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The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing

The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing

5.0 27
by Tom Ross, Marilyn Ross
This new, updated edition of the industry standard shows writers how to get full control over their careers by self-publishing. Writers will see how the publishing industry works and learn how to make it work for them. Packed with maximum profit/minimal risk ideas, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 4th Edition provides readers with:
* Step-by-step


This new, updated edition of the industry standard shows writers how to get full control over their careers by self-publishing. Writers will see how the publishing industry works and learn how to make it work for them. Packed with maximum profit/minimal risk ideas, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 4th Edition provides readers with:
* Step-by-step guidance on every aspect of publishing and marketing a book
* Appendices that list marketing contacts, government help and vendors, including names and addresses
* Updated advice on e-publishing and electronic rights—everything the writer needs to know to tackle this dynamic new medium
* Production tips that can cut design and printing costs
* Proven sales letter formats, cover designs and catalog sheets
* Dynamic marketing strategies for publicity, advertising and sales—specifically, what works and what doesn'tBest-selling authors Tom and Marilyn Ross have self-published more than a dozen nonfiction titles including Jump Start Your Book Sales. Through their publishing and book marketing firm called About Books, Inc. they have helped thousands of self-publishers, independent presses and authors to sell millions of books. Marilyn also heads Communication Creativity, the Ross's own publishing imprint. They live in Buena Vista, Colorado.

Editorial Reviews

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.

Product Details

F+W Media
Publication date:
Edition description:
Fourth Edition
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Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

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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!

What People are Saying About This

John Kremer
The most readable guide to self-publishing ... loaded with resources for e-publishing, on-demand publishing, ... What a great resource!
—(John Kremer, author of 1,001 Ways to Market Your Books)

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The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
bluejayCO More than 1 year ago
This was a gift to a friend. She said it was great. Very useful information, will help her move her her writing along
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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....
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a remarkable book full of valuable and helpful information. It¿s in a clear, concise easy to follow format. I am in the process of self-publishing my first novel. A successful marketing plan might have been overlooked had it not been for this book. I am on the road to self-publishing success.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Three Cheers for the authors!! The depth of information that's delivered with the obvious expertise of years of experience brought my blood pressure up! I was so excited to see the very questions, with which I'd been plagued, being answered here in plain understandable terms - and by two people who knew what they were talking about from personal experience. Three Cheers for the Ross'
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tom and Marilyn quote: 'Sometimes I understand everything, then I gain consciousness.' This pretty much sums up what I felt as I read through their latest book 'The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing.' This 4th edition not only points out all the things I don't know, but also fine tunes the things I do know about self-publishing. Packed full of up-to-date info, I found myself overwhelmed with knowlege. But like with all good reference books, I know that I don't need to remember everything, but just know where to look for the answer. They have included a comprehensive and easy-to-use index for those of us who suffer from info overload. This ia a must read, must own book for anyone who is involved in self-publishing, from the beginner to the expert.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you¿re looking to parlay even your first book into a self-supporting career, pick up The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, read it cover to cover, and keep it close. Books are the Rosses¿ business¿their only business. From choosing a marketable theme, to producing a stunning cover and inviting interior, to getting publicity on the cheap, Tom and Marilyn Ross lead you by the hand down the yellow brick road to success. You¿ll find you always had the right stuff to make it as an author and independent publisher¿all you needed was to be pointed in the right direction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Referencing this book is like having a coach whispering gems of wisdom and encouragement in your ear every step of the way. The Rosses have generously shared the ups and downs, ins and outs of what they¿ve learned the hard way, so you can come up a winner first time out of the gate. There¿s also a Cyber Options chapter that demystifies the whole Print On Demand/E-Book/Web scene, an awesome force you mustn¿t ignore. If small publishing is your goal, take a slew of courses¿or buy The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing and gallop at your own speed.