Books: self-publishing and what it costs.

Posted by in professional practice

I’ve done it the hard way: worked with publishers, accepted poor advances, suffered dreadful editing and inadequate marketing. I’ve published books “the proper way” and I’m not doing it again.

For long enough, self-publishing was the resort of the bold, the unpublishable and the delusional. Sometimes all three at the same time. The main stumbling block was distribution, something publishers have whole departments dedicated too. But things are changing. With a sufficiently large, dedicated following on social media, the right product and a sum of money somewhat less than you’d pay for a 600mm f4 lens, you can become your own publisher of a high quality coffee table book. And perhaps even turn a profit.

You would, however, be ill-advised to try this without the help of a project and production manager; someone who knows all the intricacies of book production, the right printers and paper suppliers and a hundred and one other things. It’s knowledge that takes years to acquire. And in the UK, the go-to man is David Brimble.

David has overseen the production of hundreds of titles and produced many of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year portfolio books. He’s also been responsible for some major TV tie-in books including Frozen Planet and The Great British Bake Off. He knows the business inside out and is available for freelance work.

I asked David to prepare some figures and options for me last year for a book idea I was considering. His rates are what you would expect from someone with his experience but are a fraction of the cost of making just one bad decision. Moreover, he is extraordinarily thorough and methodical: you’ll learn exactly what you’re letting yourself in for. And that in itself may be no bad thing.

Incidentally, I remember my Spanish friend José Benito Ruiz, who has made a great success out of publishing his own books, telling me some time ago that if you can guarantee the full price sale of 400 hardbacks of your book, then you can get into profit. If you can, then perhaps it’s time to talk to David.