On Self-Publishing and Book Proposals


For the last year I’ve been working on a short book based on a teaching series I did in my small group. My original plan had been to write a series of essays based on the study to provide to our group members. From there it grew into a full book.

The material itself is pretty solid, and I’m pretty excited to share it with people.

Some day.


I hope.

Truthfully, I do want to publish this work. I think it’s actually worthwhile and people who’ve been reading snippets here and there have found it enjoyable and helpful.

Where I’ve been stuck has been on the issue of publishing.

I’ve been looking at the material that exists on writing book proposals and manuscript submission sites and it’s all incredibly overwhelming—to be perfectly honest, it freaks me out a little bit. There’s enough involved that it makes my head spin a bit. There’s some financial out-go to get a manuscript vetted and submitted, in the hopes that an agent might like it and submit it to publishers. And if they like it and see a fit in their publishing line, they will offer a contract.


Then, there’s self-publishing.

I never really took self-publishing too seriously when there was only sites like Lulu out there; perhaps unfairly, I assumed that self-publishing was the option for getting poorly written books published. A lot of this goes back to my days working at Coles in White Oaks Mall back in college. We’d have self-published authors come and set up a table in front of the store with their poorly written and even more poorly designed books, expecting to sell thousands of copies (typically, they’d sell 8-10).

While the quality has certainly improved with operations like Lulu and Xulon, there’s still a bit of a stigma.

And then Thomas Nelson went and introduced Westbow Press.

When Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt announced Westbow Press, I was quite surprised. Not because it’s a bad idea, just I didn’t expect a move like this from a major publisher.

Here’s what Michael wrote on Thomas Nelson’s reason for entering this segment:

  1. We think there is huge growth potential in this category. Increasing numbers of people are moving from being merely consumers to being creators. They want to express themselves creatively. Just witness the phenomenal success of user-generated content sites like YouTube, Flickr, and Scribd.
  2. We want to offer a legitimate alternative to traditional publishing. Why should all the power be in the hands of publishers? If prospective authors are convinced their book should be in print and are willing to fund it, they should be able to do so without the fear that they might be ripped off.
  3. We want to find the new voices for tomorrow. Publishers aren’t omniscient. We miss numerous opportunities every year. Finding the next bestseller is like searching for a needle in a haystack. WestBow Press provides us with a kind of “farm team.” We intend to watch the sales of these titles carefully. We will offer traditional publishing contracts to those authors whose self-published books begin to gain traction.

There’s something really exciting about this… I guess the question for me is: Is this the right direction for me? My wife isn’t a fan of self-publishing in general, and I don’t blame her. Neither of us are terribly high-risk people, particularly in terms of financial risk, but…

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just being a coward about the idea of writing a book proposal.

So, what do you think?

If you’ve self-published, what’s your experience been like?

If you’ve been traditionally published, what were the greatest challenges you had to overcome?

Your comments are greatly appreciated.

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  • Keystone

    I leafed through WestBow Press and it could be either an early stock purchase in a Microsoft-like company, or a lottery ticket, destined for the wastebasket after the numbers are called.

    I mean, this is a Publishing Company, that believes Publishing Companies should not have control on your future. I spit coffee out at that line and laughed.

    Sarah Palin’s $26 book (not out yet) will get 30% to 40% off at BN or Borders.

    Target, Amazon, and Walmart are in a dogfight to release it at ever lowering prices, currently $8.99—-that is brand new, first edition. Prices are going south on books.

    Next, I read a decent blogger, who fancies himself a writer. He is a mailman.
    His first book will be published in 2010, and all it took was 12 years to get there. He went through a literary agent, likes Christian oriented posts (though his theology is in need of a Bible with perhaps 200 Books within, instead of your basic NIV), and met her (literary agent) criteria.
    Her criteria makes Indiana Jones epics look like a cakewalk.

    So I meandered to her blog to see what the big deal is.
    I am always amazed at what I do not know.

    Read it yourself as explained by a literary agent on a “no-no”, that is likely rampant in your notes. And getting an agent is the equivalent of calling the White House Press Secretary for an exclusive. The agent and blog are here:

    Your entire post begs you NOT to publish.
    You are risk averse. Your wife is less than keen on shelling thousands of dollars OUT, versus keeping dollars in the bank, despite that all pumps must be primed to obtain water.

    Decide FIRST if your book is to please God or man (you, and best buds).
    There is not one word in your post about asking God HIS opinion, and if it is a direction HE wants you to take…..as opposed to doing what you do now.
    Books are a form of self idolatry.

    If God gives thumbs up to you privately (HE published one and had no sequel), then your rejections to come, will have little effect, and any praise from your fellow man should have the same…..for it is all about God.

    I have had countless people say “Publish your writings!”.
    It has all the appeal of a root canal to me.

    Got 12 years to hone your work?
    Is it the best way to spend your gifts and talents?
    Have you taken writing courses at any college?
    The list of questions is greater than you can imagine, once you investigate trying to get published.

    Good luck if God green lights your work.
    Otherwise, my condolences if you attempt getting published, without HIS backing, on your works. My two cents.

  • http://essenceofnone.wordpress.com essenceofnone

    I h ear ya on the self publishing, I went to that lulu.com web site but wondered how it all worked. But I believe in self publishing, low cost and you control everything.

    My dilema is im reading to put it out there my first book is ready, and ive set up a network, webpage etc….but how do i get it out there and who is going to link up to do the printing once the orders come in?

    all these questions and no answers…im scared to, maybe overwhelmed. I am so excited about my book and want people to read.
    The good news is once I do this, and I am ready to write another, I will know exactly what to do as far as publishing…
    look me up…i have blogs everyday.

  • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

    @Keystone – Thanks for your comments and the link to Rachelle’s blog. Very helpful information there. Also a good reminder to be prayerful about considering publishing.

    @essenceofnone – Thanks for sharing your own experiences in considering publishing. I’ll definitely check out your blog.