Dan Poynter: Self-Publishing Expert and Author

A Plowboy Interview with Dan Poynter author of The Self-Publishing Manual.

| July/August 1985

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    Staff Photo

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Dan Poynter likes to say that he "fell into publishing."  Back in 1962 he was busily studying for law-school finals when a buddy suggested that they ease the tension by making a parachute jump. That was Dan's first experience with parachuting, but he went on to become expert at the sport, making some 1,200 jumps and developing into a master 'chute rigger and designer. More important (for our purposes, at least), Dan's love for the sport inspired him to spend eight years doing research for a technical manual on the parachute. And when the massive (592-page) book was completed, Poynter decided to publish and market it himself: So was born The Parachute Manual — known as "the bible" to 'chute riggers everywhere — and so also was born Para Publishing, and a system of writing and self-publication that was to make Dan probably the largest one-person publishing company in the world. 

As he became more and more successful, Poynter decided to share the secrets that had let him succeed, over and over again, where so many others had failed. The results of that decision — The Self-Publishing Manual and Publishing Short-Run Books — have helped numerous men and women get themselves into print profitably ... and, while doing so, have helped Para Publishing continue to prosper. In the following interview — excerpted from a lengthy discussion between Dan and MOTHER staffer Bruce Woods at Poynter's beautiful Santa Barbara, California, home/office — the boss and sole employee of Para Publishing "drops" some hints on how to free the would — be author that's in most all of us ... and on how to make money while doing so! 

Dan, it's been said that you just might be the most successful self-published author in America today. Can you give us some specific information concerning just how well your business has done? 

Sure, here are the numbers: One of my books is in its 10th revised edition with over 130,000 copies in print, and I have several others that sell at a steady rate of 10,000 to 12,000 annually, year after year. The publications that sell a lower volume — say, around 1,000 per year — carry a relatively higher price to make up for their more limited sale. So far, in total, I've moved over a quarter of a million books for almost $2 million. My business is now grossing in the low six figures each year, and in 1983 I shipped more than 50,000 books.

That's quite an impressive track record. Is there anything in your prepublishing background that you feel might have contributed to your success? 

Well, I think I was most fortunate in coming from the worlds of marketing and mail order instead of from the literary or academic world. I don't pretend to be a writer ... hell, I only took the two required English courses in college! However, the material that I write and publish consists of information — real, solid, usable facts and figures — that people want and need. It's packaged nicely (if you want to sell a book, it has to look like a book), and I market my products enthusiastically.


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