I hadn’t been editing books long when I was approached by the husband of one of my good friends, Colin Tipping. He had written a book, called Radical Forgiveness, and was looking for someone to help him edit it and get it ready for self-publishing. Given that I am “spiritually- and metaphysically inclined,” and this was a spiritually- and metaphysically-based book, I was thrilled to take on the project; it allowed me to meld my general knowledge of the topic with my specific knowledge about writing, editing and publishing. (It actually gave me a chance to begin specializing in editing nonfiction books of a spiritual and metaphysical nature, although I also edit lot of other types of nonfiction books).
Colin went on to become extremely successful with Radical Forgivenessand to write several more books. I actually didn’t realize how success and well-known he’d become until I was introduced by a colleague to a woman who moves in spiritual and metaphysical circles as “the editor of Radical Forgiveness,” and she knew the book and was impressed that I had something to do with it and knew Colin. The fact that she was impressed impressed me! In fact, not only did Radical Forgiveness win a Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Award, but it has sold well over 100,000 copies. Colin now spends his time trotting around the globe doing workshops and seminars and pursuing what he loves: teaching, writing and helping people.
So, today I’m happy to let Colin tell you his self-publishing tale. It has ups and downs, but offers many bits of wisdom for those of you wanting to take the self-publishing route with your books. Many people I know have approached him for his “secrets” on successful self-publishing. Here, he tells you the path he took and discloses a few tips and pointers.
A Cautionary Self-Publishing Tale with 10 Tips and A Great Ending
By Colin Tipping
Workshop and Seminar Leader
I had been thinking about writing Radical Forgiveness for about seven years, and figured I would do so when I had enough time and enough money. Well, I could never seem to get enough of either, so it didn’t get written. I used to visit the big bookstores with some trepidation to examine the books on forgiveness to see if anyone had written the one I had in mind. I noticed there was still a big hole there just waiting to be filled by my book.
In December 1996, I attended a Mind/Body/Spirit Healing conference in Hiltonhead, and went to listen to one of the obscure side speakers, not knowing anything about her. Her name was Caroline Myss (Sacred Contracts). As she talked, I realized that she might write my book if I didn’t do it first. I came home and said to my wife, “I am going to give up selling real estate (which was my job at the time), and I am going to write my book.”
I began writing it early in the year of 1997. It took about six months to write and have edited by Nina Amir and then another three months to get it ready for publication. I spent one whole month working on getting testimonials. I got some, including ones from authors Caroline Myss, John Bradshaw, and Alan Cohen.
I published the book in October of 1997 with a print run of 2,500. I mortgaged my house in order to come up with the money for that print run and the other expenses. Print-on-demand was not yet available. When I received the pallet of cartons full of books, it was quite an experience opening that first box and seeing all those books with my name on it.
I got it into the New Leaf Distribution Company, which covers most of the new-thought and self-help stores on the Eastern side of the country and found Access Publisher’s Network, a company that would get it into the more mainstream stores including the chains.
In 1998, I won the Writer’s Digest National Self-Published Book Award in the inspirational category which I felt was quite a coup. It enabled me to put ‘Award-Winning Author’ on all my publicity.
My plan from the outset was to self-publish and then, once I had sold 10,000 copies, find an agent and shop it around to various publishers. So, I was caught off-guard one day when an editor from the William Morrow Company called me out of the blue and asked me whether I was interested in receiving an offer on the rights. My initial response was that this seemed premature to me, and I explained to her how I had planned things. She actually had not yet read the book but was calling on recommendation from one of her published authors. So the editor said she would get back to me with an offer in the following few days.
Two days later she called offered me an advance of $50,000-$25,000 on signing and the other half on publication. I had no idea whether that was a good offer or not, so I asked her for 24 hours to think about it. I checked with some friends. They said I should have jumped at it. So, I called her back the next day and agreed on the main deal points.
When I got the contract to sign, I went out and bought a book called How to be Your Own Literary Agent. I used that to go over the contract with a fine tooth comb, taking out all the innocuous sounding words that can trap you in serious ways. I then took it to an attorney to look it over and to make sure I had covered all the points. He said I had. I saved several hundred dollars, if not thousands, by doing it that way.
Thank God I had the foresight to add the following clause: “Author reserves the right to continue self-publishing the Work to within 60 days of the actual publishing date.” That clause saved my bacon, because within a couple of days of William Morrow receiving the contract duly signed and executed, Harper Collins pulled a hostile take-over and William Morrow was history. Harper Collins had a book on forgiveness coming out of their San Francisco office, so they put mine on the shelf. Had I not included that clause, my book might never have seen the light of day. There was also a clause where they promised to publish within 18 months of the date of the contract, so when that came up, my editor (who had not been fired) told me quietly that I could ask to buy the rights back. I did, and they agreed.
They wanted the $25,000 back they had given me on signing, but I refused. I had been damaged by the delay and had already paid taxes on that money. We eventually settled on the following. If I sold the rights to another publisher, I would have to pay them $10,000 out of first proceeds. If I did not sell it within three years, I would be free of any obligation.
