Publishing 101

What’s the best way to make a small fortune in publishing? “Start with a large one” is the punchline to an old publishing joke.

You can increase your chances of success by educating yourself before you make any expensive commitments. Thousands of others have walked the same path; learn from them.

First of all, read at least one book about self-publishing. If you’re a writer or publisher, what could be more appealing?

Dan Poynter is the guru of self-publishing, and his The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print & Sell Your Own Book bills itself as “the book that launched a million+ books.” Another title that covers the entire process is The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to Write, Publish, Promote and Sell Your Own Book by Marilyn Ross & Sue Collier.

These books about publishing are a good place to start. There is also a wealth of publishing information freely available online.

Subscribe to an e-mail discussion list devoted to publishing. Find out which printers and distributors other publishers recommend, where others have had success selling their books, how other publishers prepare their e-books, and any other publishing question you can imagine. Publishers love to talk about their experiences!

Learn more about e-mail lists for print and electronic book publishers.

Attend a publishing conference. The biggest one is BookExpo America (BEA), held annually in late May or early June. The location varies, but it is always in the USA.

In the same city and the same week BookExpo America begins, the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) holds its annual Publishing University, two days of in-depth sessions on every aspect of book publishing. Northern California Publishers & Authors (NCPA) has held annual conferences in recent years.

ShawGuides maintains a directory of writing and publishing conferences.

Join a publishers’ association. Several regional associations exist, like Northern California Publishers & Authors (NCPA) and Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA), where you can attend monthly meetings and talk face-to-face with other publishers.

The two main national organizations for U.S. small presses and self-publishers are the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS — formerly SPAN, or the Small Publishers Association of North America). Members of regional associations may receive discounted memberships to the national associations.

IBPA provides a list of regional publishing affiliates.

The first version of this article was written in 2003, when I was the webmaster for Sacramento Publishers Association. Many of our members were new publishers and didn’t even know which questions to ask. I wrote this article to help them, and I hope it helps you as well.

Updated August 4, 2013