Monday, August 07, 2006

Book review: The Well-Fed Self-Publisher

I have read Dan Poynter's The Self Publishing Manual three times. I have written and published an ebook, just to get my feet wet in the whole, scary, ISBN process. I have planned all along to self-publish my teacher book.

So when Peter Bowerman released his long-awaited The Well-Fed Self-Publisher, I figured it would be a book to fill in the cracks of my knowledge. After all, Dan Poynter is, "THE grandfather of self-publishing." I didn't expect to learn too much more--after all, Dan Poynter's book is comprehensive. However, the book's subtitle, "How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living," is so seductive, I can't imagine a writer who wouldn't be at least intrigued.

There was no question, though, about whether or not I would buy Bowerman's book. Oh, I would buy it, that's for certain. I am one of thousands of loyal followers of his series:

(click on any book cover to buy them)

So I knew I would buy it, thinking that it would be a good additional reference to have in my self-publishing ventures. It's a tax-deductible expense, after all. I did not think that it would surpass the other self-publishing references that are out there.

I thought wrong.

Bowerman lays out the self-publishing process step-by-step, in a logical, thoughtful manner. I did know all of the good reasons to self-publish, and knew that publishing is not about art or writing, really, or grand higher purpose ('s about business). I didn't know exact marketing strategies that he has used to be successful. I didn't know how little money could actually be spent on fulfillment services, to free up my time. I didn't know that he would be so detailed with his examples, which is most helpful for a new publisher who may be frightened with the entire project.

Mostly, I didn't know how much marketing needs to be done. Oh, I knew in theory, but Bowerman presents the marketing options like a lovely banquet table full of new and exciting treats, begging to be consumed. He makes the marketing efforts seem far less daunting than they did before. Of course, this is easier to see once you go along for the ride with him, and realize that, as a self-publisher, " have one job and one job only: Build the Demand for Your Book." Accepting this premise, all of the marketing strategies outlined throughout the book fall into place.

Along the way, Bowerman pays tribute to many other fine authors who can help a publisher become a success. He always lists contact information, or at the very least, a website for these folks. What I found most helpful about the lists of people and information, though, were the personal examples that Bowerman illustrates. He always returns to his example of a successful book campaign, be it how to work with, how to give a great radio interview, or how to assemble a press kit using a copier, scissors, and glue stick. No, seriously. It's in there.

Everything in the book is presented from Bowerman's perspective; he presents himself as a "case study" for the rest of us. It's a type of , "This is what I did, now you do it," scenario, and it works. Not only does he let us know what he did, he lets us know who he worked with to get it done. He refers often to particular pages on his website, to illustrate his points. This is another way that he makes the point: his advice is meant to be practical. Use it.

Marketing isn't the only thing a self-publisher has to do, though. Having a good book in hand is always the best start. What about the self-publishing industry itself? What about creating the perfect book cover, editing and typesetting, having an index and appendix? Yes, yes, yes, all of this is discussed at length. No worries.

Possibly the best part of the book is Appendix A, in which he compiles the names and contact information of the actual people who helped him put his book together, all in one place. I wonder, knowing how popular his books are, whether or not these people are absolutely swamped with work. I imagine they are. I know I'm considering calling them.

In addition to the actual book, three bonus ebooks are offered:

The Well-Fed Self-Publisher's Biz-in-a-Box
  • contains every bit of marketing "paper" that Bowerman created/filled out/used during the promotion of his books
The Self-Publisher's Time Line - LIVE!
  • a time line for the bit-by-bit approach that helps us to conquer the mountain that is publishing, with live links (given the correct .pdf reader)
Self-Publishing Resources - LIVE!
  • essentially a repackaging of the indexes of the book, with live links. Very helpful.

The first one is available for separate purchase, and at a discount if you buy it along with the book. The other two are offered as free bonuses for purchasing the book off his web site (you get your choice, or pay a bit more and get both) and sold as standalones as well. This is an example of creating "spinoff" items for purchase, which is covered in its own chapter. Their value, compared with the enormous expense of printing one's own book, is incredible. They are worth far more than the asking price. Of course, I bought the whole schlamazel.

It's easy to beat the same drum as others when writing a review like this, and should be avoided, but I cannot: his writing style is what sets this book apart from the rest. This has been said about all of his books, and frankly, it's worth noting again and again. Bowerman writes like he talks, which is what he advises.

While it is refreshing to see someone practice what he preaches, I must say there is one aspect of his writing that grates on me: he often uses incomplete sentences. Bowerman has done this since his first book, and it is a remnant of his marketing writing skills. He asserts in his first book that a writer need not always use complete sentences, because sometimes a conversational tone would otherwise be compromised. Every time I read one of the sentence fragments, it raises my hackles. There are enough instances of this for me to take note of it.

Should that discourage someone from purchasing this book? I think that would be foolish--especially if that person wants to be a publishing success. Really, it's my problem, because Bowerman is right: writing like we speak makes a book easy to read. I should just get over it.

Someone who wants to pursue a conventional publishing route may benefit from this read: knowing all of the different components of a book publishing project may help writers to understand why it is so difficult to have someone else publish them. Those who think that self-publishing is for them will enjoy this book more than the others out there, because of Bowerman's easy-reading style, and personable nature that comes across in his writing.

Yes, I'm a groupie, and yes, I'll buy anything he writes. There's a reason for that. Buy the book and discover what all of the Well-Fed writers know.


  1. ooohhhh.... can a poor friend borrow the book? I have an IDEA. It's such a good idea, I won't tell you about it in a public forum. ;->

  2. i'll have to wait for more "buckage" before I can do the buy the book thing.

    PS: BTW, great pic! I think my eyes are too myopic to do the tiny eyeglass thing...oh well, maybe someday.