A Review of The Self-Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter
Overall, this is a very useful guide, and if it errs on the side of Poynter’s considerable enthusiasm and confidence in the face of what is a fairly daunting task for most of us, that is part of its attraction. Not all of us will be able to achieve the spectacular success in self-publishing that Poynter has, but his book is still full of very useful information in an easily digestible format, and will be referred to repeatedly by authors who want to forgo the traditional route of publishing, improve their profit margins and turn their book into a business.
Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
The Self-Publishing Manual
by Dan Poynter
2002, ISBN 156860-073-9
432 pages, softcover
http://parapublishing.com, rrp $US19.95
Warning! Dan Poynter’s The Self-Publishing Manual will shamelessly encourage all of your authorial vanities. It will convince you that, not only is writing a book easy, but publishing, promoting and earning decent money from your book is also well within your reach. Pick up this book and you may find yourself creating book covers complete with self-written testimonials, tables of contents and even press releases for your as yet unwritten book. You may dream of speaking engagements on Oprah and wonder how your friends will cope with your new found fame. The Self-Publishing Manual is certainly inspirational, and set out in such a clear manner that even the most elusive novel concept may seem like a simple act of craftmanship. Poynter is the guru of self-publishing and he practices what he preaches. His own self-published books number more than 80 and cover a range of non-fiction areas, but primarily parachuting and skydiving based subjects, books on cats, on becoming an “expert witness” and books on writing and publishing. He earns a very good living from his work too. Many of his books are “best-sellers” (selling copies well into the hundred thousands) and he runs his own web site, selling a very wide range of downloadable reports along with his books. Many of his books sell at the rate of 10-20,000 copies per year, every year.
The Self Publishing Manual is a very simple (deceptively simple) manual, and it covers such topics as why you should self-publish (consider things like speed, kudos, ease of ‘breaking in’ and of course the vastly increased royalties), how to ‘construct your own book, start your own publishing company, information on the basics of typesetting, layout and printing, how to announce your book, including information on ISBNs, listing with Bowker and libraries and more, how to price your book and deal with things like returns, ways of promoting your book (hint: Poynter claims that book reviews are the least expensive and most effective promotion you can possibly do for your book – I’m biased of course, but I agree wholeheartedly), how to market and distribute your book, advertising, fulfilling orders, creating e-books and promoting them, and my favourite chapter, how to cope with the ensuing publicity. This is not really a book about writing, and of course that is the heart of your book. It is also very much focused on the process of creating and selling non-fiction rather than fiction, something that Poynter is openly biased towards (although he does have one pamphlet on marketing your fiction work). Nevertheless, the book is very informative, entertaining and easy to read, and even if you are planning to go the traditional publishing route, it is worthwhile reading this book to gain some understanding of the processes which publishing involve (and more importantly perhaps for an author, the processes which traditional publishing don’t involve – such as ongoing promotion). If you are planning to self-publish, you could save yourself a considerable amount of time, trouble and money by using Poynter’s guide. In either case, you may consider your options a bit more broadly after reading The Self-Publishing Manual.
The book also contains a number of appendices, including a very clear one page overview of Poynter’s “New Book Model”, which includes a step by step guide for what you need to do to create your book. The bit on creating a 1st draft may be understated, although again, this is not a book on how to write – one of Poynter’s other books, Writing Non-Fiction: Turning Ideas into Booksprovides a lot more detail on the mechanics of ‘constructing’ or writing a non-fiction (see our review here: Writing Non-Fiction. For fiction, writing the first draft is a much harder and more critical part of the process and less conducive to ‘building’, but again, the processes for self-publishing are probably very similar and The Self-Publishing Manual is still very much applicable. Appendix 1 contains a calender or plan of things to do at different stages of the book’s development, and Appendix 2 a detailed reference of resources for publishers. Overall, this is a very useful guide, and if it errs on the side of Poynter’s considerable enthusiasm and confidence in the face of what is a fairly daunting task for most of us, that is part of its attraction. Not all of us will be able to achieve the spectacular success in self-publishing that Poynter has, but his book is still full of very useful information in an easily digestible format, and will be referred to repeatedly by authors who want to forgo the traditional route of publishing, improve their profit margins and turn their book into a business. If you know nothing about publishing and either plan to write a book, or have a book which you want published, this is a classic guide which is well worth the relatively low purchase price (nb: Amazon currently has it for 30% off list).
For more information on The Self-Publishing Manual, visit: Self-Publishing Manual