publishing a book, The Complete Guide To Self-Publishing is THE first resource that you should invest in to help make it happen. Publishing success is within your reach if you read this book and take the necessary steps that are all explained in this thick guide....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2003

    Success Comes in a Pound Book

    I ordered this book and it came via mail--about a pound's worth, I guess. Read it cover to cover in a few days. Easy to read, easy to undertand topics that were organized with a flow that carries you along to the final step. Using the recommendations and techniques outlined in the book, I revamped my book manuscript, revitalized a business plan, and drummed the keyboard. Long story short: My book PHI will be published in the fall. I wrote the story but the Rosses' book helped put the period after the last letter in The End. Success weighs about a pound!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2003

    Very Complete

    This book is very complete and discusses much of what you need to know to self publish a book. It includes many stories of successful self-publishers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2003

    Outstanding Gold Mine!

    Larry D. Bohall, author of Martyr's Cry (ISBN 1591295327): I read this book 4 or 5 times in the library, then ordered my own copy. It's an outstanding reference if you are self-publishing your writing, but it's extremely valuable even if you aren't (my own novel was published by a royalty-paying publisher)--especially if your publisher is a small press with little or no promotional budget (like mine). Everything you could possibly need to know is covered, and covered very well in this volume: how to create press releases and media kits; how to get book reviews; how to book media appearances; how to do book signings; how to promote before and after publication; how to keep interest up in your book. It's a genuine gold mine!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2003


    This is one of the two books on self publishing that I've read. After reading this book, I just knew I could do it. That's how informative and thorough this book is on how to self publish. Before reading this book, I wouldn't even consider writing a book because the thought of having to deal with a snooty, snobby NYC publishing house made me comatose. After realizing these big publishing houses would be more profitable if they sublet their high-priced NYC office space because they suck at book promotion and sales, and me being a public relations pro by profession, I knew I could package my own information and go at it like gangbusters. Now I know how to outsource the editing, cover design and production, and end up with a professional looking product the snobs would drool over! If that's the kind of info you're looking for, GET THIS BOOK.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2002

    I Did It, Too!!

    This is one of two books I read about self publishing, and I think it is excellent. They covered everything from nuts to bolts about self publishing. Their step-by-step instructions took the mystique out of publishing, making it a reality. I took their advice and published my own book on menopause. I did it all myself--writing, editing, typesetting, cover design, even webdesign. Now I am employing some of their ideas for promotion of the book....and it's working! Thanks for taking the scariness and mystery out of self publishing! Donna Rogers, author of The Menopause Survival Guide.

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