Self-publishing your textbook: An interview with Patrice Morin-Spatz

Patrice Morin-Spatz

Patrice Morin-Spatz

Patrice Morin-Spatz started MedBooks in 1986 with a little under $1,000 in her pocket. Today she has self-published seven titles on the subject of medical coding and billing and the allied health profession. Morin-Spatz received her undergraduate degree in chemistry & art and went on to study basic medical sciences in her postgraduate work.

Here Morin-Spatz talks to TAA about self-publishing textbooks:

TAA: What are the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?

Patrice (Trish) Morin Spatz: “There are many advantages of self-publishing, the main one being that you get to say what you want to how you want to. No one tells you that your wording is politically incorrect or that you should stay away from a sensitive topic. You write from where your passion is and you are driven, because you know that the outcome depends on you and only you. So does the cash. You impose your deadlines. You create your graphics (or hire someone else to).

One of the biggest disadvantages is that there is no up-front money to get you going and sales can be challenging. That being said, at the end of the day, if your book is successful, you’ve got an entity that you can sell. You avoid the traps of publishers using your stuff in other books and finding someone to replace you.”

TAA: What kind of marketing strategies do you use to promote your book?

TMS: “When I first started, I sent out freebie books to all the instructors that I could find who taught medical coding and billing. The book took off. We made over $350,000 in our first year shipping books out of the garage. It was great! There was no Internet and all interest was generated via word of mouth and direct mail.

Nowadays, it’s a little tougher in some respects mainly because we are not the only ones addressing our target market. The big guys have the sales people we don’t have. But we are getting smart! Those instructors who have bought from the big guys are seeing that bigger is not necessarily better. They like the fact that we personally answer their phone calls and feel their frustrations. They also like the fact that we understand their industry well, that we specialize exclusively in their niche, and that our products really do address the topics they are trying to get across to their students.

We’ve also found sales people and advisors who are also self-employed and who have relationships with distributors and buyers of trade books. We will plan to go to trade shows, and we’ve come out with a few products that again, will be novel in the industry. We are getting our books reviewed by peers and either publishing their compliments or learning from and correcting their concerns. We are getting better about strategizing on how to use YouTube and email marketing and my hope for 2012 is that we’ll come out on top.”

TAA: Do you have any publishing suggestions for other authors?

TMS: “I have three basic suggestions for other authors who are interested in self-publishing. First, decide you are going to go for it and don’t look back. You can always turn your book over to a publisher, but you can’t always get it back. Second, outsource your desktop publishing, graphics, editing, cover design, printing, and sales and distribution. This will allow you to stick to what you are good at (writing). Finally, if you are not able to make a go of this, or if you feel that this is too much to tackle, consider licensing your book to a publisher or an association on your terms rather than giving up your rights to them. Licensing allows them to use what you’ve created with you calling the shots. They will need to disclose to you what their print runs are, pay you if they want to use your pictures and content in another way and you will be in the driver’s seat.”

TAA: What do you value about your TAA membership?

TMS: “What I value about TAA is the easiest of the questions to answer. I LOVE the way that I am truly a valued member and that my opinion really counts. I love the fact that there is an actual phone number that I can use to talk to real people (and not some machine or computer.) The members are real people who are passionate about their subjects. We are a community of people that have something to say, and TAA offers us a forum through which we can communicate with one another. The staff at TAA is helpful and they really care. I like the fact that I can get involved and that the opportunities to do so are clearly communicated. Of all of the memberships I’ve ever had (and there have been many) I am most active here because I count.”