There’s no shortage of
books by mental health professionals, and no shortage of
clinicians who’d like to add to the total. Getting a book
published can indeed be a boost to your career. But for all but
the most successful authors, a book won’t be a financial windfall
Instead, you may want to
approach the publishing business as a marketing project. The goal
is to raise your profile with potential patients, referral
sources, and the media—and perhaps, over time, to make some money
on the book.
In preparing this roport,
we got in touch with four clinicians who have published books.
They’ve taken different approaches, and met with varying degrees
of success. But none are sorry they did it, and all of them intend
to continue writing and publishing in the future.
Self-publishing a highly specialized title:
Linda Peterson in
Pennsylvania has grossed $20,000 so far on her book, Surviving
the Heartbreak of Choosing Death for Your Pet, which she
published herself in 1997.
Her initial investment
was $5,300. The initial printing of 2,000 copies cost $2,985;
cover design cost $1,672; and a supplemental reprinting cost
The book is available
from a variety of Web sources (Target, Amazon, Barnes & Noble) at
prices ranging from $11 to $14.
That’s not big money, but
consider that Peterson now has a product she can continue to sell
with little additional investment of time or money. (No major
revisions are necessary with a topic like this.)
And along the way,
Peterson has picked up some readers she hadn’t counted on. Not
suprisingly, there have been sales in several English-speaking
countries. But last year, a Japanese company paid her a $2,000
advance against future sales in that country. "They advertise it
in a dog magazine over there."
Interestingly, there was
more to do than translate the words. Her Japanese publisher
"changed the cover so it doesn’t even look like the book here in
the U.S...My book has a colorful cover. They have a very plain
white cover with turquoise lettering. It’s seen as more
She’s hoping to break
into additional foreign markets this year.
Speaking engagements lead to a publishing deal:
Lisa Lieberman was
offered a book contract based on a series of presentations she
gave near her home in Lake Oswego, OR. Her clinicial specialty is
working with the families of disabled people.
"I’d been doing some
public speaking and developed a connection with the wife of a
publisher," she recalls. That publisher is Autism Asperger
Publishing Company, based in Kansas City, MO. "She heard me speak
and we started talking about some ideas."
The first idea she
pitched was a book about how to hire caregivers for disabled
family members. They bought right away, and the book came out in
2005. "I had a publisher before I had the book."
Lieberman received no
advance. But she was offered $5 for each book sold—considerably
more than major publishing houses pay rookie authors. (The list
price is $21.95.)
describes herself as disappointed in the performance of her book,
titled A Stranger Among Us: Hiring In-Home Support When a Child
has ASD or Other Neurological Differences.
She says it hasn’t sold
as well as expected, although she’s put considerable time and
effort into promoting it.
She’s done radio
interviews and book signings, as well as writing newspaper
articles. She’s also done more than a few community presentations
to promote the book.
What’s the trouble?
Lieberman says she’d do several things differently if she were
starting over. Number one: "The title is bad and the cover is
bad." (See the cover here: www.disabilityinthefamily.com.)
"It’s too specific. I
thought that because I had an autism publisher, I had to have the
word ‘autism’ in the title. I think people looked at it and said,
‘Oh, this book is about autism and my child has CP (cerebral
palsy), so it doesn’t apply to me.
"The cover has this
beautiful art, but it’s very ghost-like, and you put the word
‘stranger’ with that and I think it’s scary to people. It
heightens their fears instead of relieving them.
"I would have liked more
representational art on the cover, and a title that’s more
straightforward—like, Handbook to Hiring… or Everything
You Need to Know…"
Now, she’s trying to get
a reprint with changes. But the publisher, which was a small
company when she signed up with them, has been growing rapidly—and
she’s no longer at the top of their list of priorities. She’s
(When negotiating with a
prospective publisher, you might try for a clause that allows you
to regain rights to your book under certain circumstances.)
Printing on demand:
Brock Hansen, a
Washington, DC, clinician, published his book, Shame and Anger:
The Criticism Connection, in January, 2007. He self-published
through a company called Lulu.com.
It’s a print-on-demand
company that will manufacture copies of the book as you need them.
There is no money upfront, just production costs on a
pay-as-you-go basis. However, he paid $150 to set up distribution
to major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Amazon.
Each copy costs him $4.50
to print at Lulu. That’s high but again, he has no cash tied up in
inventory. The book sells for $16.98, and after the booksellers
take their cut, he pockets about $2. Sales amount to about 400 so
But he hasn’t actually
turned a profit, he explains, because of other expenses he chose
to take on.
"I decided this was a
very easy way to publish, but then I got a little fancy. I had an
artist friend of mine design a nice cover. Buying the art work for
that, and having him design it, and having a very high resolution
image, were the biggest costs in producing the book."
He purchased cover art
through Getty Images (www.gettyimages.com) for $1,300. (See the
book cover at www.shame-anger.com.) It takes up about half the
cover. The cover design itself cost $900.
Uploading the book to
Lulu occurs in two stages: the cover and the text. Hansen produced
the book in Microsoft Word, with a little help from a friend who
inserted images into the text.
He ordered several
finished copies and used them as proofs, making changes to the
text and fine-tuning the cover.
"Lulu does all the
charging, shipping and production," Hansen says. "It’s completely
automated. They send me a check for my royalties once a quarter.
"The other thing is, they
can make it available as an e-book."
A drawback to using Lulu:
It’s so automated that there’s virtually no human contact. We
emailed the company with questions, but received no response.
"They have people who
collaborate with them and they answer questions based on their own
experiences," Hansen says. "But if you need someone to hold your
hand, use another on-demand publisher." One alternative: Amazon
has an on-demand publishing arm called BookSurge (www.booksurge.com).
1) Brock Hansen, 3801 Connecticut Ave. NW, Ste.
100-D, Washington, DC 20008, (202)362-3009,
www.change-for-good.com; 2) Lisa Lieberman, Lake Oswego,
OR, (503)697-5956, www.disabilityinthefamily.com; 3) Linda
Peterson, West Chester, PA, (610)399-3168, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.