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Authors of full-length books face even more difficulties than freelancers for periodicals. Established publishing houses normally will not give the time of day to a first-time book author who is not already famous in his (her) own right. When discussing writing for periodicals, we generally advise you to avoid writing before a magazine accepts your idea in principle for publication . The rules are reversed when it comes to books. A first-time author is pretty much forced to write "on spec," then shop the manuscript around.

First-time authors and authors in obscure fields with little appeal to major publishers sometimes turn to so-called subsidy publishers, self-publishers or vanity presses (these terms are roughly synonymous). Generally speaking, these firms take a finished manuscript and turn it into printed books. Sometimes they offer help (for an additional fee) marketing your book to stores and on-line booksellers.

If you are considering self-publishing, here are some tips:

  • The cost of printing a book is remarkably low, as little as $1 to $6 for a quality softcover book (including books with cover art and illustrations inside). The cost varies with the size and length of the book, and the number of copies produced (long print runs translate into lower cost per book, as set-up costs are spread over more copies).
  • The cost of printing generally runs from 10% to 25% of the cover price. The hefty markup over the production cost covers editing, marketing, royalties to the author and (not least of all) profit to the publisher.
  • You also can consult local typesetters and bookbinders about self-publishing a book. Sometimes independent booksellers can offer guidance in this regard.
  • If you are familiar with desktop publishing software, you might be able to submit your book to the printer in a format that cuts their setup costs.
  • Seek the help of a professional copy editor, who will make sure that the writing is clear, grammatical and punctuated properly. This will be an additional cost, but is probably well worth it.
  • When you self-publish, remember that you

    assume primary (if not sole) responsibility for marketing your book. Be prepared to call on bookstores, set up a website to sell your book, visit book fairs or even sell out of the trunk of your car at flea markets or other venues.

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