Story of a Self-Published Author

It’s been awhile since I produced the third edition of Get Rolling, the Beginner’s Guide to Inline Skating, but I have checked the links below and they are still good guides for anybody who is interested in writing and  publishing their own book.

I am not the best person to ask about finding a publisher because, except for one case, my publishers found me or I self-published. The one time I got a publisher to take over my book was when I approached a travel company with my first edition of Get Rolling, and they signed me up to put together a skate trails tour book and I inserted my how-to section into the front pages. Out of print now, my work has since been transformed to an online database of skate tours, www.CASkating.com.

Self publishing

I published my only book currently still in print, Get Rolling, the Beginner’s Guide to In-Line Skating, now in its 4th printing. I call my publishing company Get Rolling Books. To credibly and effectively sell paperback books in the US, you must deal with the Library of Congress, the publishers of “Books in Print” and a book distributor that serves libraries. Here is where to find out how to do everything to get your book produced and sold: http://parapub.com/sites/para/  the web site of Dan Poynter, the self publisher’s guru.

I read The Self-Publishing Manual in 1992, decided I had what it takes to be successful, and then followed all of Dan’s advice. When I got the copyright returned to me and self published my third edition of Get Rolling in 2004, I discovered much of that process has gotten easier thanks to the internet and digital printing.

Production

For production, I was referred to a northern California printing company named DeHart’s for the printing. http://www.deharts.com/ . I have been very happy working with them, and they are close enough that I can drive there to pick up my latest 1,000 copies.

I sent  them two giant PDF files after getting a quote on an initial run of 500 books. Since that first printing I have ordered 1000 books two more times because printing is cheaper in larger quantities. When the books are ready, I save money by going to pick them up in my SUV and then I store them in my garage. I pay about $5 per copy, and my selling price is $14.95.

To sell my book, I have set up a consignment account with Amazon.com under their Amazon Advantage program. They send me a book order every Sunday. Their orders are initially small (like 1 book) but as people start buying the book their orders go up in response. I pay shipping and they get 55% discount off my selling price.  Here’s a link to Amazon Advantage:
http://advantage.amazon.com/gp/vendor/public/join

Self publishing a new book is tedious and time-consuming work, but once the production and launch are done, you can coast on that effort for years. If you have a popular web site and can convince people to purchase directly from you (PayPal payments), you can charge the full cover price and customers will pay your shipping.

Working with established publishers

A subsidiary of McGraw Hill discovered my self-published first edition of Get Rolling and asked to publish it themselves. I provided updated text and photos. With 5,000 sold the first year, they ordered another 5,000 before returning the copyright to me. Before that happened, I also wrote a second book for them.

I enjoyed working with publishers and their editors and letting them do the hard work. My books have never been block busters so none of us made much money. The biggest advance I got was $2,000 on contract signing with a second $2,000 on delivery. The worst-selling of my books — one they asked me to write just before inline skating began to lose its popularity — never did return their full royalty investment.

Lifestyle benefits of being an author

That said, I have enjoyed many indirect benefits from my book writing and publishing efforts. I am respected all over the world by skating beginners because I won’t let Get Rolling die. I work as a skate tour guide and Camp Rollerblade Instructor for an adventure travel company (they found me through my CA Skating trail guide) that results in considerable discounts when I want to be a customer — like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiking the Great Wall in China, and most recently, guiding tourists to Machu Picchu — all because I dared to write and publish that first book in 1992.

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