Originally Published: January 13, 2015 6 a.m.
My column of a couple of Tuesdays ago focused on my lack of ability and utility that led to futility when it came to the marketing of my self-published book - "In the Rearview Mirror" - that was published in 2011. AuthorHouse of Bloomington, Indiana, did a nice print job and has the book for sale on-line, as does Barnes & Noble and Amazon, but sales have been pretty pathetic instead of frenetic.
For a good belly laugh, I passed along to readers my receipt of a royalty check from AuthorHouse that was dated 2-28-14 and was for the sum of $1.01. And what heightened the amusement was that the check, issued by the JP Morgan Chase Bank, read "ONE Dollars AND ONE Cents" on the description line. Such read-outs are automatic, of course, so I can't blame any unthinking computer for the bad grammar, but as noted it was good for a laugh.
Anyway, I'm not planning to pursue the self-publishing shtick again, but would like to pass along some valuable information to others who might be considering same. A Prescott saddle-maker, Dusty Johnson, is the person who provided his own success story after reading my Dec. 30 column, and here is his account that is designed to help others in their quest for fun and profit:
"Self-publishing is a fun, exciting, satisfying and disappointing, dangerous, expensive and wild adventure that should be plunged into by everyone who truly believes they have something to say that will be of interest, excitement and fulfillment to many others. If you have knowledge - on any subject - that you truly believe will satisfy the needs of others, I say 'pass it on' and show those others what wonderful things are residing within themselves.
"I ran my Western saddle-making school for 25 years and felt that my students were missing many notes that would be valuable to them after their class was completed. I proceeded to write my book for them with carefully chosen words, plans and photos. At the same time I contracted with a professional video company to film those lessons I was writing about. (With over 150 students, I had a good concept of what was needed to learn the basics of saddle construction.) As I moved forward in my writing and illustration (photo and DVD filming), I realized that the expense was growing, but the information could be of value to many, many others.
"Self-publishing was the route to take, but seemed too much like a slow, indefinite return on my time and finances. I searched nationwide for a printer (not a publisher ... that was me) who could provide quality, quantity and a reasonable price. I realized that a 'reasonable price' meant quantities over 1,000 copies. The price then dropped incredibly fast! I took out a loan and contracted for 5,000 copies! Now that I had that much invested in a limited market publication I could not trust the usual book distributors to 'push' my books fast enough for me to repay the loan. I carefully researched who and where my market was and placed small, very repetitive ads in target publications (more out-of-pocket expense). I also wrote articles for those publications and gave informal talks to groups who 'might' be interested. Within a few long and unendurable months the orders began rolling in.
"I went on to author more publications in the same relative market and also produced DVDs on those other subjects. Following the same pattern of marketing and advertising produced the same apprehensive months of waiting for sales. But I had so much invested that I could not give up. This was the motivation to really push for sales and it eventually paid off. I have now become well-known and recognized worldwide for my instruction and have numerous publications seeking articles and quotes about these subjects.
"I encourage anyone who truly believes that they have information (instructional, humorous, philosophical, thought-provoking or just a good story to tell) to write, write, write. The only question remaining then is: Is it good enough to publish? You must truly believe it is or you should not take the chance.
"My best advice is to keep retail prices as low as possible. My books sell for as low as $19.95 and the DVDs are $19.95 to $39.95. I emphasize that I have NEVER raised the prices over the past 23 years, which makes them extremely affordable and creates volume sales. (Low profit margin often makes for large sales return ... check out Walmart!"
So that's Dusty's road map for self-publishing success that has worked quite well for him. Lots of nuggets in there for bold miners.