Self-publishing and POD (publish on demand)

My buddy Bill Quain and I are doing a podcast series on behalf of It’s called FastPencil Pointers, and you can get it on iTunes or here. As we were preparing next week’s issue, I realized that many people do not know what self-publishing and publish-on-demand are.


Self-publishing: The publishing of a book or books where the author is also the publisher.

Publish-on-demand: The use of print-on-demand equipment to produce books in as small a quantity as one.

Thanks to the Internet and modern printing and binding technologies, it is possible for an author to publish his or her own book without having to invest heavily in large quantities of printed copies and the attendant logistics.

A self-publisher can use a publish-on-demand company for producing the book, or simply have it printed by a traditional book printer.

POD companies often offer additional services to the author, such as ISBN codes; cover design; connection to distributors, like Ingram (who supply bookstores, like Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc.); editing; and more.

The initial POD vendors were not always transparent about the specifics of their service offerings, and sometimes left customers unsatisfied with the value of the “packages” they had bought. Today, competition has forced these firms to be more open about precisely what they do and do not provide. It’s easier for an author to make comparisons than ever before.

I recommend self-publishing to all my authors. If you publish your book yourself, and sell a few thousand copies–and then pitch a major publisher–you will be in a FAR better position to bargain for royalty rates, promotional budgets, intellectual property rights, and more. But frankly, at that point you may ask yourself whether the imprimatur of the major publisher is worth what you may have to give up.

As an author, you will make out better financially if you get a cover designed; get your book printed; and control your own promotion. Now, you may not have the time or the inclination to do those things, and there are plenty of people who will gladly undertake to do them for you; but whichever way you go, you should study the process so that you will understand what you are buying.

Produce book video trailer for next to nothing

I’ve been working with my new friend Bill Quain on a variety of projects. (Check out our FastPencil Pointers podcast, or download it from iTunes.) Now we are preparing a teleseminar on producing a compelling video trailer for your book–at almost no cost.

The secret is, a website that uses artificial intelligence to create a fabulous video from still, video clips, and audio that you create or choose. Here’s what Bill wrote to his subscribers:

This message goes out to all of my newsletter subscribers. I have some very exciting news.

You can create fantastic, high-quality video Book Trailers for FREE! I did a couple, and they took me about 40 minutes each.

Now realize this – I am legally blind, 57 years old, and not that bright. Imagine what you can do! Just click here to sign up for your free account .

As a free account holder, you may create as many 30-second videos as you like. But, get this – for just $30/year you can upgrade to an account that lets you create as many full-length videos as you like!

Animoto provides all the music, and an incredible editor that allows you to upload images, create text, and even upload video clips. Then, their fantastic software mixes the music and creates a tempo, with many interesting transition techniques to make your video a really cool experience.

This is not just for book trailers! Many of my clients are coaches who would love to have a great, professional quality video on their websites. One friend of mine, who does a lot of workshops, takes pictures of the people in the workshop, inserts some text with points from the workshop, uploads some Animoto audio tracks with music, then shows the video at the workshop. He then emails it to each participant (Animoto actually does it for you) so they have a great reminder of the workshop, along with some major points.

Now, here is a special announcement for all the MEMBERS of The Anatomy of a Best-Selling Book membership site. I am going to give you a FREE tutorial on using Animoto. It will be coming up in the next two weeks, so sign up for your free acount, and upgrade to All Access status ($30/year) if you like. I will teach you exactly how to produce a video.

For those of you who are not MEMBERS of my site, the workshop will cost $39.77. Even if you have to pay, it is a very valuable tool. It will FLATTEN THE LEARNING CURVE!

(If you want to see a sample of one of my videos, just send me an email to request a link.)

Watch this space for the announcement of the workshop.

FastPencil gets some ink

It was a good day at My friends at this Campbell, CA startup were featured on VentureBeat and in the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, the new FastPencil Pointers podcast site–that’s with me and my buddy Bill Quain–is up, and the podcast is also available in iTunes.

