My Next Book… Self-Published???

Here I am at it again, I've started writing my second book a little over one month ago. Now obviously i won't reveal what it is about yet as I'm still waiting on a decision from my publisher but it will be obviously be related to computer graphics in some form but at this point in time i have a little over 100 pages done, which should account for about 1/3 of the book. Yay! 🙂

Speaking of which, I've been waiting for a decision from my publisher for almost two months now. I can't believe how things move slowly with them sometimes. Apparently i barely missed the last editorial review board and now i have to wait for the next one next month. In my opinion, i think they are mostly waiting to get the sales report on my current book to see if my new book is a viable risk to them.

I myself am curious to see how sales are going. So far, I've only received one report (they are sent quarterly) and since it covered about 3 weeks after my book was released, it had only sold about 1000 copies at that time. But since it does take about 4-6 weeks for most on-line stores and regular retail stores to stock up the book, who knows what the numbers will be on the next report. It is especially hard to guage since my Amazon sales rank has been all over the place, ranging from the 8,000's to 800,000.

You may wonder why am i still working on my book since i don't have a green light from the publisher in the first place? Well I personally believe in my book idea and think that although it might not sell 50,000 copies it does have good potential and compared to most book in the field, will have a much longer shelf life. So my goal is to have the book published no matter what.

So at this point in time, in addition to writing the book itself, I've been researching "Plan B" options which include self publishing. Right now, I am looking into self-publishing avenues and am definitely considering Lightning Source (LSI) as a good prospect. They do POD (Print-on-demand) but from what i read is that they have good quality and since they are part of Ingram, it guarantees that me book will be available to most book stores and definitely listed on Amazon and such on-line stores. The reality is that many self-publishing service companies actually use LSI under the hood and I'd rather deal straight with the printer/distributor than a middlemen.

Self-publishing this route does have some consequences at least on my end. This means i will need to take care of several aspects publishing, including:

  • Getting a small business setup to i appear to be an actual publisher. This shouldn't be a big deal and I'll probably just start with a sole-proprietor registered trade name. Shouldn't cost much more than 30-50$ to do so. Probably a good idea for tax purposes anyways.
  • Book editing... I obviously can't do this myself as it would lead to a really bad book. So i will need to hire some contract content and tech editor to go over my content.
  • The book will need layout. Well I'm sufficiently gifted to be able to do this myself, so far I've snagged a demo copy of Quark and will start meddling around with it. For now I'm just trying to figure how to use it and hopefully start preparing a template for a possible book.
  • Will need to get the proper ISBN and Bar Codes for the book. So far, this seems pretty trivial and should cost me around 250-300$ for a pack of 10 ISBN's to my name. But I'll wait to see if i self-publish before i get those
  • Will need to design a cover for my book. Well i can figure this one out but at this point in time, it is not a huge priority.
  • Probably a bunch of other details, especially including a marketing plan. But it is obviously too early to go into this...

This leads me to some questions that needs answering...

  • How much does content edit usually cost? I know tech editing is in the 2$/page range, I'd assume a CE would be in the 4-5$/page range...
  • Any good on-line Quark resources for someone like me who wants to start out and get a book template setup?
  • Anyone out there has personal experience with LSI and care to share their experience? Also, I've heard mixed opinions in regards to the physical quality of POD (Print-on-demand) books and was wondering if anyone had first hand experience and could give a good comparison.
  • Anything i didn't think of?!?!?
Comments (14)

  1. Michael Yuan says:

    I think one big thing that is missing from your todo list is marketing. Branding and marketing are the most important things the publisher can do for you. And they represent most of their costs. I have a quick write-up of publishing cost break downs here:

  2. Thanks for the comment Micheal. Noticed you seem to be pointing to the wrong post though. Guess it should be…

    Speaking of which, i did consider marketing. But from my current expecience, with the exception of trade show presence (such as GDC), i feel that there has not been much effort on their part in the marketting dept. and i have taken it on myself to self-promote (press releases, pushing info on websites). I am even in the process of organizing a shader writing contest as an other form of promotion.

    The fact is i do realize there are costs involved but on the other hand, right now i am investing some of my small royalty into my own advertising and i’d rather get more of my money in the first place and do the whole process myself.

    I know, I am somewhat of a control freak!! 🙂

  3. Michael Yuan says:

    Oops, thanks for correcting the link. I do not know my own writings anymore! 🙂

    But seriously, I think marketing effort involves building a brand and distribution channels. For example, I noticed that your first book is published with Course. It will automatically appear on many CS professor’s book list and will be available for ordering via most campus book stores. It will be quite difficult for you, as an individual, to do the same. Also, the publisher has contacts with book reviewers to get your book reviewed by trade publications and amazon etc.

