Write On Review: Entrepreneurial Publishing
by Elias Kamal Jabbe, Founding Editor of MulticulturalMatters.org

CS Network Founder Scott Asai introduces authors Josh Allan Dykstra and Lonnie Millsap

Entrepreneur Scott Asai shared best practices for individuals interested in self-publishing their books earlier this month at The OP Cafe in Santa Monica. Asai’s CS Network presentation conducted in collaboration with fellow authors Lonnie Millsap and Josh Allan Dykstra shed light on the struggles, joys, and wide variety of options that come with taking an entrepreneurial publishing approach.

The presentation specifically focused on the journeys that the authors took when publishing their first books. Asai, Dykstra, and Millsap—authors of The Startup Church, Igniting the Invisible Tribe, and My Washcloth Stinks, respectively—agreed that aspiring authors should honestly ask themselves why they want to write before they even pick up the pen.

Publishing Purpose
“Always go back to ‘why are you writing this book?’ and ‘who am I writing this book for?’…If not, you’ll find yourself drifting into (thoughts like) ‘I think an author should do this,'” said Dykstra. “You need to do what you need to do to accomplish your goal for why you want to write the book.”

Though the speakers made it clear that they weren’t making much money from selling their books online, they also explained that self-publishing in both print and digital formats isn’t extremely expensive either. Dykstra—who explained that he makes $1 for every physical copy of his $15.95 book sold on Amazon after all commisions are substracted—recommended BookBaby.com for those who want to reach the screens of tablets around the world at a low cost.

“BookBaby is a terrific option if you want to pursue digital publishing. You pay setup fees and then you get to keep 100 percent of the profit from sales of your eBook. You pay for BookBaby’s service of converting your text to eBook format and then you can choose which distributors to pay: Amazon (for the Kindle), Apple (for iTunes), or others,” said Dykstra, who said his small-sized publisher Silver Thread Publishing gives him 30 percent of profit from book sales rather than the 10 percent offered by large, traditional publishers.

Alternative Approach
Millsap, who has strong design skills and Adobe PhotoShop expertise thanks to years of experience as a cartoonist, decided to take a hands-on approach when it came to designing and printing his book.

“I wanted to control everything from A to Z. So I ended up designing the cover, researching printers, getting a business license and negotiating a good price for printing copies,” said Millsap, who said he paid $2,300 for 1,000 copies (instead of the initial cost of $3,500) thanks to bargaining with a printing company based in the US.

He also added that it is cheaper to print in foreign countries like China, Korea and Canada if authors can handle the logistics and cost of international shipping.

Attracting Audiences
Regardless of which publishing route, authors must have a creative marketing strategy in order make sure they reach their target audience. Asai said that his experience and those his friends had indicated that marketing online and on the ground both had their distinct advantages.

“One of the challenges that come with writing a book is getting it out there to readers. I started my book in August 2012 and finished it within a month thanks to making myself write 2 hours a day every single day, but it wasn’t published until November because of various delays. I decided to promote my book via speaking opportunities because I realized that people make emotional decisions when it comes to purchasing and they often buy books written by a speaker if they enjoyed what he or she said during their speech,” said Asai.

“On the other hand, a friend of mine told me that using Facebook helped her promote her book effectively through a ‘word of mouth’ marketing style.”

Dykstra also encouraged the audience to remember that the work doesn’t stop when a book is completed.

“You can’t just write: you have to be an entrepreneur and promote your book in creative ways. When it comes to creativity, you are your only limitation.”

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