Is Self Publishing for You?
When I first thought about writing a book, the process was all about hunting for agents and publishers, writing lengthy proposals, doing book tours, and so on. A bit overwhelming. Then, rather suddenly, the world shifted. What was once dismissed as “vanity publishing” has nearly become the norm.
Now you can zip on over to sites like Snapfish and publish a very professional looking book just for your family or friends for only a few bucks. And if you want to publish a book for a wide audience and sell it, you can handle that on your own too, or mostly, for not very much money.
That’s not to say it won’t be a lot of work–it will. But you can do it at your own pace, and control the process from start to finish. And, keep a bigger portion of the profits, if you’re lucky enough to have some. Ready to start? Here are some thoughts, from my experience (my book, published on Amazon, is How to Learn a New Language with a Used Brain), and with tips from some of the readers of my blog at Southern Fried French who are authors.
A Preliminary Step:
My first bit of advice, especially if you’re doing any kind of non-fiction, is to start a blog first that’s related to your subject, and get yourself going on social media. You’ll be needing some kind of marketing platform (you’ll be your own marketing department, you know), and a blog is a great place to launch your book.
Before you Write a Word:
Read a how-to book and/or several how-to articles or blogs. Why? Apart from the obvious reason of figuring out what you’re getting into, your work will later have to be formatted for publishing. I typed my book in Mac Pages, which I later found out was a bad choice for Amazon’s Createspace (Word is better, and there are other options). When you type it’s best to avoid all formatting, such as tabs and paragraph indents, for example. So save yourself a lot of bother, and do your homework first. Michaela Rodeno, (who has just published From Bubbles to Boardroom, Volume 2, Becoming a CEO , recommends a great book for authors, called APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book. Study it, before you start. Just about everything you need to know is in this book.
If you are handy enough to do the cover, editing, and formatting yourself, you can publish for almost nothing. If you’re serious and seeking something professional looking however, you’ll need to hire a cover designer, editor, and formatter (I was very happy with my designer: Damonza.com, who does formatting as well). One of our blog readers, Barbara Bell, is an experienced free-lance editor and can be reached through her website. Note that most of the self-publishing services (listed below) will do some or all of the above tasks for you for a fee or a cut.
To get a cover design, editing, and formatting done for you, you could squeeze by on $1000 but you could spend a lot more. If you want to do a print book and especially if you want to be in bookstores or do additional books, you’ll also need to buy some ISBN numbers.
The Time Factor:
Writing it may be the quick part! There are many publishing options, and it took a while to sort them all out. In the end I decided to go with Amazon’s Createspace (for print) and their Kindle Direct (for the ebook), since Amazon controls a huge chunk of the market. Smashwords , Bookbaby, and Lulu are three others to look at, but study them all carefully to see what you’re getting.
What took time: finding a cover designer; educating myself about how to be an author/publisher /marketer; the formatting; the marketing itself. I was lucky in that my cyber-stud husband was willing to do my formatting. For the hassle factor and the time it takes, have it done for you unless you’re very geeky. Michaela suggests the site Fiverr for cheap formatting or marketing services.
If you publish it, they won’t come—unless you bring them to the book. Most self-published books sell less than 100 copies! There is a LOT of competition out there. So before you even begin, figure out how you’ll market it. Marketing will be an on-going time-eater.
Kelly Watts, author of the around-the-world sailing memoir, Sailing to Jessica, has a good marketing tip: “I would recommend that everyone makes a book trailer. It’s today’s high tech version of a glossy brochure – but it is more fun to watch and share (watch Kelly’s book trailer here). How will you lure prospective readers to choose your book? What makes your book special, cool, scary or useful? Your book trailer says it all. Using video software, (I use Apple’s iMovie) or free/subscription websites such as goanimate.com, you can put together a professional looking one yourself inexpensively. Spend some time watching other book trailers on YouTube and on book websites such as Shelf Pleasure. (Karen Chase is an author/designer who can put together a book trailer for those who are not, like me, geeky enough to handle it).
Christine Webb-Curtis is a self published author, with co-author Dimity Hammon. One key to building successful sales is to have a series of books, and they are now writing their third, after The Diva’s Demise: A Cape Cod Crime Mystery and Rehearsals for Retribution: A Cape Cod Crime Mystery. She recommends taking notes on the publishing process as you go along, so the next one will be easier. For marketing, Chris recommends David Gaughran’s book, Let’s Get Visible. She has more tip: “On Amazon/CreateSpace, I found their “community” discussions quite helpful. They are voluminous–so much so that one can find an enormous range of subjects–often the exact one you’re interested in”.
Now, to your computers, budding authors! Time to get started, and best of luck to all.