Alyssa’s Notes on Paul Gerald’s Presentation on From Cool Idea to Publishing Empire

Last month we had the honor of hosting Paul Gerald, who gave his talk on self-publishing and publicizing your book.

Originally, Gerald wanted to be a sports writer, eventually he wound up getting on the path of travel writing. He moved to Portland and wrote a book on hiking routes throughout the Portland area. Eventually Gerald got the idea for writing a book about different places to eat Breakfast in Portland, from his love of breakfast, and it’s always perfect when write about what we love, right? However, the publisher that had produced his last book on hiking wouldn’t publish his breakfast idea, so Gerald decided to publish it himself.

Here are some notes from the talk:

  • In modern publishing, you will hardly ever meet the publishers at all.
  • The publishing industry is similar to the record industry; they are changing (as the world progressively changes) their distribution. However, the record industry began to wither as MP3s became increasingly popular. Gerald suggests that the publishing industry will not have quite the same outcome because they are beginning to recognize that they are selling stories, and not paper.
  • Gerald brings up that in 2009 only 5% of Americans ever walked into a bookstore, but book sales have gone up. This displays that e-books are becoming increasingly popular, while book stores themselves are dying.
  • When you begin to write, you should think about why you are writing. Is it just because you want to write a book? Or do you want to make money? Both are valid, but the answer will greatly determine how you treat the writing, editing and overall publishing process.
  • After coming up with the idea for your book, ask yourself “Will people like this book? Will they buy it?” Most books do not sell.
    • To determine if your idea is a profitable one or not, Gerald suggests you do the following: Ask a bookstore owner if they might buy your book (they’ll be honest).
    • Ask other people you don’t know (friends and relatives might support you, but for profits’ sake, better to get the truth).
    • Figure out if there are already books out similar to the one you are thinking of publishing.
  • Hire an editor! (they are desperately looking for work).
  • Willamette Writers is a great source for finding an editor.
  • When you give an editor your book, give them the entire thing, not bits at a time.
  • Hire a designer (or design the book yourself).
  • Get an ISBN for your book (this way you can have record of sales and create something that can be sold regularly).
  • For printing your book you could go with off set printing (if you know you will sell a lot; for Gerald it was $7,000 for 3,000 books).
  • However, Gerald suggests printing on demand. He uses Lightning Source and says that printing on demand is quicker and cheaper ($4 or $5 a book).
  • For places to sell, bookstores are always the original option (they want to know you have a distributor).
  • You can sell books at Grocery stores, Libraries or even in public markets.
  • You can also hire someone or use a program for free online to format your story into e-book formatting so that you can distribute your book electronically.
  • You will never gain the cover price for your book.
  • You will only make about 45% of your cover price by selling through a distributor. To raise your money making chances, Gerald suggests you sell on Amazon, on your own, or even selling directly to places for less than they would be buying from this distributor (which still makes you more than selling through a distributor).
  • Amazon Advantage and Amazon Marketplace give a great advantage to selling books because rather than selling through Amazon, you can create your own store and sell for less than Amazon, but still make more money.
  • E-books are wonderful, and some (like those for the Ipad) will create links in the book so that you might click a foot note and it would take you directly there. Some of these sorts of links could also lead you to websites concerning the topic you are reading, or even  a podcast.
  • To create a podcast, you can call anyone up from Skype and record the interview.
  • Create a website for your book.
  • Create a blog for your book (update frequently, 2-3 blogs a month).
  • Your blog should have a creative title (“Extra MSG” versus “Book Title”).
  • Make a paypal, so if/when you sell books online, it will become simple.
  • Create a facebook page and a twitter for your book.
  • Be sure to find a community interested in the same things you are (which includes the subject of your book). Become immersed in this community before publishing to learn more about your own story; this community will also be a wonderful audience to sell to when you publish.
  • Gerald ends stating that this isn’t exactly a profession (still needs to occasional job), but it is a ton of fun and he has no regrets.
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