A Review of How You Can Be Your Own Publisher by Judy Meininger

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

How You Can Be Your Own Publisher
By Judy Meininger
Success Press
2002
ISBN: 10987654321
$19.95

The hype is pretty damn good. Publish your book and “bring in some $2898 to $10858 extra per month or more starting in as little as 45 days from Friday.” Is Self-publishing really that specifically profitable? Judy Meininger certainly thinks so, and for just $19.95 she will share her “highly profitable” secrets with you in her book, How You Can Be Your Own Publisher. Outrageous claims notwithstanding, if you are an author with an unpublished book, this guide has some good information. The basic thesis is anyone can self-publish, and that there is significant money to be saved, and you can greatly increase your profit margin, by taking on the tasks of printing, promoting, and distributing your book yourself. There are a examples of self-publishers who have done very well, and some information on how they started, with 3 steps: start small, test the market, and find what people need and give it to them. There are details on the 3 different types of businesses you can set up, zoning laws, obtaining a trade name, setting up a business bank account, and Sales Tax ID Numbers. Note that most of this information only applies in the USA, so potential self-publishers from other countries won’t be able to use this chapter.

There is information on setting up a home office, including some suggestions for obtaining cheap furniture and equipment, details on copyright, obtaining ISBN, ISSN, and LCCN numbers, bar codes, printing, basic definitions for wholesalers, promoters, and jobbers, and a lengthy Appendix at the back of the book containing the ISBN agent for each country. While the book does provide a good overview on the processes involved in self-publishing, each of the sections is fairly sparse, and it would have been nice to see more detail on the variations and mechanics of the printing process, and a lot more information on the promotion/selling/marketing aspects of self-publishing, something which is critical to the success of a self-published book, and something which many writers don’t know how to do well. Meininger’s experience in this area is obviously strong, as are her self-promotional skills, and this would have been a very valuable addition. Publishing on Demand (POD) also got short shrift, and considering the variety of different options in this area, and its potential impact on self-publishing, it would have been nice to see more on this.

The Bonus Section confused me a little. Each section was roughly a page, headed with another hype-filled blurb. The copy below it did provide some useful tips on obtaining free publicity by the use of press releases, increasing your book’s marketability by improving and expanding the presentation, using .PDF for a professional appearance, and extending your selling period by ensuring that your information is timeless. However the copy didn’t generally match the blurbs, nor did the simple tips do justice to claims like “Amazingly Simple Ways to Finance Your Book with Very Little Money and Quickly Build it into a Fortune, Even if You’ve Never Done it Before” or “How to Get Your Own Book Published for Next to Nothing and Still Have it Look Professional”. Perhaps if these tips were incorporated into the main book, and expanded to include some real samples of press releases, links for creating free PDF files, and some specific examples of different formats for published books (with the hype-filled titles removed) they would have worked better.

However compelling the promotional copy, the hype promises a lot more than the book (or any book I suspect) could possibly deliver. I’m afraid that this book will not ensure that you “make more money than most people only dream of”. That is probably dependent on things like the nature of the book you write, combined with your marketing capabilities (something that generally comes with experience). However, if you are unsure about the basic elements required for self-publishing, or if you want more information about the potential value of self-publishing, setting up a home business, the things that you will need to consider when putting a book together yourself, along with a few worthwhile tips on improving your prospects of selling your book, then How You Can Be Your Own Publisher will likely provide you with the simple, common sense information you need to get started. Probably the best lesson you can learn from this book is how to write successful sales copy by emulating the promotional tactics used to sell this book on Meininger’s web site.

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