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Monday, November 15, 2010

Five Good Reasons to Go POD

Since I segued into writing books (my first, Ready, Aim, Specialize was published in 2003), I’ve been a traditional girl. Meaning, I’ve only worked with traditional publishers (think Random House) which pay an advance against royalties to acquire the rights to publish a book. To my mind, no money up front=no deal.

Of course I’d heard of POD, or print-on-demand, publishing but knew little about it. It sounded like the “lesser-than” option to me. I'd seen a lot of POD (often called self-published) books that frankly looked terrible. I didn't like the idea of being wholly responsible for selling a book (even though that's the case for pretty much any midlist author today). And I couldn't justify devoting my limited, precious work time to a book that I would have to pay to get in print (as opposed to being paid by a publisher to get it in print). Not for me, I thought.

Well, I was wrong. This year, I published my first POD book, Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books. But this wasn't a random act. Rather, it was a calculated decision which included weeks of research and thought to ensure that POD was the right choice. I had five compelling reasons to make the leap:

1. There was no competition for my book. When I looked for books on ghostwriting, there were only a couple—and they weren’t particularly helpful. The authors claimed to be making good money ghostwriting, but didn’t say how much. I hate that. I want specifics! I want details! The authors told you to make sure you had a written contract, but didn't give any examples. They didn't discuss how to negotiate fees, how to successfully market yourself to different kinds of clients, or how to address common problems that arise. I knew my book would include all that, and be the only one that gave readers everything they needed to know to break into this lucrative field.

2. The book fit into my platform. While I cover health, fitness, nutrition and wellness, I also have developed a "successful-freelancing-expert" platform over the past 14 years. I’m a contributing editor at The Writer magazine. I’ve written more than 80 features and columns about writing for markets ranging from Writer's Digest to Writing for Dollars and published two books on successful freelancing. Six-Figure Freelancing continues to sell well, even on a crowded bookshelf. (Seems like every writer wants to author a book about writing and I’m competing against names like Stephen King and Anne Lamott, so this is significant.)

3. I had much of the book already written. Here's the back story. I found a traditional publisher that decided to purchase the book. The advance was fair, and I immediately started researching, conducted a dozen interviews, and started writing to make a tight deadline. When higher-ups decided the book didn’t have enough of an audience, my editor had to pull the plug. Yet I already had a third of the book in the can--and I hated to abandon the time and work I'd already put it.

4. I knew I could sell it. And this is a big reason. Remember my "successful-freelancing-expert" platform? Well, that means my name is fairly well-known among freelancers. I do a lot of public speaking. I appear at writer’s conferences. I teach classes and workshops. I author this blog. I write lots of articles about freelancing. I’m responsive when readers contact me with questions. All of that helps me sell my writing-related books, including this one.

5. The book will attract new clients. Sure, I've got a platform already, but more than 50 percent of my work and income these days comes from ghostwriting/coauthoring--and that percentage continues to climb. I'm continuing to establish myself as a successful ghostwriter, and to do that, I need clients, especially those that pay well. Many of my ghosting clients author books to establish themselves as experts. I wanted to do the same.

And you know what? I wanted to write this book. A lot. I didn't realize how much until the publisher walked. This isn't a solid business reason to go POD. But remember that I'm ghostwriting most of the books I write. That means I’m always writing in someone else’s voice (I’m not complaining—that’s what I get paid to do!) Here, I had an opportunity to just "be me" for an entire whole book, which sounded really fun. (And it was, actually.)

I'll talk more about POD in future posts, including reasons *not* to go POD. And if you have specific questions about POD, comment here and I'll answer those as well.

I'll be interviewed by the smart and charming Ed Robertson about ghostwriting tonight, Monday, November 15, at 8:25pm central time (9:25 Eastern time, 6:25 Pacific time) on (Can't listen? It will also be broadcast at various times throughout the week on Shokus; check the site for details. After Sunday, November 21, the show will be archived on Ed's website,


  1. Kelly, I'm sure I'll be buying your book soon because I have read "Six Figure Freelancing" and love it. That's my point--you have an already established following, and we trust you, and that's why I'm willing to buy your book. But for authors with no following/expertise, how could buyers take the chance of buying something that might (with no publisher to flesh it out) be bad? Yet because I know your work and your expertise and your abilities, I'm definitely signed on to get this!!!

  2. Good point, Kristine. And the short answer is that authors need a following today, even before their book comes out. That's what has changed--it used to be that you could sell a book and build a platform from that. Now publishers expect you have a platform ahead of time--and that's just as true if you go POD or self-publish. You do that by writing articles about the subject, blogging, speaking, using social media, and doing other things to develop your expertise and build a readership as well. For more on this idea, check out Christina Katz's excellent book, Get Known Before the Book Deal.

  3. Interesting post, and as someone who has observed and participated in the explosion of self-publishing in the past two years, I am delighted to witness another person giving it a try.

    In response to Kristine, one of the ways that people who do not have a platform get readers is very similar to how a book that hasn't hit a bestseller list in a bookstore does--only you do it through eretailers like Amazon. You make sure that your book can be found through key words (tags) and browsing categories-(just as you would want your book to be shelved in the right place in a book store), and you make sure you have a title and cover that would strike someone as interesting. You have a product description and reviews that act the same way that the back cover and blurbs do on a traditional book. And you offer sample chapters-so the prospective buyer can get a feel for the book and make sure it is well produced.

    And, unlike a traditionally published book, if you don't already have a market-you have time to build it. I know the common wisdom is that you need to have a platform built before the book comes out (blog, twitter following etc) and this certainly helps, but it isn't necessary. When I published my historical mystery, Maids of Misfortune, last December I didn't have a platform, I started my blog after the book was out, I had a facebook following of about 50, I didn't have any reviews. But in the next 5 months I built that platform, as the book slowly began to sell. By month 6 it really took off, and I sold 500 books in November alone (most on Kindle). But if I had a traditionally published book, by month five the book probably woulld have been judged a failure and the returns would have begun.

    So, one of the benefits of POD, or self-publishing an ebook, is that you can take the time to build your readership, and your rankings, and your world of mouth.

  4. Great comment, Louisa--and you're right. POD gives you a lot more time and flexibility to build your audience/readership. You really have to take a "long-sales-cycle" approach to selling your books--something I "knew" before but now really *get*.

    And congrats on your book and your great sales--as I know from personal experience, fiction is much harder to sell than nonfiction!

  5. This is really interesting, Kelly. I had no interest in ghostwriting until I started to read more about it & opportunities came my way. I will definitely check out your book. One of the things I've always admired about you is how open you are about your career and how you DO give those specifics that are crucial for independent writers. Where else are we going to get that info if not from successful writers willing to share it? So thanks. :)

  6. Thanks, Abby! I think you'll find it helpful, and yup, it's chock-full of specifics! :) Please let me know what you think and if you have any questions about it afterwards. :)

  7. Hi Kelly! I'm late to this thread, but just wanted to let you know that I just purchased your book (so happy it's available on Kindle!) and can't wait to read it. I'm in the middle of ghosting my first project and am sure your book will be a great resource. Thanks for all you do for the freelancing community.

  8. Thanks so much, Anne! I hope you find it helpful...let me know what you think and if you have any questions I neglected to address. :)