They say ‘everyone has a book in them’. How many times have I heard that? Too many to count. Actually taking the time to put your stories to paper (or laptop) is something else altogether. The thing that holds many would-be authors back from starting on their own book is the idea that getting published is a pipe dream.
Imagine: sending your precious manuscript out to dozens of publishing houses and not receiving a single return email. Or worse yet – getting a few dozen rejection letters. The hard truth is that most established publishers don’t even accept unsolicited manuscripts, and your book’s not likely to pass the reception desk before ending up in the wastepaper basket or email trash folder. The thought is mortifying. No wonder so many writers never make it as far as approaching a publisher.
But WAIT! Don’t go throwing away that notebook of hopes and dreams just yet! Times have changed. And boy oh boy, can’t you hear the universal sigh of relief? Fear not, dear writer, there is hope for you yet.
If you’ve been doing any amount of blogging, writing or research in the last few years, you’ve likely heard the term ‘self-publishing‘ being bandied about. And for good reason. Can we say a collective ‘THANK YOU’ to the gods of technology for bringing us this industry-changing digital disruption. No longer is publishing reserved for the intellectuals and those lucky few who were ‘discovered’ writing articles for some student-led magazine in New York while sipping six dollar lattes, chewing on their designer frames and looking pensive. Self-publishing has brought becoming an author to the masses. Not only does it mean an explosion of new authors on the scene, it has also inevitably resulted in oodles and oodles of reading material for the hungry bibliophiles out there. Hallelujah!
So, how does self-publishing a book work exactly? Well, here’s where you need to do your research and really analyse what it is that you need in order to get your book ready for the world. As the name suggests, self-publishing is something that you can do entirely on your own, if that’s the way you prefer it. There are a plethora of online tools and blogs to help you figure out exactly what it takes to get your book out there. You can download a complete guide to self-publishing from a number of different websites. There are also a myriad of self-publishing firms available to take you step-by-step through the process, for a fee.
The basics of self-publishing
- Proofreading. Once you’ve written your manuscript, you need to turn in into a masterpiece. As amazing as your spelling and grammar may be, you’d be surprised how hard it is to edit your own work. Reading your own material means that you can miss simple errors, as you are already familiar with your words on the page and ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’ as they say.
- Editing. Once you’ve had your work proofread (or done it yourself, if you dare), you then need to edit. This part is a whole lot trickier than a lot of writers expect – and I am speaking from experience. Prepare to spend hours combing through your manuscript and culling things that are superfluous to the story, re-wording sentences that don’t quite flow, and sometimes trashing entire paragraphs before starting again. It’s slow, it’s painful and it can be the stumbling block for many a writer. This is why hiring a professional is important, and can save you a lot of heartache. There’s nothing worse (and believe me, I know) than submitting your book to Amazon, having people start buying it (even if it’s just your family and friends to start with) and realising that here are still errors in your work. While self-publishing is an amazing development for would-be authors, it also means that there is a lot of sub-par content out there. Hire an editor, and hold them accountable for their work.
- Typesetting. Once your manuscript has been edited to within an inch of it’s life and it’s finally ready for reading, you need to typeset it. Don’t have a clue what that means? That’s a good reason to hire some help. Your book needs to look professional. Whether you’re wanting a printed book or simply an eBook version, there are different requirements for the way the text is set out. Self-publishing services can do all of the hard work for you, and present you with the finished product.
- Cover design. There are many online tools for creating cover artwork, or perhaps you’re a bit of an artist yourself. Fantastic! Creating a cover that will stand out is important, but you also need one that looks the part and gets your message across. After all, readers do tend to judge a book by its cover. You’d also be surprised how difficult it can be to create a cover artwork to fit the exact dimensions of your trade book size. Once again, I’ve learned from experience here, that getting the right help with your cover can save you a lot of pain. Choose a self-publishing service who are wiling to understand what kind of look and feel you want, and will give you honest advice about what they think will work for your book.
- Obtaining ISBNs and the ‘paperwork’ for tax purposes. Its about as fun to write about as it sounds. You need to get this information right, in order for your book to be listed on Amazon and any other website you’re looking at. Errors can hold up the process and make things very complicated. Self-publishing services have done this before, and it will take them a fraction of the time it would take you to get this done. Invest in the help, it should be a part of your self-publishing package.
- Back cover blurb and author bio. You can write this yourself, or as a part of your self-publishing package you can let your publisher help you with making the best possible impact in these areas. They know what works, but they should also be willing to collaborate with you and take your suggestions on board.
- Printing. Are you going to offer your book as an eBook only, or do you want to have it available in print? This is entirely up to you. Printing the book can be the most expensive part of the process, however with the advent of Amazon’s POD (Print On Demand) service the upfront cost is significantly reduced. If you live outside of the USA, you’re biggest cost will actually be shipping of the books. Talk to your self-publisher about the best option for you. There are local printing options available in most countries, although their minimum print runs can be prohibitive.
- Marketing. So, you’ve been through all of the processes above and your book is reading for listing. What next? How do you get it out to your readers? There are a number of ways that you can market your book, it doesn’t need to cost a fortune but it does need some work. Whether it be social media, Amazon advertising, AdWords, or your own website – you need to put some time into creating followers who turn into customers. Once again, a self-publishing service can offer you affordable help to get the best possible exposure for your book.
To go it alone, or hire a self-publishing expert?
Great question. At the risk of sounding like a Hollywood shrink, the answer is “hmmm…well, what do you think?” There are pros and cons to both options, but it must be said that when it comes to publishing: you get what you pay for.
That’s not to say that self-publishing services can’t be affordable. Quite the opposite, in fact! What it comes down to is whether you want your book to have the best possible chance of reaching its audience, and impressing that audience once it arrives. A professional service can help to ensure that your book is up to the standard that readers expect; from spelling and grammar, to structure and flow, cover design and back cover blurb. Not to mention navigating the minefield that is Amazon tax and banking forms, applying for ISBNs, typesetting your book for print, converting to eBook and passing the accepted standards for submission. Sound pretty complex? It can be. And that’s where an expert can help you.
The best part about self-publishing?
Three simple words: You. Keep. Control.
Control of costs, control of the content, and ultimately control of your royalties. A self-publishing professional can offer you a range of services to suit your individual needs. Perhaps your book only needs a little proofreading, because spelling and grammar are your forte. Alternatively, you might be an amazing storyteller, but you weren’t exactly a straight-A student in English class. A self-publishing service can tailor a package to suit your needs, and many will offer you free consultation before you commit to anything.
How to chose a self-publishing service
There are plenty out there, as any Google search will show you. There are a range of different fees, packages and levels of support that each of them will offer you. Choosing one of these will require some research on your part. What are the fees involved with different self-publishers? What services are they offering? How much contact and support are they likely to offer you? Do they charge you for things like sending emails and taking phone calls (i.e the time you spend communicating with them) or only for the work that they do on your manuscript? Do they offer a website development service to get you set up to promote your book? Can they help you market your book once it’s published? Not all self-publishing services are created equal.
So where should you start? By answering the questions above, narrow your results down to a handful of providers who are transparent about their pricing and services, and then submit an enquiry to them. Choose the professional who makes you feel that your work is a priority to them, and that they are excited to take on the task. Most importantly, you do not want to feel as though you are just another number. After all, you are self-publishing because you want to retain control of your manuscript – and that means being at the center of the process.
You can find out about Harris Content and Copy’s services here, and our rates and packages here. Get in touch today about how these services can get you started on your book publishing journey. And hey – well done on getting this far!