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Self-publishing success story (again, a good niche)

After being rejected by all the publishers to whom she sent her manuscript, a seven-year labor of love titled I Am Hutterite, Saskatchewan author Mary-Ann Kirkby self-published it under the imprint Polka Dot Press. This was NOT a print-on-demand publication through a POD publisher. Using a $35,000 line of credit, she had 5,000 copies printed, and has since sold more than 50,000 copies, writes John Barber in his refreshing story of persistence and good luck: Oh heck, I'll just publish it myself (Globe and Mail, 8-1-09)

"Although such success is rare in the world of what used to be called vanity publishing, Kirkby's story is no freak event," writes Barber. He quotes Paul McNally of McNally Robinson, the independent bookstore chain that hosted a launch party for Kirkby's book: “There's a lot of self-published stuff that's below the radar and belongs there. But a short print run with a focused distribution can be financially very viable. It's a big part of our business, actually.”

Kirkby chose a cover price of $29.95 and rather than collect slim royalties collects a sizeable chunk of proceeds (less the discount to bookstores or other outlets).

Writer Chic Scott deliberately self-published his latest book, Deep Powder and Steep Rock: The Life of Mountain Guide Hans Gmoser, rather than give it to his regular publisher. Scott's book was lavishly produced, writes Barber, so he took out a home-equity loan of $45,000 to cover a first print run of 3,000. He's covered his costs and is now into pure profit. “I will make maybe four times as much profit as I would if I were just getting royalties," he told Barber. Read Barber's story of technology and tenacity making self-publishing the hottest new sector of the book market.

These success stories are exceptions to the traditional rule: Most books do NOT find their market and most self-publishers do NOT make a lot of money and may actually lose money. But this is also true in regular publishing (especially if you calculate the value of your time writing the book). So traditional publishers: Look out! The rules of the game seem to be changing. And authors: Do your homework, write a good book that fills a need in an identifiable, targetable audience, hire a good editor, pick a good title, get a good cover design, and good luck to you!
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