Bind it Yourself
Print on demand can make you an author
It is a truth universally acknowledged that within every one of us a book is waiting to be written. With the advent of print-on-demand technology, it's cheaper than ever to publish it yourself.
If you're game, numerous websites will help you get started. Like a "vanity" press that charges for printing a book, print-on-demand sites can publish a professional-looking tome and potentially offer editorial or publicity services for a fee. How much you pay depends not only on the manuscript length, number of copies, and extra services ordered but on the company. Lulu.com, for example, charges nothing upfront, only a royalty on every book sold. You set up the digital printing files yourself. Similarly, CafePress.com takes only a cut of the sales. Iuniverse.com, however, offers packages of services priced from $299 to $1,099. In all cases, the author has as much control as he or she wants over every step of the process.
At home. For a complete do-it-yourself job, you can use a good software program and printer. Self-publishing guru Dan Poynter offers tips (free) and books (for sale) at parapublishing.com.
Getting the book produced is the easy part, says Judith Appelbaum, author of How to Get Happily Published. "Getting the word to readers is the hard part." A shy author won't sell books, cautions Shanna Compton, poet, micropress publisher, and teacher of courses on self-publishing. Odd Couple actor Jack Klugman travels the country speaking about his memoir of his friend Tony Randall ( Tony and Me), available not through a major publisher but on his own imprint.
Self-published bestsellers do happen. The now ubiquitous What Color Is Your Parachute? first saw print between self-published covers. Kevin Trudeau's Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About rakes in sales despite the author's past legal entanglements and the medical community's criticism of his unproven assertions. So it turns out self-publishing and regular publishing do have things in common--in both cases, not enough fact-checking.
This story appears in the March 13, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.