All of which probably means it’s time for you to take a look at and see what it has to offer authors and publishers. Good stuff.

Do you have to write your own book to have a book?

No. You can have someone do it for you.

Different people have different ways of working with authors. And of course, it very much depends on the type of book you want written.

I’m writing a book for an inventor/engineer right now. He does not intend to use it to market his services; he wants to simply put forth some of his ideas, many of which are quite provocative, into the world.

I’m speaking with another person who also has provocative ideas, but wants to use the book to build a speaking platform and additional products.

Different purposes, different processes. With the first book, we worked to come up with a detailed table of contents. Then I interviewed the man accordingly. Now I am turning those results into a manuscript.

And he wants me to be the author.

With the second, the client will be the author. I will structure, interview, and write. I don’t plan for my name to appear on the book.

In both cases, I will take care of the publishing, and consult on the promotion and sales.

Is this a good way to do things? That depends on your goals. My time–and that of anyone who you’d want to have write a book for you–is valuable. The question you have to answer is: How valuable is your time? Would you be better served creating new products for your business, or writing your book yourself? (I can help you do that, too, of course.)

Do you want it done quickly? What’s it costing you not to have a book out yet? When you consider the whole picture, the cost of having someone write a book for you might show up as a good investment.

There are other–less expensive–shortcuts to getting a book out. For example, I have a template-based book kit for coaches, and will soon have them for other professions. For a few hundred dollars, you can create a good book, and have it published inexpensively.

If you’d like to discuss your options and possible strategies, click on the calendar in the right-hand column to pick a time for a no-obligation strategy call with me.

Color brochure vs. book

Your book can replace your color brochure. Let’s do a simple comparison:

A brochure tells what you do, what benefits the prospect will get, and how to contact you.

A book can do all that–plus you have as many pages as you need to explain the uniqueness of your process and to share case histories of clients you’ve worked with.

A nicely designed and nicely printed brochure establishes your significance.

Your book establishes you as an authority, not just someone who was able to afford a fancy brochure.

Do you keep fancy brochures you get? No? Neither does anyone else. They throw them out as soon as you’re out of the room.

Do you throw away books? Especially books that have been inscribed to you? No, and neither do I. Your book will hang around your prospect’s office or home–probably forever.

What does a brochure say about you? That you have good artistic taste; that you invested in a nice brochure.

What does a book say about you? That you are an author–and therefore, an authority. An expert in your field.

A nice brochure is expensive–$3-$5 each, by the time you’ve paid a designer and printer.

A hundred-page book with a full-color cover is $1.10 in quantity 500–less in larger quantities.

So–what’s a better investment for you? Book or brochure?

Be real

If you want to build an audience of people who know you, like you, and trust you, you need to be yourself. Which should be a relief, because you have no competition for that role.

But if instead you try to sound like someone else, or like something you are not, you are sure to fail. People are astonishing in their ability to smell the inauthentic, the phony. It’s not a conscious thing; it is intuitive. You are good at it, too; you know who sounds real, who sounds like a person you might get to like, and who is trying to sell you a bill of goods.

“Authenticity is the key. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made,” is an old cynical joke. But the truth is that authenticity cannot be faked or imitated. Your readers’ BS detectors will be ringing all over the world if you try to pass off some imagined image of who you think you ought to be on them.

Don’t bother. It has no upside. Be yourself. You are not only good enough; you are wonderful! You have something powerful and unique to offer, something that nobody else has. Yes, it may take some work to find out exactly how to express it. But you know what? You can get help from your public.

Start with a blog. Communicate on a regular basis with your audience. Ask for their feedback. Give them yours, respectfully. It won’t be long at all before you find out who you are and how you appear to your market.

You can use polls to ask your readers about things, too. And all of this interaction is fuel for your book, for the powerful message you will package and deliver to your readers.

