Straight Talk About Self Publishing: An Interview with Miles Nelson of Dog Ear Publishing

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
With traditional publishers publishing fewer titles per year because of dwindling profits and the growth of digital media, many authors are considering their publishing options.

Some writers are frustrated with the difficulty of acquiring representation by an agent, and others are unhappy with the advance, royalties, or contract terms from a traditional publishing house, and then there are others who want more control and a larger percentage of their book sales. Those writers are the ones looking into self-publishing options with one primary goal in mind: to get their books into the hands of readers.

But how do you go about self publishing your book? What do self publishers do for you?

To help you navigate these tough choices and to give you a better understanding of your options, we've invited Miles Nelson of Dog Ear Publishing to answer some of our questions on the subject. Out of all the self-publishing companies, Dog Ear Publishing is the least expensive and the most upfront with their costs and process. Their site offers excellent information to help you compare various services. Writer's Digest featured Dog Ear Publishing as a "Get Smart Self-Publishing Resource" in their March/April '09 issue.

Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: Welcome, Miles. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today about self publishing! First, take us back to the unlikely start of your business. How do a geologist, astronomer, and graphic designer come together to create a self-publishing company?

Miles: Our bios make it sound like we came from completely different places in order to start Dog Ear Publishing. Actually, the three of us spent years in the traditional publishing and graphic arts industry. Our experiences include marketing of books for publishing companies, purchasing books for a bookstore chain, and producing books for some of the largest publishers in the country. However, in 2004 my partners and I decided to strike out on our own in the self publishing industry that, at the time, felt like the Wild West. And we've enjoyed every minute of it.

WOW: Well, if it isn't the Wild West anymore, do you think self publishing is the future of the industry?

Miles: It's difficult to predict what will happen to traditional publishing as their profits decrease and new technologies challenge their models. However, I remain comfortable in saying that the future includes both traditional and self-publishing industries. Traditional publishers, because of shrinking profits, technological advancements and amazing industry twists, will face a much more challenging future. I am confident that self publishing, including Dog Ear Publishing, will continue to grow as more authors become familiar with self publishing's strengths such as ownership of work, speed of production, and profit potential. At Dog Ear Publishing, for example, we take advantage of cutting edge technologies and industry trends. We embrace trends like e-books, and already produce e-books with four major readers--Kindle, Sony, Apple, and Barnes and Noble's Nook.

WOW: Tell us about your typical client...are certain books, topics or authors more natural for self publishing?

Miles: A typical self published author falls into one of the following general categories:
  1. The author that remains hopeful that they'll eventually be traditionally published but doesn't want to wait any longer in getting published.
  2. The author wants to maintain ownership and control over their material.
  3. The author that wants to profit from their work and isn't satisfied with the traditional publishing payment model.
I feel that any author is a good fit for Dog Ear Publishing. Our services are flexible to meet the needs of all authors.

WOW: What are the advantages of self publishing?

Miles: Advantages to self publishing include the author's maintaining control and ownership of their work. I'm always impressed with the passion an author has for their work. I'm often told that their book is their baby. An author wants the finished book to be perfect and they want it to be their own.

Another big advantage is time. Self publishing enables the author to be proactive. They decide when to publish as opposed to waiting for a traditional publisher to "accept" their manuscript. This can be very empowering to an author. By the way, self publishing doesn't shut the door on whether an author can traditionally publish. In fact, self publishing their book may even accelerate the process or even open doors that, for the most part, are completely closed to first time or unknown authors.

Self publishing is a perfect option for books with extremely limited market potential. We've done a number of books that have regional or even smaller market appeal. A traditional publisher would find this sort of book unappealing if the potential for sales is too small.

Lastly, a big advantage to self publishing is profit potential. An author choosing to self publish is like a small business owner. Many authors to a lot of work in marketing their books. As a result, many of them profit from their efforts.

WOW: Do you have a vetting process or do you accept all clients?

Miles: Generally, we accept all works from authors with a few minor exceptions. Remember, this is self publishing, the author owns the rights to their work. It isn't our place to judge whether an author should be published. We leave that to traditional publishers. By the way, it is interesting to see more and more traditional publishers getting into the self publishing market either by partnering with a self publisher or by purchasing their way into the market.

WOW: The industry is definitely reimagining itself. How much say does a Dog Ear author have about when a book is released, title and cover design, size of book, size of the run, etc.?

Miles: The author has complete control over the look of their book and the timing of their publishing date. Remember, the author owns the book. They get to decide how the book's interior and cover will look. Additionally, the author decides on the retail price. Author control and author ownership are the names of the game with Dog Ear Publishing.

WOW: Do you provide any marketing or promotion for your authors?

Miles: Dog Ear Publishing provides marketing assistance. For example, we can develop online marketing campaigns to drive traffic to an author's website. We build these websites and equip them to sell and fulfill orders. In addition to marketing, we also provide tools to assist authors profit more on each sale.

WOW: Can you tell us about some of your best-selling books or authors?

Miles: Success is all in the eye of the author. Each author has a different measure for success. In terms of sales success, I have a feeling this is what you are interested in; we published a book by Jim Johnson on treating your own rotator cuff injury. He sells thousands of books a quarter.

[Editor's note: you can see a list of their published titles here. Including a book from one of WOW's friends--Moira Allen of Writing-World.Com!]

WOW: That's impressive! I wouldn't mind selling thousands of books a quarter and keeping the majority of the profits, no less. And one final just-because-I'm-nosy question: how did you come up with the name of your company?

Miles: Our name gets a lot of attention. You "dog ear" a page of a book that you want to remember. Thankfully, we were feeling very creative the day we came up with our name. The dog on our website is named Chooch and is owned by one of my partners.

WOW: I have a feeling a lot of readers will be "dog earing" your company. And say hello to Chooch for us!

To learn more about self publishing, read these helpful articles on the Dog Ear site:
Choosing a Path: Traditional Publishing or Self-Publishing
Self-Publishing Explained
Compare Self-Publishing Companies
The Publishing Process
How to Write a Book Marketing Plan
Amazon Sales Rank Explained (Great explanation, finally!, of what those Amazon numbers mean.)

The site also has so many useful resources and sections including: "Author Kit," which contains information on pricing your book, parts of a book, and manuscript format; "Publishing Basics," which contains information on how to publish a book, how much it costs, ISBNs and barcodes, On-Demand publishing, and copyrights and permissions; and even a section for writing resources and a recommended reading list of books about self-publishing.

You can also sign up to receive a free report: The Five Things You Must Do Before Publishing.


Elisa said...

Excellent interview. I self-published for all of the reasons you listed, and have had success beyond what I imagined. It's not the way to go for everyone, but in this day and age I think it's something for every writer to consider.

Thanks so much for what you do!

David said...

It’s easy to talk to ourselves in a negative way, the hard bit and the part which makes us successful, (whatever that is for you), is to talk to yourself in a positive way.

Thanks for the post.

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