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Between the pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

An afternoon with Dan Poynter

When I heard that Self-Publishing and Promotion Guru Dan Poynter was going to be the keynote speaker at the annual Upper Peninsula Publisher’s and Author’s Association in Marquette, Michigan, I knew that I had to be there. It’s about a three hundred mile trek for me so I pointed my big Harley north and jumped into the saddle. Typical of Michigan springtime, I had to brave a little mid-May snow to get there but it was worth the cold fingers.

I knew that Dan was an accomplished skydiver and I have a background in that sport as well so I was hoping that the shared interest might be my edge to score an interview with Mr. Poynter. As it turned out, none of that was necessary. Dan Poynter is a true professional and as an expert in the field of promotion, interviews are right up his alley. Here is what we talked about.

Dennis: You’ve been at this quite a while. When did you begin and what got you started?

Dan: We found skydiving early in the sport. You in 1960 and me in 1962. I went into the parachute business as a designer of parachutes. I had a column in Parachutist magazine for many years. After a while, it occurred to me that I could link the articles together and publish a book.

Realizing that no publisher would understand the subject or the market, I published myself. That was 1972.

I wrote the first book on hang gliding in 1974. Sales took off like a homesick angel. I moved back to California and bought a home overlooking the ocean in Santa Barbara.

Publishers wanted to know how I was selling so many books so I published The Self-Publishing Manual in 1979. That book has been through 16 revisions and 22 printings since then.

Dennis: I see your name out there a lot. You must have quite a following. Any idea how many?

Dan: My Publishing Poynters newsletter has 38,000 subscribers so far. The free ezine is full of book writing-publishing tips and resources. It goes out twice a month.

Dennis: What is it that makes you different from the other promotion gurus?

Dan: I am an author, a publisher and a self-publisher. Few people have published other authors, sold their Works to publishers and published themselves.

There is no one-way to get published. There is no cookie-cutter solution. Each book and each author are unique. The advice I offer people is customized and in each case, I have been there.

Dennis: Is there one special piece of advice that you’d offer to an unpublished author?

Dan: Get as much information as possible. The most expensive parts of book publishing are the mistakes. Start with the free InfoKits at

Dennis: How about the hundreds of authors who are published by small houses or self-published?

Dan: Stay away from the “DotCom” vanity publishers. They make their money selling books to the author, not to the public.

Some vanity/subsidy publishers have tarnished records with a lot of unhappy customers. Many customers have complained to the Better Business Bureau and some publishers have been sued. Before dealing with a vanity/subsidy publishing service, make a Google search to check out the company. For example, search for:

(That company name) + Scam
(That company name) + Fraud
(That company name) + Rip-off
(That company name) + "Better Business Bureau"

Read the results and be advised.

For a discussion of vanity publishers, see Aeonix Publishing's site

For an article on how to spot scam vanity/subsidy publishers, see the Wisconsin Bar's site.

Dennis: What sort of support do you recommend for struggling writers? Writing groups? Editors? Internet forums?

Dan: Forums (Listservs) are the quickest and least expensive (free) consulting you can get. Attend writers conferences. Come to one of my presentations. See my calendar on the ParaPublishing site. I speak all over the world and fly more than 6,000 miles/week; I am probably coming to your town.

Dennis: Supposing I have a self-published book that’s been in print for five years, is it too late to begin promoting it?

Dan: It is not too late, if the book is targeted toward a narrow/specific market. Editors will be more interested in the material than the date. For list of periodicals, see Book Promotion Mailing Lists. Magazines, newsletters, stores, catalogs and more.

Dennis: This is your space, is there anything special that you’d like to say?

Dan:Learn book publishing. Get as much information as you can.

Draft your back-cover sales copy before you wrote the book. Get Document 116 (free) at

Best wishes. Remember, I do not want you to die with a book still inside you.

Thank you



2009 Past Columns


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