Friday, June 06, 2008

The Well-Fed Self-Publisher by Peter Bowerman

The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living by Peter Bowerman
Nonfiction - authorship, marketing
294 pages, incl. appendixes and index
Copyright 2007
Author's website

What led you to pick up this book? The Well-Fed Self-Publisher is a book I requested for reviewing purposes. I've read similar books that put me to sleep and wanted to see if this one was an improvement.

Summarize the book without giving everything away. The Well-Fed Self-Publisher is subtitled "How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living," so right up front you know what exactly you're looking at. Author Peter Bowerman delves into the process of writing and publishing a book and marketing it to sell, in painstaking detail. He talks about the types of books that work best (nonfiction), how to write (conversationally), how to design, edit, choose a title and cover, apply for ISBN numbers and listings at Ingram's and Baker & Taylor, etc., how to decide whether or not to hire an outside publicist, how to prepare form letters and do a radio interview . . . on and on. It is truly a manual that takes you through every step of the process.

What did you like most about the book? I thought it was very readable and loved the extensive detail. The author delves into how to make sure you have a quality product, which organizations can be helpful to a single-book publisher, how much each part of the process costs and how you can cut corners, as well as when and where you shouldn't. The author includes loads of websites, extensive appendixes, and possible cost scenarios. He's honest; the up-front cost of quality self-publishing can be painful, even if you cut corners. But, I do believe the honesty is a part of the reason it's the best book I've ever seen about self-publishing. If he isn't an expert on a particular area, he loads you down with references that will lead you to the info you need.

What did you think of the concept and how it was described? It's almost ubiquitous, isn't it? The book about writing a book on writing a book? Okay, yeah, it's really about writing nonfiction, self-publishing and marketing to insure continued sales. Point being, I've seen (and read) many similar books and my first thought was, "It will probably be gimmicky." The Well-Fed Self-Publisher is not really gimmicky at all. He's done everything he describes. He tells you to write a story at the head of each chapter to grab people and you immediately take notice of the anecdotes at the beginning of the chapters. He describes how to design your cover for maximum impact and you realize that the cover is exactly as recommended -- it really does grab you, front and back. The fact is, the book is content-rich. A lot of how-to or self-help books are entirely bullets and headers that shout generalities but are low on usable advice. This book really walks you through the process.

Share a favorite tidbit from the book: There were several suggestions that rang true to my own experience. The author's advice about making your cover stand out, for example, is very good. When I worked at an off-price bookstore with primarily remaindered (over-run) books, my boss and I often unloaded the new stock together. He'd been working in book sales for many years and this is what he said as he sorted: "Junk. Junk. That'll be a great seller. Junk. Why do people even bother publishing this crap? Bland covers don't sell! Junk. Junk. Good one. That'll sell like hotcakes." Covers are critical; no doubt about it.

Thumbs up - Excellent detail, beautifully written, and it covers numerous topics that I've seen covered as individual books, this time within a single cover.

In general:
I was stunned. Most writing/publishing books are dry as a bone and I was afraid I might not be able to get through the book, but I was wrong. The chatty writing style makes it a comfortable read and (of course, he mentions this as a critical point when preparing your own book). It's extremely well-edited. I've got a natural critic's eye and almost invariably find some sort of grammatical error, typo, misspelling, etc. If there are any errors, I missed them. I did make the mistake of devoting myself to the book for several days. I need fiction breaks or it actually takes me longer to read a nonfiction book. It's been quite a while since I've made that error in judgment. Oh, well. The old lesson has been reinforced.

It would have been exhausting to visit all of the links provided (and pointless, since I'm not writing a nonfiction book) but I did check some out and I only have one quibble. There's one
book Bowerman advises the reader to look up at Amazon. He brainstormed the title with the book's author and thought it had tremendous impact. I looked up the book and was rather appalled to find that the cover was all black with the title in gold. All-black and all-white covers with no illustration were the most common titles that my boss threw in the junk pile. Color is good. I would have advised that author to choose a bright background color over black. Nothing else stood out in a negative way and the title was the point of that exercise, not the cover. I'm just being picky.

Other generalities: So much for an attempt at brevity. The header does say "babble", though, so apparently I knew myself well enough when I came up with my blog designation.

Getting back to: Eat, Pray, Love and The Queen of Sleepy Eye

Just read:
2 short stories from In the Land of Dreamy Dreams by Ellen Gilchrist

Considered but rejected: The idea of beginning a short story forum in which collections of
short stories are read and discussed. I simply don't have the time, as I'll be continuing to run back and forth between Mississippi and Oklahoma for a while. But I decided to go ahead and set up a short story blog for writing about the short stories I've read (those I feel compelled to talk about). I named it Put Your Shorts On. Ridiculous, but true.

Next review: Sway by Ori and Rom Brafman - the husband took it with him on the plane, so that's why I'm reviewing out of sequence.

Caught on film: My lizard buddy's girlfriend! She has the most glorious, long tail (and lovely orange-rimmed eyes). This isn't my best shot, but I wanted to show that terrific tail:

Wishing all and sundry a lovely, book-filled, relaxing weekend!

Bookfool, off to read another short story


  1. Anonymous6:12 PM

    I hope the baby wren made it. can judge a book by it's cover?

    It's hard not to.

  2. Carrie,

    I hope so, too. I'll probably never know, but I can pretend. :)

    The point is not that you can judge a book by its cover but that people do, yeah. It is hard not to; we all do it. You can often judge a book's sales by its cover, definitely. That was my experience at the store. A prominently displayed book with a plain white or black cover is practically invisible. People just don't notice them.

  3. What a pretty little lizard girl :)

    I've been looking for a good full process of book publishing book! This one sounds like a true winner. I liked Chris Baty's NaNo book that he wrote, but that's more of a writing book with a few little publishing tips at the end. My only criticism to this book (and I haven't read it) is that he should take his own advice and make the cover a little better! It looks like a college textbook....blah!

  4. Chris,

    Isn't Lizard Girl just darling? You should see the close-up. Like her boyfriend, she looked up at me when I spoke to her. Gotta love that! :)

    You think the book looks like a textbook? I don't think I saw it that way, although it definitely look "how-to" to me. I think I'd change to a glossy cover. They look slightly more professional than matte, to me.

    This particular book is really meant for people who plan to write a nonfiction book and self-publish. He pretty much says up front that fiction is a hard sell and his book is geared toward nonfiction writing. Although, to be honest, there are some great marketing tips that would probably help anyone. It sounds like miserably hard work to me. LOL

  5. I love your reason for picking Bowerman's book up. LOL I am glad it turned out to be worth your time.

    I haven't seen my little lizard friend in a couple of days. I wonder if he's found a new home. :-(

  6. Wendy,

    It was definitely worth the time. If I planned on writing and publishing a cookbook or a book about photography or writing or something in that vein, I'd definitely use that book as my guide.

    My little lizards disappear for a day or two, now and then. I don't know where they go. Off to play in the bushes, maybe? But, my favorite one always shows up, again, at some point. Yours will probably return. Aren't they such fun?


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