Jim Olson: An “Extreme” Self-Publisher


By Don White

My friend Jim is a good writer, devoted husband, a proud U.S. Navy veteran and a very likable guy with an easy smile. He’s also an “extreme” self-publisher. When most writers “go independent,” they usually contract the services of an established self-publishing service, or use a print-on-demand (POD) company that takes a big chunk of the price of each book you sell, and there is an important role for those companies (some are better than others).

But when Jim talks about self-publishing, he means that he personally tackles the entire process from beginning to end: writing, editing, formatting, designing, printing and even binding. And the personal relationship he has with his books is matched only by the personal relationship he has with his readers, selling his books face to face at farmers and crafters markets and other community events.

He is passionate about his faith and his writing, and that passion pours over into the creation of his books and his close connection to his readers. I asked Jim to talk to us about his self-publishing adventure.

DON: Jim, could you briefly sum up your work in self-publishing, and point out what you do differently than most self-publishers?

JIM: I think most self-publishing authors use a print on demand company. You send them your book, they print it out for you and sell your books back to you. This is how I started. When I saw how much they were selling them for, I knew I had to do something different. After trying different publishers, I started exploring ways to do it all myself. After many attempts and trial and errors, I found a way to print my own books on a laser printer. I designed a press that I use to bind the pages together. I started designing my own covers and having a print shop print them out. Colored ink is way too expensive to print the covers yourself. After gluing the pages, I then glue them to the covers. With this type of publishing, I can get a book put together for $3.00 to $6.50, depending on how many pages there are.

DON: How long have you been doing this, and what made you decide to choose this route for your books?

JIM: I finished my first book in 2000 and paid a company to publish it. Then I had to buy my books from them. I only did this once. Sometimes we learn the hard way. The buy back price was pretty high. I figured they made 300% and paid me an 8% royalty. I wasn’t too happy about it, and I was sure there was a better way. On my second two books I used Publish America. They published my books for free but the buy back price was outrageous. The only people who buy their books are the authors who write them, however this is one way to get your book out there. It was after this that I started truly self-publishing on my own.

DON: How would you describe your writing (e.g., genres, themes, style, etc.)?

JIM: When I first started writing, it was poetry that I received directly from the Lord. I started adding short stories and finally had enough for a book. I started writing my autobiography, which took ten years to complete. This was one of the most difficult things I had ever done. During those ten years I wrote several other books that were historical fiction, which is what I enjoy most. I have always enjoyed history. I think John Jakes has had the most influence on me and the genre I write. He also writes historical fiction.

The thing that amazes me the most is the way a story develops as I am writing. People continually ask me where I get all these stories and all I can do is point up to the Lord. For this reason the Lord shows up somewhere in each of my books, and I find that most people enjoy this.

DON: How do you get your books into the hands of readers, and how does that affect your connection with them?

704203_4624406221890_946626654_oJIM: At first my readers were friends and family. They encouraged me to get my books out to the public which is easier said than done. I created a web site and advertised my books on it. This is okay but very slow. I have a few on Amazon.com, but they like to raise the prices quite high. I sold most of my books at the local Farmers Market. They sell very well and I get a lot of feedback from the readers. I am continually looking for better marketing ideas, but it is very difficult and you have to be very careful who you are dealing with.

DON: Last question – your publishing endeavor is obviously a lot of work. But would you say you’re also having fun with it?

JIM: You’re right, it is a lot of work, and because I enjoy it so much I continue on. Even if I had no way of getting my work out to the public I would continue to write. I feel it is a gift from God, and if he wants it out there he will help me in some way.

DON: Thanks for your time, Jim. We wish you all the best with your writing and publishing.

Please check out Jim’s website to ask him questions about his publishing work, and to see his current list of books: www.jimolsonsbooks.com