A friend of mine is on the verge of completing a book and asked for advice as he begins to navigate the tricky waters of self-publishing. I was happy to comply because I remember asking many of the same questions about four years ago as I began my self-publishing journey. No matter where you are in publishing your work, whether it's a distant possibility or your manuscript is ready to go, there is a lot to think about.
Build a Platform
The first and most important piece of the equation is to build a platform for marketing yourself and your work. As Dan Miller of 48 Days To The Work You Love says, writing and getting your work published is 10% of the work. Marketing and establishing a platform is 90%. You can't get started too early. Starting a blog and/or a website is often a good way to begin getting your name out there. Don't worry initially about traffic. Just start writing about what you are passionate about which hopefully is what your book is about as well. Later you can be concerned with building an audience or following. You just want to get something going in the beginning.
Develop a Niche
Part of building a platform is developing your corner of the world. I personally consider this an ongoing process, however the sooner you can narrow it down the better. Don't try to be all things to all people. Don't write one week about raising children and the next about gardening, unless of course you want to start a blog about gardening with children. Zero in on the specific interest or subject that you are most passionate about, most knowledgable about or at the very least the area you are learning about. This is your area of expertise.
Research Your Options
Do you want to go with an online publisher who will do everything for you? They will format the copy, provide someone to illustrate the work if needed, design a cover, proofread the manuscript, provide marketing suggestions, buy the ISBN number, obtain the copyright, even get it published for Kindle or Nook and of course print the hard copy on demand. This is what I did the first time around. Each additional service you obtain from them you pay for and in the end the books you buy will be more expensive, per book, than if you did more of the work yourself. You also have less control over the overall look of the book since many things are done by a formula. You will be approving copy and communicating with your advisor online. At the time this was such an overwhelmingly new experience for me, I was glad I opted for this choice. There are lots of online publishers today with CreateSpace on Amazon probably being the most popular. I am currently working with them in republishing a second edition of the first Wyatt book and the experience has been great. One of the best services they have is a 24/7 help line that calls you back immediately when you put in your number online. This is a super service since I am often working on the book layout or details during times that are not regular business hours. Create Space did not exist when I published my first book two years ago and I used Outskirts Press. Given my level of expertise it was a satisfactory experience. But by the time I was ready to publish my second book, I decided I wanted more control and so, I published the book myself. My third book in the Wyatt series and the most recent was published by a local publisher, Booklogix. This was an even better experience than the first in that there was a physical location I could visit to talk with the owner about the process, but I could also review proofs and email back and forth online. Booklogix is a very active publisher in the community and they offer lots of free webinairs which are great resources. Here's the link to Booklogix.
Self-publishing: Do It All Or Some Of It Yourself
My second Wyatt the Wonder Dog book was published entirely by myself. If you choose this route, you will need to be able to use a computer program to layout the book yourself or you will need to know or hire someone who will. I didn't want to learn another program and luckily I found a wonderful friend who now lays out my books for me. However there are many ways to have this done. I almost used Yawn's Books And More, a local bookstore that not only sells books but provides self-publishing services on the side. For a fee they will layout the book and provide most of the other services as well.
If you use an illustrator, you will need to find one you like yourself. I searched and searched until I lucked into an art teacher from my school who does all illustrations for my children's books. If you ask around you may locate someone in your community with great talent who would love to illustrate your book. Try the art departments of your local high schools and colleges. There are also numerous online sites where you can review different styles and pay someone to create your illustrations.
You will need someone to proofread your work. Don't expect to catch all those mistakes yourself--it's impossible. I used Diane Krause, creator of The Writing Range blog and she is wonderful! Again you will either need to find someone locally or through the web.
You will need to pay for and create your own copyright. It's all online and costs $35. Here's the link. Keep in mind it's a government site and at least to my way of thinking, not the most user friendly but it will eventually get the job done.
You will need to pay for and obtain your own ISBN number. Here's the link You can buy one or several ISBN numbers at a time. It is more economical to buy several which is what I did. When you are ready to use them, you just go back into the site and add the title and other information about the work.
You will need to design the cover. I used the son of a friend who is a graphic designer to create the cover for The Call but there are also online services where you can have designers compete for the cover and pay the one you like best.
Finally you will need to find a printer who will produce the finished copy. Get several quotes and have the ones you are interested in print up a sample copy of the book so you can see what it is going to look like. Obviously cost is a factor, but you want the book to look as professional as possible, so the cheapest is not always the best.
Although I was very pleased with the results of the two books I published myself there are some things to consider if you choose this route. One is that you will have to get the books on Amazon and other online sellers yourself. When you use a print on demand publisher they take care of this and of course print and sell the books for you. This can turn into a big expense for you as you must pay shipping to send in the books and also your royalties are quite low. I would recommend printing yourself only if you plan to sell most of the books yourself, perhaps as a product that you are offering as part of a speaking or coaching package. Expecting to create an income from books sold on Amazon when you have published and printed them yourself is unrealistic.
Well, that's it in a nutshell. There's no greater thrill than having the finished product of hours of hard work in your hand. The process can definitely be intimidating but it is becoming so common nowadays that there are lots of sites that provide great information. I am always glad to share my experience with others as well.
What is your story and where are you in the publishing process? Are there questions I didn't answer in this blog? I'd love to help!