13 Tips on Self-Publishing Success



cup and book and rose on a table


A new breed of publication consultants has grown up  alongside the flourishing self-publishing population to serve as guidance counselors ,


through each phase of the complicated process.

Though self-publishing is largely considered a DIY endeavor—hence the designation self-publishing, there may be many advantages to using a professional book shepherd (as book consultants.


have been dubbed by self-publishing guru Dan Poynter) that makes hiring one well worthy of consideration.


As anyone who’s courageously ventured into the arena of self-publishing.

knows—or soon will—there’s much more involved in the process than simply sending your manuscript off to a printer.  dropping off review copies at a handful of bookstores, and kicking back and waiting for the revenues to roll in.


To the uninitiated author journeying alone,

the critical decisions that need to be made along the way can be overwhelming, frustrating, and even downright daunting.


But, just what exactly is a book shepherd?

In practice, many of the professional services book shepherds provide include either direct assistance with or advice on cover and. interior book design, manuscript editing, printer brokering, forms filing, production, distribution, marketing, and publicity.


Some shepherds work within fully staffed one-stop firms that will ferry your book through production and beyond; others work autonomously and will often refer you to experts in the areas they don’t handle.


Laura Geller


The Benefits of Hiring a Book Shepherd

Collaborating with a good book shepherd can increase your chances for publishing success—in more ways than you might think. “There’s a bit of a misconception about what a book shepherd does,


” says Ellen Reid of Smarketing-Infinite Possibilities, “that it’s all about book production. That’s a component of what we do,


but it’s not the entire reason to hire a book shepherd.”

Reid likens her consulting approach to playing the role of a creative director at an ad agency or the producer of a film. and she revels in the creative aspect of her job. First,

she assembles a creative team of resources for each of her clients—a copywriter, an editor.  and a cover and interior designer—


then she oversees every aspect of design,   production, and distribution.

Book shepherds can save authors time and keep them from making the major mistakes that self-publishing rookies are apt to make. “Self-publishing is not a simple business,” says Simon Warwick-Smith,



president of Warwick Associates and former senior VP of marketing for a large U.S. book distributor, “and people can either spend a few years learning about it, or they can go to someone who’s been there who can tell them what to do.”




Cynthia Frank, book consultant and president of Cypress House,


who has 20 years’ experience in the business, shares Warwick-Smith’s philosophy and uses a similar approach. Frank asks her clients to describe their definition of publishing success so that she can help them reach that level, 


whether it’s achieving a good sales ranking on Amazon.com or using their first book as a stepping stone to a traditional publishing contract. Next she asks her authors to perform a self-assessment,


honestly representing their weaknesses and strengths regarding aspects of the business. so she can formulate a comprehensive plan that will align their definition of success with the concrete steps to making it happen.



“If my client is not good at marketing, for example,

and all of his capital is tied up in inventory,” says Frank, “then there’s no money left over for marketing, and he’s heading for trouble. I help my clients see where they’re coming up short in the planning stages.”



Book shepherds also help their clients get up to speed quickly.

on the ins and outs of self-publishing. “There’s so much jargon in our industry, and if somebody is just starting out, their eyes will be spinning in their head,” says Frank.


We explain the different registrations and distribution methods and help them decide whether their books should be sold in bookstores, specialty shops, or gift and stationery stores, for example.”


Planning ahead, experts agree, is of the utmost importance.

Self-publishing is, in effect, a small business, and it deserves to be treated as such right from the start. Most shepherds strongly advise authors to prepare a formal business plan for a self-publishing venture .


before they even begin writing the manuscript. “Oftentimes we see people go into self-publishing with no more forethought than they would use to order a meal at a fancy restaurant,” says Frank.


Sometimes, too, a book shepherd has connections and proven

strategies that can benefit the aspiring author.

“I’ve developed relationships with national distributors,” says book shepherd Gail Kearns of To Press and Beyond, “and if the product is great and the price is right,


I can usually get the books into the hands of distributors. We also have some creative ideas for marketing that don’t cost a lot of money.”


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