But don’t wait to construct a flawless persona; nobody has one, and if you present one, it will be immediately recognized as phony.

Be yourself.

What will a book do for me?

Literally? Nothing. A book, even one with a  cover, and your name and face on it, and marvelous content describing your uniqueness, and the uniqueness of your approach to your clients’ greatest pain, will do nothing for you. Nothing.

However, you can do a lot with your book. You can use it as a key to unlock hitherto sealed doors, a credential to bring you the respect you deserve, a validation to allow you to charge the fees that are your due.

Moreover, the book-writing process–actually, my book-writing process–will empower you to take the stuff that is floating around in your head and turn it into an organized body of knowledge. That organized body of knowledge can become a book, and much more–ebooks; courses; keynote speeches; and many other products.

By writing your book my way, you actually inventory your store of knowledge. You see, if you are like most people, you don’t know what you know. That is, you can’t make a list of all the things you have learned. You just know them, and they serve you in your profession. But if asked to make a list of them, you’d be hard put to lay them out.

My book-writing process empowers you to do just that–to list all the things you know in a way that you can share them with others.

Once you have this catalog, this inventory of your peculiar expertise and experience, you can easily turn it into products. Each chapter in your book can be a string of podcasts. Each subchapter is, at the very least, a blog entry. The book’s title is a theme for a course, a membership site, a coaching program–you get the idea. It’s all knowledge, and it has value.

So do it. Try my book-writing process. Build your new business.

Quain: Kindle worthless?

My friend and colleague, Bill Quain, sent me this shocking thought:

The Kindle Is Practically Worthless

I just heard a very interesting story about the Amazon Kindle.  It demonstrates just how much publishing has changed, and how many opportunities there are today for authors – if you just open your eyes and your minds!  It is time to think different.

Why do I say “The Kindle is worthless?”  Read this:

My friend Rocco is one of theose classic gentlemen from the Old School.  He is 79 years old, and after a career in the hotel business, he became a college professor, and eventually a college dean.  Today, semi-retired, Rocco still travels frequently.  Before his recent trip to Paris for a meeting, he bought an Amazon Kindle.

Rocco was amazed at the convenience of the Kindle.  He told me that he immediately bought four books and put them on the machine.  “It only weighs 11 ounces,” he said.  He loved it, and used it extensively on the plane trip.

When he got home from Europe, he was unpacking the Kindle and dropped it on to the tile floor.  When he turned it on, a large area in the upper right corner of the screen was unreadable.  He called the Amazon support center to see what they could do.

The technician he spoke with tried directing Rocco on a few “saves,” but nothing worked.  So, the technician said “We will overnight a new Kindle to you.  The package will have an envelope to send us the old one back – no charge.”  Sure enough, the next day, the new Kindle arrived and Rocco was back in business.  Amazon even transferred his four books to the new machine.

Do you see why I say the Kindle is practically worthless?  Amazon places very little value on the machine.  They place TREMENDOUS value on their channel of distribution.  If that channel closes (if the reader no longer has a working Kindle) then Amazon  cannot sell books!  Folks, the machine is practically worthless.  The problem-solving process is where the value lies.  A Kindle is only worth something (to both the owner and the supplier) if it is in working order and if the owner is buying books to read on it.

Some Points to Ponder

  1. Amazon is not trying to keep books out of the market.  They want as many books available as possible.
  2. Amazon does not make any decision about the quality of the books.  They let the customers decide if the book is good.  And do you know how Amazon judges the quality of a book?  “Is it good enough for someone to buy?”
  3. Amazon does not care if a book is good or not because they have no costs invested in the book.  This is quite different than “traditional” publishers who spend thousands of dollars–no, make that hundreds of thousands of dollars–on a book before they ever make a dime.
  4. If a book only sells ten copies, and those ten readers were satisfied with it, then that makes Amazon happy.  Amazon knows that happy customers buy more books.

