Best Books of 2014: Niche Books: Low Risk, High Return

How publishing veteran Carin Siegfried self-published

Carin Siegfried.

One of the benefits of the boom in self-publishing is that excellent, narrowly focused books with potentially limited markets don’t have to languish in a publisher’s slush pile. Carin Siegfried, a veteran of traditional publishing, knew that her book, The Insider’s Guide to a Career in Book Publishing, which got a Kirkus Star, had “a small and very specific market, and…figured it was probably too small for a major publisher,” she says, so she opted to publish it herself.

The Insider’s Guide is a well-organized overview of publishing and job options within the industry. It covers how to become an editor—which, while a popular goal, often involves “the least pay and most work”—as well as a subsidiary rights representative, salesperson, art designer, copy editor and more.

Now that Siegfried has gone through the self-publishingGuide to Career in Book Publishing jacket process herself, she notes it was a “ton of work” and strongly suggests hiring a professional editor, copy editor, proofreader and designer, as well as a professional publicist/marketer. “Check out what is being published by the traditional publishers, and try to make your book look like it belongs, from trim size to jacket treatment to proper cover copy,” says Siegfried. “Be sure your printer/self-publisher distributes to a major wholesaler (Ingram or Baker & Taylor). You need a marketing/publicity plan months in advance. And be prepared for this not to be a cheap process, if done correctly.”

The forecast is looking good for indie authors, says Siegfried. “I think self-publishing’s biggest influence on traditional publishing is by showing the sales potential in genres that were considered small and niche, such as urban lit and erotica. Traditional publishers now are making more inroads into those genres, so more books are available (and in more outlets) for the fans of those genres. I think we will continue to see groundbreaking trends first in self-publishing, where the risk is low and the potential is high.” Karen Schechner is the senior Indie editor at Kirkus Reviews. 

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