    I find selling books from a personal web site or blog is not very effective. On my web site, I have an amazon link to my book tracked by my amazon associate’s ID. Despite the fact that I have more than 10,000 visitors every month and see more than 1000 downloads of the book source code package every month, only a *very small number* of books are actually sold via my web site.

    I would really suggest you to go through other publishers if your current publisher cannot publish your next book. The process itself can also give you a more realistic understanding of the market for your book. Good luck!

  4. ZMan says:

    Don’t know if you have looked at they have a kind of ‘full service’ menu where you can get your copy editing etc done as part of the self publishing deal. They even have rates for marketing if you want that. I’ve not used them but I’ve read a couple of books published through them and the layout etc seemed fine.

  5. Adam Barr says:

    My book was self-published through iUniverse. This has some advantages over going with LSI directly; they do cover design, layout, get your ISBN, etc. However, they may be much more limited in how many images can be in a book.
    <br>For editing the book, I hired an editor and several proofreaders myself. This worked out fine. And the physical quality of the LSI books is indistinguishable from a regular trade paperback.
    <br>The big, big issue with self-publishing (and note that print-on-demand, as a technology, does not have to be associated with self-publishing — but it currently because POD publishers are (almost) all vanity publishers) is that you don’t get respect from anyone. Bookstores won’t stock it. Newspapers won’t review it or even list it in their &quot;new local books&quot; section.
    <br>Anyway I discuss POD more here:
    <br><a target="_new" href=""></a&gt;
    <br>I also wrote a more cynical article about the experience on someone else’s site, which seems to have disappeared…I’ll ask him about it.
    <br>- adam

  6. I have to agree with everyone’s view on the marketing component that a publisher can bring to the table.

    Yet again in my case, the only evidence of marketting that they did that i could not have done myself (at least not without significant investment) is presence at tradeshows such as GDC and Siggraph.

    As for presence in bookstores, LSI is hooked in with Ingram which means the book is availible to bookstores. The trick i guess it to give the book sufficent momentum with PR and online sales that retail stores will want to pick it up. May not be an easy feat, but it is something i would be willing to try.

    That being said, here is an interesting link to an author’s nightmares with publishers. I’veonly published one book so i can’ say i’ve been through the same hell but I totally understand how he feels in some ways…

  7. Jeff says:

    Perhaps it’s time to shop it around to other publishers. I sent my book proposal to about a half-dozen publishers, and was shocked that the one that picked it up is easily the hottest in the ASP.NET space now. My point is that you just never know!

  8. Chris Haas says:

    Just a side-note, but if I were you I’d switch from Quark to Adobe InDesign. We made the switch about 2 years ago and are very happy. If you use any Adobe products (are Macromedia sometimes) than you’re probably already familiar with the keyboard shortcuts and the general way things are done. They have a free demo available, too.

  9. Just want to thank everyone for the helpful comments so far 🙂

    Chris: I’v initially looked at Quark since it is mostly the industry standard. But i’ll have to admit that i’ve used Photoshop and Illustrator in the past so I will take a look at InDesign.

    Jeff: Like I said, self-publishing is one of my options for Plan B is i do not get approved with my current publisher. The main issue is that in the real-time CG field and Video Game development, there is only 3-4 viable publishers out there. This significantly reduces my chances of getting published.

    The reality is that I am not only looking towards self-publishing with the excuse of making more money but I think it would be a good experience for me to learn the whole publishing process. In the end, if it doesn’t work i have no one to blame but myself and it might give me a deeper appreciation of what publishers do out there.

  10. Chris Haas says:

    Actually the Quark industry standard thing isn’t really true anymore. When OS X came out it took Quark forever to get a version that didn’t run in 9/classic. When they finally did tons of people had already migrated to InDesign. If you check the docs on LightningSource they only publish Quark 5 templates but they do have InDesign 3 (CS) templates:

    But all that aside, InDesign has an awesome programming model that you can tap into. You might not think you need it but its awesome to automate repetative tasks like you would with VS macros. On the PC you can use any COM-aware language and they also provide a nice JavaScript parser which is great if you need to cross platforms like I do.

  11. about the book cover…you should have a cover design contest. This would obviously mean that you would have to disclose the topic/theme of the book, but this could be done just before it’s released.

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