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The Downside to DIY Publishing

For those of you curious about the world of do-it-yourself publishing, here are a few (humorous) questions you might want to ask yourself before you decide, as I did, to publish your own books.

For those of you curious about the world of do-it-yourself publishing, here are a few (humorous) questions you might want to ask yourself before you decide, as I did, to publish your own books.

1. Do I mind feeling like a drug dealer?
Back in the old days, when a corporation published my books, there was a whole retail apparatus in place to handle sales.

These days it’s … me.

I show up with my sack of books and people huddle around and slip me dirty fives and tens and I slip them their product. No register. No credit card machine. No receipt.

Because I lack basic organizational skills, as well as common sense, the cash piles up next to me. And because I encourage potential buyers to “sample my stuff,” I’m constantly paranoid someone’s ripping me off.

On the bright side: I’m occasionally able to come home and “make it rain” for my wife.

2. Am I cool with barter?
Nobody would think to offer, say, a box of chicken nuggets in exchange for a book at Barnes & Noble. And yet I am offered noncash items for my self-published books all the time.
A partial list:

  • Aforementioned chicken nuggets (declined)
  • Ride to the airport (accepted)
  • Toblerone bar (accepted!)
  • Sort of crummy-looking sweater (declined)
  • Homemade demo CD of a band called The Bloodwipers (accepted, regretted).

3. Do I have a toddler?
One of the (many) facets of self-publishing that I never considered was that I would have to store my “inventory.” And because I do not own a warehouse, and because my dwelling is the approximate size of a gingerbread house and contains not one, but two toddlers, it was more or less inevitable that one of them would spill juice all over my inventory.

Did I mention that I give a discount for books with sticky pages?

4. Do I have a pet?
The fact that my wife has a 16-year-old cat is also relevant, because:

a) The animal hides from my toddlers in my upstairs office, where I chose to store my inventory following the juice episode, and;

b) Throws up a lot.

5. Can I live with the low-level but persistent buzz of humiliation?
It’s hard enough to write a book, let alone print, market and sell the thing yourself. So you just have to accept that there are going to be times when you feel less like an author and more like Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman.

Measure your answers to these questions against this bottom line: If you can outlast the doubt—and minimize the cat puke—you’ve got a shot in this business.

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