Update from Bryan

Bryan sent this article for publication shortly after his book was published, but I was tardy in getting it posted. His latest email (June 2010) explains how the book has changed his life and ministry:

"I have just returned from a very hectic tour of our southern states and have a number of speaking engagements coming up which sees me getting paid with an opportunity to sell some more books. Things are looking up. Our organization is now in every state in Australia. All is going well, we are growing, but so is the workload with it. I have a very good team of people working with us now, but they keep me very busy. I find that I am a natural at this administration business. As everyone else grows in experience, things will become much easier.

"I have learnt so much about myself, autism. and many other things that I want to start a revised edition of my book next year. I have more destinations to go to next year, but I will be away less time. The administration wonít be as bad either.

One area of interest I am discovering is how Christian people with Aspergerís syndrome see their faith and the Bible. I wonít start, otherwise I will get carried away, but it is interesting. A bit more work for you, but not for a while." - Bryan

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Your Self-Publishing Options with POD (Print-on-Demand) Printers and Publishers - A look at your electronic publishing options with links to many helpful POD and eBook publishing resources.

Barbara Brabec's book manuscript editing service

 

My Self-Publishing Experience
with Lulu.com

by Bryan West
Author of Asperger's, God and Me—
Living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

AUSTRALIA IS A VAST LAND full of opportunity and promise, and Aussies love a success story. Hard work is rewarded, unless you are trying to publish a book, of course. I began my foray into print-on-demand (POD) publishing after trying unsuccessfully to find a publisher and agent in Australia. In recent years, Australian publishers have struggled. As a result, they only take submissions from agents now. Of the twenty Australian agents I contacted, eleven were not taking on new work, and the other nine were only taking on already published authors. Where does this leave the unpublished writer? Two choices, go overseas or self-publish.

Early Endeavors

Being an amateur writer, I knew I needed to get my work tidied up by an editor. I found an endearing "traditional" publisher on the Web who was all too eager to take my manuscript and try to charge me thousands of dollars in the process. I was just about ready to sign their contract when I found Barbara Brabec, who saw them for what they were—shonky thieves. Having been saved by Barbara from these sharks, I began to consider self-publishing.

I had looked at a few general self-publishing websites. I balked at two things—the costs of printing batches of thousands of books, and the costs to get all the work done, such as covers, editorial work, typesetting, etc. I knew my market was a niche market more likely to sell hundreds, not thousands of books, not to mention the other many costs associated with self-publishing.

POD Publishing

Again, Barbara came to the rescue when she suggested POD (print-on-demand) publishing. POD publishers walk the line between self-publishing and traditional publishing. While some are simply book printers, others are POD publishers that offer a complete publishing package to authors who need help with various areas of the publishing process.

For my book, Asperger's, God and Me—which is about living with Aspergerís syndrome—POD publishing was the perfect avenue. My market is a niche market, which means I need to focus my marketing down specific avenues that cater to adults and parents of children with Aspergerís syndrome. At Barbaraís suggestion, I checked the benefits of working with Lulu and decided they were just perfect for my needs.

The main benefit of POD publishing is that there is no need to buy thousands of books that tie up your money. You can order copies as needed, whether itís one book, ten, or a thousand. The choice is up to you. I am not tying up thousands of dollars in books packed in boxes in a basement. I order in bulk lots of ten. I find this is perfect for my situation with the bonus being that this affords me the cheapest shipping costs as well. My wife and I founded an organization called Camp Autism. I can carry along a pack of ten to our Camp Autism camps to sell, or drop in a pack of ten to local booksellers, autism groups, etc. These packs are very manageable and convenient, and tie up little money.

Luluís Publishing Packages

U.S. authors can choose to be the publisher or take on Lulu as publisher. International authors are limited to Lulu as publisher, which was my preferred option.

Unlike general POD publishers that merely print a book and leave it to the author to market it, POD publishers such as Lulu open an authorís book up to mass markets such as Amazon, Borders, Fishpond, library databases, and more at a cost of $99.95, although I managed to publish my book for free as Lulu often offers free Lulu publishing packages. For another example, Lulu has a deal with Google which involves Lulu books being a search result priority. This means your book is more likely to be on the first few pages of a keyword search result instead of the last page few people see.

If you lack the skills required to self-publish a book, Lulu will help you out. If you are prepared to sit down for an hour, Luluís HELP documents and streamlined system will allow you to go from manuscript to book with little cost. They offer a large number of packages ranging from free services up to packages that cost a couple thousand dollars. The free price includes Lulu-provided covers. While they do charge if you want Lulu to do it all for you, Luluís HELP documents and staff (on call 24 hours a day) give plenty of advice for no charge, so I suggest giving it a go yourself.