I still have the book and have no intention of selling it to any publisher, so I ended up $25,000 to the good on that deal, but it just as easily could have been a disaster. I have heard many horror stories of publishers putting a book on the shelf and author being unable to get it back. I was extremely fortunate.
However, the drama around this book did not end at that point. Not long after, we got wind that Access Publisher’s Network, the main distributors for the book besides, was going bankrupt. They were in possession of a large number of my books, and it became clear the books were going to be deemed assets of the company for bankruptcy purposes, so they were lost. Interestingly enough, the retail value of the books was about $25,000-the same amount I had received out of my publishing agreement. I was extremely fortunate that I was released from the contract with Access; I was the only author who was, as far as I know.
In spring of 2002, I wrote and published the second edition of the book. The cover was much improved and the content was updated and upgraded. Some chapters were dropped and new ones inserted. I also put the Epilogue into one of the chapters and had a new Epilogue on 9/11.
Just as I was about to go to print on the second printing of the second edition, I received a phone call from Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God). He was effusively complimentary about my book, and said it even saved his daughter’s life. He had formed a small imprint attached to Hampton Roads Publishing Company and wanted to publish my book under the banner of Walsch Books. We met, and he told me he was going to help me sell millions of books. The president of Hampton Roads was supposed to call me in the following days to work out the deal, but the days went by and I heard nothing. After a couple of months, I wrote to Neale declining his offer. The president was on the phone the next day trying to get me to sign up with, blaming his secretary for not having sent me the contract. I asked him the following question: “Bearing in mind that I have my book in all the major distributors in the country, including Ingram Book Group, Baker & Taylor, Barnes and Noble, and Borders, what could you do for me that I am not doing for myself?”
“Virtually nothing,” came his reply.
“So, why would I give up earning $4 or $5 per book as my own publisher and accept less than a dollar in royalties from you without the assurance that you could at least quadruple my sales?” It was a no-brainer.
Later that year, I happened to meet socially with a man who was a senior executive at Putnam’s Sons. He asked me how many books I had sold. I told him 20,000. His response was, “Whatever you do, don’t give it to a publisher. They can’t do any more than you are already doing, they would expect you to market it anyway, and you’ll make far less money.”
I then placed my book with a small distribution company in the Boston area called The Quest Publishing and Distribution Company and have been with them ever since. To date I have sold approximately 100,000 books in the US, and another 20,000 in Australia and other Commonwealth countries. I have sold foreign rights to publishers in Russia, Poland, Finland, Turkey, Spain, Czech Republic, Holland, France and Germany. The German publisher sold 10,000 in the first year and has sold over 50,000 to date. I have also published it in Spanish for the U.S. and the Central and South American market. Radical Forgiveness is still doing well everywhere and has become very much a word of mouth phenomenon.
Random House Germany approached me last year and asked if I would write a book on Radical Self-Forgiveness with an advance of 20,000 Euros. This is now in the works and expected out in Germany in March 2009. The English version, published by Global 13 Publications will be available at about the same time.
Based on my experiences with self-publishing Radical Forgiveness, here are my top five tips for what TO DO and what NOT TO DO if you decide to self-publish your own nonfiction book:
What TO DO If You Self-Publishing Your Book
Make sure your book is well edited and thoroughly proofread.
- Have your cover professionally designed, both front and back. Book buyers make their decisions based on the looks and the table of content.
- Chose a title that will make people want to read your book.
- Shop around for a good printer. The cheapest is not always the best and check references.
- Get a proof of your book before it goes to print.
What NOT TO DO If You Self-Publish Your Book
- Don’t give your book the same title as another. Research is essential.
- Don’t sign any contracts or agreements without first seeking legal advice from an attorney who specializes in publishing laws.
- Don’t rush the process. Being thorough with editing and proofreading will save you not only money but embarrassment.
- Don’t take the editing process personally. Even though it is your work, a good editor will know how to structure it for the general public.
- Don’t give up! Be persistent and stay in the knowingness that your book will become reality.
About Colin Tipping
Colin Tipping was born and educated in England and taught at London University before moving to the United States in 1984. He is an ordained interfaith minister with the Universal Brotherhood Movement, Inc. and a licensed hypnotherapist.
During his career as a teacher and motivator, Colin Tipping has, together with his wife JoAnn, founded the Institute for Radical Forgiveness, Quantum Energy Management Consultants, LLC The Georgia CancerHelp Program, and Together-We-Heal, Inc., a 501-c-3, non-profit corporation.
A prolific author, Colin Tipping’s books are:
Colin’s workshops, delivered in several countries on three continents, are praised as life-changing experiences. An inspiring conference keynoter and retreat leader, Colin Tipping has received praise for his work from, among many, John Bradshaw, Mark Victor Hanson,Caroline Myss and Gregg Braden.
Global 13 Publications, Inc.
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