Tracy Winters has been helping unpublished authors chase their dreams for over 20 years.
Winters owns and operates Greensburg's Winters Publishing with his wife Phyllis. The company allows unknown, unpublished writers to self-publish their books for a fee.
Winters encourages writers to dream big, but he has a warning for would-be best-selling authors: Be realistic.
The publishing industry, he explained, has always been tough to break into. Over the last several years, however, it's gotten harder.
"It's not easy to sell a book," he said. "We tell prospective clients that the book we print for them is only the beginning."
An author's faith and belief in his or her book are crucial, Winters acknowledged, but they're not enough to sell it; having a strong book isn't enough either.
Before Winters finalizes a contract, he sits down with potential clients to help them explore and understand possible markets.
"These days," Winters said, "even traditionally-published authors have to be good marketers and salesmen. Self-published writers don't have much chance if they can't or aren't willing to get out and promote their product."
Writers don't necessarily need to be polished speakers, he explained, but they need to be willing and able to tell their stories and effectively talk about their books to an audience.
He advises his writers to speak at local clubs or events as part of the marketing process; he advises children's authors to arrange appearances at schools and libraries if possible.
Networking Ð both real-world and Internet Ð is an important part of the process, too. Winters said that Facebook and social networking in general
have become an important marketing tool.
Self-publishing a book without doing extensive marketing, he stressed, is a waste of money.
Winters hesitated when asked his company's average cost for a self-published book.
"The fee varies widely from book to book," he said. "It depends on the number of pages, the number of books ordered, the type of book and whether it's hard or soft cover. Pricing is all over the board, so it's really difficult to cite an average."
The company's website, however (winterspublishing.com), does offer sample prices for a six-by-nine-inch paperback book with a custom-designed, laminated cover (Winters' youngest daughter, Rachel, helps design covers).
For 1,000 copies of a 96-page book, the charge is $5.47 per book, for a total of $5,470. The price includes formatting, page layout, editing, a modest amount of marketing and other benefits.
"We usually do 1,000 copies for most of our first-time authors," Winters said. "It's a good starting point. We don't want people to go into debt or max out credit cards to do this."
The company's best-selling title to date is entitled, "Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends," by Sarah, Harold and Stephen Mally, three members of an Iowa clan that first approached Winters in the early 2000s.
"They really believed in their book," Winters recalled. "They wanted 10,000 copies initially, but we convinced them to start with 5,000. They've sold close to 80,000 copies since."
He added, "The average book only sells 3,000 copies during its lifetime."
A few years later, another member of the Mally family Ð Grace Ð published, "Before You Meet Prince Charming," with Winters. Her book has since sold 50,000 copies (both Mally books can be purchased at Amazon or at cbd.com).
Interestingly, until 2011, Winters had published only one book by a Greensburg-Decatur County native.
In the past year, the company has published three local titles and is working on a forth, Winters said: "From Pain to Peace - JOY in the Midst of Suffering," by Debbie J. Thomas, the fundraising cookbook of the Decatur County Memorial Hospital Foundation, and "The Will Sevrin Story,"
a fiction title by local policeman Lt. H. Wayne Shake.
Fiction books, Winters emphasized, don't typically sell well as self-published titles. Over their years of operation, in fact, Winters Publishing has published relatively few fiction titles compared to non-fiction books.
"Our biggest sellers have been cookbooks," Winters said, adding: "We're always willing to look over a new manuscript, so long as people keep their expectations realistic."
The company has published a number of traditionally-published books over the years, as well, but never a fiction title. And even non-fiction books are more likely to be self-published, Winters said.
Winters estimated that his company has published between 150 and 200 titles over the years, with between 250,000 and 300,000 books in print worldwide.
For more information on Winters Publishing call 663-4948 or visit their website at winterspublishing.com.
Contact: Robert Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.