Some Lessons to Learn

Stop wasting your time trying to find a traditional publisher and a traditional agent.  Self-publish your book NOW.  There are people out there with Kindles who want to read your book.  There are also people who buy from Amazon (and other distributors).

Remember, there are riches in the niches!  Know your market segments and work them hard.  Give them exactly what they want and they will want more.

If your dream is to be in a bookstore, then write a great book and promote it to your niche.  Sell some books.  Look for a traditional publisher AFTER you sell a lot of books.  Better yet, let them look for you.

Kep your costs down.  Amazon makes money because they have few costs.  Look for a “print on demand” company.  Better yet, look for a company that gives you ALL the tools you need to publish your book for FREE.  (For more information on this incredible news flash, write to me at and use the subject line “How do I get FREE publishing tools?”

Be like the Amazon Kindle.  Don’t worry about the bookstore, worry about the book buyers.

Bill Quain, Ph.D.
CEO & Executive Author
Wales Publishing Company
(609) 399-2119 – office
(305) 606-8976 – cell

Helping authors WRITE,PUBLISH, and SELL their books


If you want your book to be read, and to do good for people, an excellent approach is to focus on a particular pain that your audience is experiencing. Of course, this means you must have a specific audience in mind when you are writing. And that’s worth at least a paragraph or two right here.

You want to write a book. You have things to say, things you want people to know. Things you want people to know about you. Who are these people? Before you answer, let me give you a hint: It’s not “everybody.”

There are very few things that are truly of interest to everybody. And if you write so as to offer something for every conceivable reader, you’ll find that nobody wants to read what you’ve written–because too little of it pertains to them, to their life, to their interests.

You must have an audience in mind when you are writing–and you must characterize them to yourself, so that you are writing to a single person who represents you audience. Without that model, it will be very hard for you to write in a way that is meaningful and interesting. “Meaning” is a very local matter; shared meaning is usually confined to groups with shared interests.

Once you’ve identified your audience, you want to address issues of immediate concern; in other words, pain points. When you write things that are generally interesting or funny, you’ll capture readers who have a bit of time on their hands, and are looking for something with which to occupy themselves. But when you write about someone’s pain, you have your reader’s full attention. They are looking for ways to abate their pain, and if you have a product, a service, or an approach that will help them, they are yours. “The Fun I had Driving Coast to Coast”–maybe dentist waiting-room reading. “How to Stop Lower Back Pain in 24 Hours or Less”–“Gimme!” says any sufferer.

So ask yourself: What’s the purpose of your book? Do you want to entertain your reader, or move them to action? If the latter, get very clear on who your ideal reader is, and address a point of pain for them.

Another plug for FastPencil

I’ve written before about, an online collaborative portal for authors. But “online collaborative portal” doesn’t really convey the whole juicy picture.

Here’s more of the story: When you decide you seriously want to write a book, you may just start writing. Or perhaps you start thinking things through and realizing there are lots of details standing between you and a published book. This may add to your stress, or cause you to put off the whole idea once more.

Or maybe you find out about free publishing sites, like You go there, find out you have to produce a PDF for the whole thing to work right. You enter into the operational labyrinth–and find out there is no phone support, and email support is leisurely. You make it through the process, somehow; the book looks good on-line, so you order a proof copy, as they recommend. The book arrives a few days later….and it’s full of garbage, because the PDF conversion didn’t work. The on-line version showed you looked fine; it just didn’t come out that way in the book.

Now try to find out what went wrong. And by the way, the book and shipping were at your expense.

I worked with an author who went through 5 cycles like that until getting it right.

FastPencil is different. For one thing, it lets you write on-line; no need to worry about conversion. For another, when you’re ready to convert to different formats, FP worries about that for you.

The FastPencil Marketplace gives you access to cover designers, editors, promoters, and a variety of publishing and distribution options. All inexpensive. (You’ll soon see courses there by me and Dr. Bill Quain that offer you some extra assistance in writing and promoting your book; watch for them.)

Membership in FastPencil is free.

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