Lulu provided me with a pre-formatted template for my book. I then transferred the edited manuscript over to the new format and followed the step-by-step instructions, after which Lulu converted the finished document to PDF format for printing. I chose to use one of the Lulu book covers to save time creating my own. Lulu even goes back and adds the ISBN for free. In the publishing process, you can add pictures, comments, titles, etc. If you choose to create your own cover, then you have a lot of extra work to do.

I found the whole publishing process rewarding and fun. If you have everything ready to go for your book, uploading content to Lulu will take about half an hour from start to finish. Then you have to pay for a proof copy that is sent to you to read and check that everything is okay. Once the proof copy has been approved, the process is complete. If you deny the proof copy, you will need to make your changes and re-submit the book. If everything goes without hiccup, the whole process from start to finish can take as little as a week. I came away with a sense of achievement and accomplishment. This is all good news, but what about the bad?

One Negative Comment

I experienced only one negative in working with Lulu. Lulu lists books quickly on online bookstores, but it can take months before people can actually buy those books. My book was listed on Amazon in about four weeks, but it took three months before people could actually buy the book there. This was the same with Fishpond, Australia's largest online bookstore. I contacted Fishpond and sent them books so they had stock. Iím not sure what the distribution problem was here because I was able to get books myself within a few days from Lulu after finalizing the book, but this was not a major problem for me since I had my own website with an audience that was waiting for the bookís publication.

Royalties

Lulu's pricing structure offers the author a reasonable amount of freedom as well. The author sets his margin and the sales price. Lulu charges a standard cost price plus its share, which is $1 for books you buy as the author. No doubt they make different margins for books sold through their website and Amazon, etc. The point is, freedom is there for the author to set their margins and that is the main thing for me personally. Royalties can take a couple of months to come through for books sold through Luluís online sources. For books you sell yourself, the cost and Luluís cut has already been paid for when you buy them. The authorís revenue is instant and since that is how I sell a majority of my books, I like that option.

What I donít like is the inability to change prices once they are set. I opted to publish an eBook as well as a print edition, and I originally set the eBook price at $5 ($1 for Lulu, $4 for me). In hindsight, I found that to be far too low, and I later raised it to $9.95. To change a book's  price, Lulu charges a fee or requires the author to withdraw the book and republish it.

Initially, there was a significant problem with postage price gouging. Lulu was terrible for a while, but they have seen the error of their ways. Their express post is still too expensive, but at least they did listen to their authors, eventually, rather than ignoring us.

Marketing

The other thing to consider with POD publishing is you do not get shelf space in bookstores. Bookstores are not interested in carrying POD books, so donít even consider them as a sales outlet. If you want to sell quantities of books, you have to do the marketing work yourself and find other sales outlets. This takes a lot of time and energy. I do sell books through Luluís online bookstores, which involve no work on my behalf. However, I sell most of my books through my own hard work and marketing efforts such as my website, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, Squidoo, camps and other markets as I find them. The number of books you sell will depend entirely on how much work and effort you put into the marketing process. And if sales are less than you hoped for, at least you wonít be stuck with boxes of books in the basement.

I was further encouraged after reading an article by Oregon author Bill Sullivan in a magazine called The Writer. Bill dropped his traditional publishers in favor of self-publishing, listing several reasons for doing so. I will just list one reason here. Billís travel guides are season-sensitive. Traditional publishing generally takes at least twelve months from submission to publication, so the information in Billís books was a season old before anyone could buy a copy. By self-publishing, Billís lag time is three months, not twelve. He can publish just in time for the season. Of course he has to do a lot of his own marketing, which he enjoys.

Personally, I think POD publishing is the wave of the future. As traditional publishers and markets continue to tighten up, new authors will find it increasingly difficult to break in. POD publishing is one way to break through and successfully sell your book at little cost to yourself. I am certainly pleased I chose this method of publication.

_______

Copyright 2009 by Bryan West. For more information about Bryanís book, Asperger's, God and Me—Living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, visit his website at Camp Autism.org, where you can sample the book and then click to buy a print copy or the eBook edition.

Editor's Note:

It was a genuine pleasure to edit Bryanís book and get to know him personally through our various email exchanges. Given the verbal challenges he has as an Aspie, I greatly admire him for his ability to communicate so well via the written word and meet his self-publishing challenge head-on. By sharing in his book exactly what itís like to be an Aspie, and then ministering personally to the parents of Aspie children who come to Camp Autism (when he says in his book that he is barely able to speak directly to members of his own family without a feeling of panic), he is proof positive that God had a wonderful plan for his life and has equipped him to help others with Aspergerís Syndrome and then run a very successful publishing and speaking business (see left).

I know Bryanís book is helping many people better understand their Aspie children as well as adults in their midst who may not be able to explain why they do some of the strange (sometimes outrageous) things that are considered normal to an Aspie. I highly recommend this book.

- Barbara Brabec

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