A review of The Well-Fed Self-Publisher by Peter Bowerman

Bowerman has a particular strength in persuasion, and if you haven’t bought this book because you’ve already decided to self-publish, the first chapter will convince you why you need to. There are a number of other books on self-publishing, some very useful, but this book is particularly valuable, partly because of its relaxed and upbeat style, and partly because it is so well structured, and partly because Bowerman has made full use of his thirty plus years of sales and marketing experience to provide critical information which goes well beyond the actual publishing process.

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living
By Peter Bowerman
Fanove Publishing
Paperback: 294 pages , ISBN: 0967059860

Peter Bowerman provides one of the best examples I know of ‘practising what you preach.’ Bowerman’s book The Well-Fed Writer was well written enough to convince even the most esoteric creative writer that commercial writing is a viable route to writing success. Peter’s own success as a commercial writer was the perfect clincher for would-be commercial writers, but I suspect that the success he had from his first self-published book might have outweighed his commercial business, because he came back with an equally powerful second release which continued the nourishment metaphor, Back for Seconds. The learning curve for self-publishing a book is a steep one, but Bowerman’s books have been phenomenally successful. So much so, that his new release focuses directly on self-publishing. The Well-Fed Self Publisher is written in the same easy to read, chatty style as Bowerman’s other two books, and the structure as smooth and well organised.

Bowerman has a particular strength in persuasion, and if you haven’t bought this book because you’ve already decided to self-publish, the first chapter will convince you why you need to. There are a number of other books on self-publishing, some very useful, but this book is particularly valuable, partly because of its relaxed and upbeat style, and partly because it is so well structured, and partly because Bowerman has made full use of his thirty plus years of sales and marketing experience to provide critical information which goes well beyond the actual publishing process. The book begins by providing substantiated reasons for self-publishing, without any apologies for the large number of badly produced self-published books out there, and then cuts right into the sales and marketing chapter. This is probably the most unique and critical chapter of the book, and as usual, Bowerman pulls no punches when he says that the main reason for writing anything is to “have it read.” Of course! Is it too obvious? Not at all. I can think of quite a few authors who treat their potential readers (me in this case) with such disdain in their promotional material (never mind the book – I’ve never gotten that far) that if they have any readers at all, its down to pure luck. What Bowerman makes very clear is that even the most esoteric writing needs to get into the hot hands of readers, and without marketing you don’t get sales and without sales, not only don’t you get paid, you don’t make the key connection between writer and reader. Like the rest of the book, the chapters are neatly set out with small, well headed paragraphs, a clear point by point format, and simple, low “fog” sentences, but the ease of reading doesn’t mean this isn’t meaty. This chapter is well worth reading and re-reading, especially for authors who don’t have much marketing experience, since this is where the “Well-Fed” series stands apart from other writing books. It’s classic marketing material, including focusing on the customer (readers in this case), selling a book’s benefits, selling propositions, writing more readable (and therefore reader friendly) book, and so on, but customised for authors.

Other chapters present a step by step guide to putting a book together, building demand, setting up a website and shop, dealing with distribution and non-bookshop buyers, dealing with Amazon, the mainstream media, getting free publicity, using radio, speaking in public, the pros and cons of POD, putting together “spin-offs”, and when to hire someone else. The book is peppered with personal anecdotes from Bowerman’s own experience, as well as some of the best advice from other authors and experts which have worked for him. The book is full of nuggets of good practical advice you can use immediately, all written in Bowerman’s plain English style:

Whenever a journalist does a story or mentions your book, a radio/TV host has you on their show, a conference organizer has had you present at their gathering, or anyone else has done something nice to promote you, send them a personal snail-mailed thank-you card. Thank-you notes just aren’t all that common anymore. Do it and stand out. (224)

In addition to the book, Bowerman has produced an interesting companion e-book toolkit called “The Well-Fed SP Biz-in-a-Box”. He’s collected the material he made most use of during his own book marketing campaign and has pulled it together to make it easy to use. It’s a pretty good working example of a “spin-off” in action, just as each of Bowerman’s three books is a good example of the best kind of self-publishing in action. There are “perfect” (and imperfect as examples) book proposals, press releases, bios, email pitches, promo blurbs, customised promo sheets, update letters, discount certificates, radio pitches, and much more. If you are planning to self-publish a book, the Well-Fed Self-Publisher and its companion ebook are musts. The small cost is nothing against what you’ll save in time and trouble as you learn from Bowerman’s wisdom rather than your own mistakes. But even if you aren’t self-publishing, the book is a wealth of information on promotion, and on the critical components of publishing that you really can’t afford not to know these days. If you understand the principles of distribution, you’ll be much better able to direct a small publisher, and at least know what a large one is up to when it comes to your book. In terms of promotion, no author can afford to leave that to the publisher, and the more you know, the more control you’ll have. The more control you have, the more sales you’ll have. Bowerman makes that crystal clear. The rest is a big learning curve, regardless of how you get your book in print. The Well-Fed Self-Publisher is an excellent guide to shorten that curve and maximize your efforts.

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