The Well-Fed Self-Publisher
by Peter Bowerman
Fanove Publishing (2007)
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Review by Patricia Fry
Peter Bowerman of The Well-Fed Writer fame is back with a 294-page book professing to teach authors "How to turn one book into a full-time living." If you study this book from cover to cover, you will get exactly the encouragement, information, tools and resources you need in order to do just that.
Bowerman aptly explains the advantages and challenges of self-publishing. There’s no sugarcoating here. He walks readers through the grueling and intimidating process of promotion and marketing. Having been in the publishing business longer than Bowerman, I have to agree with most of what he says, especially his recommendation that even if you self-publish, you need to write a book proposal. He says, "Put together a formal book proposal, even if you think you will probably end up self-publishing. It ensures that you’ll think this thing through thoroughly before taking the (financial) plunge. That means figuring out what the book will cover, why there’s a market for it, who would buy it, why they would buy it, what your competition is, what your expected costs will be and much more."
His background is in marketing and this book is extremely valuable for any author who is promoting his or her book. Starting with the cover design, which Bowerman says must focus on benefits rather than features, and tackling the art of soliciting book reviews, writing press releases and just plain selling, Bowerman covers it all. And he makes it sound so doable. He says, "Forget about selling, just tell your story."
According to Bowerman, it takes repetition and dedication to sell books. He says, "The average person doesn’t care about anything except his or her own life. To get people to the point where they actually interrupt their routine to buy your book, you need to have ‘touched’ them multiple times with your promotion efforts. They need to have seen something about your book in a bunch of places."
Most new authors are focused mainly on getting their book into bookstores. Bowerman tells you how to do this, but warns, "In the big scheme of things, it’s not terribly hard to get your books into bookstores. It’s keeping them from quickly coming back to you as returns that’s the challenge. Get your book into the big chains before you’ve established a strong enduring demand (for your book) and you’ll end up with a ton of returns up to a year later in any condition for a full refund."
He offers numerous resources, including information and leads for getting foreign rights for your book, managing your Amazon.com account, building a better Web site, landing and getting through radio interviews and what’s happening in the POD world. He also recommends books, including my How to Write a Successful Book Proposal in 8 Days or Less.
One of my favorite features in this book is "Thumbnails of This Book’s Best Tips." Bowerman provides nine pages of tips, dos and don’ts. Some of them are mentioned in the book in more detail and he has provided their page numbers. Others are new. Here’s one that I found extremely important especially to new authors: "For every person planning on self-publishing a book, there’s a long line of people waiting to take your money." He says that, as self-publishers, we get bombarded with many offers such as places to list your book, ways to boost visibility to your Web site, programs to market your title, publicists to promote your title, etc. I would also include companies that send out your press releases and charge to review your book. Bowerman says, "You don’t need 95+ percent of them." But if you are tempted to go with any of them he suggests getting references first.
Do we need another book on self-publishing? Dan Poynter, the self-publishing guru, has praised this book. He says, "Use this book to move past the process to the profits of self-publishing." I say that if you want to self-publish or just to understand the industry, your options and the ramifications of your choices, read Poynter’s Self-publishing Manual, my The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book AND Bowerman’s The Well Fed Self-Publisher as they each bring different, but valuable perspectives and information to the table.
This is a remarkably well-designed and well-organized book filled with exactly what any author needs to know no matter their publishing choices. And it is an especially valuable resource for the self-publishing author.
–Patricia Fry is the author of 24 books, including The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, http://www.matilijapress.com and the president of Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network, http://www.spawn.org.