A Self-Publisher’s Companion
by Joel Friedlander (Marin Bookworks)


I have been thinking about venturing out into self-publishing, more specifically, gaining the expertise and experience needed to help others self-publish their work. I did a search on Amazon and found that through reading various reviews and checking publication dates, many of the books out there about self-publishing are out of date and don’t share the type of information most readers are looking for. I did, however, find Joel Friedlander’s book, and read it rather quickly as it’s a short, quick read.

Friedlander has been a self-publisher for twenty-five years, and writes posts every day on his blog, TheBookDesigner.com. Friedlander’s A Self-Publisher’s Companion is a compilation of blog posts divided into six sections including: “A Self-Publishing Orientation,” “Bookmaking,” “Social Media for Authors,” “The Ebook Revolution,” “The Electronic Life,” and “You Are the Market.” Each section includes a number of articles examining the self-publishing field from various angles and is quite informative if you are reading about the field for the first time and want to give considerable thought to publishing your own book.

Friedlander’s voice is natural and friendly, and his articles are short and interesting. As he says early on, his book is not a how-to but rather a companion that introduces self-publishing to those contemplating plunging into the field. And simply put, self-publishing is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those authors who cannot separate themselves from their manuscripts, by which I mean, as Friedlander makes clear, when becoming the “publisher” of your own book you must make objective decisions about how to best publish your manuscript.

Friedlander’s Companion, though slightly dated in some places (it was published in 2011), offers you advice on how to enter the self-publishing world, and basically tells readers that self-publishing one book is a hobby, but that if you self-publish more than one, or publish others’ works, it becomes a business, and so you must orient yourself to this fact.

Friedlander wants you to be absolutely sure that you want to and are ready to become a self-publisher so he asks you questions that help you to recognize your goals as a writer, your ability to handle all the ins and outs of the trade and all the business-specific needs of the self-publishing process. His article “The Self-Publisher’s Self-Questionnaire” is a key read in terms of this introspection. His point in asking such questions as “How do you feel about starting a business?,” “What would make you feel the publication of your book was a ‘success’?,” and “Is it is essential that you see your book on the bookshelf of retail stores?” is to get you to examine the basic issues so that you can set clear goals for yourself and better organize and tailor the details of the self-publishing process to your book, making it a fulfilling endeavor.

Friedlander’s other key points include:
• Finding your niche and marketing directly to them in as many ways as possible,
• Using social media and other marketing channels to network and promote your book,
• Building an author platform even before you begin the self-publishing process, through social media and other methods,
• Learning about interior book and cover design, as well as the other parts of the publishing process, including editorial and marketing, and, most important,
• Understanding that you cannot, and should not, do it alone.

Finding professionals in all the major facets of publishing is indispensable to keeping your sanity, retaining joy in the process, getting your book published in a timely manner, keeping an eye on your budget, and enabling you to keep creative control, which is a major reason why so many authors enter self-publishing.

Friedlander’s book definitely instructed me in the preliminary points and aspects of self-publishing, and has inspired me to venture into the field in the near future. I certainly recommend the book for anyone who’d like to self-publish because it is full of clear, invaluable information on the subject, and helps readers recognize the pros and cons of the process’s many details. Above all, Friedlander wants you to be positive that you can handle the process before you move full-steam ahead into the field; this is why he asks his readers questions and offers so much advice, and for this I commend him and his book.

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