How to self-publish

So, you’ve written your book and you can’t wait to get it out there. But how?

Self-publishing means outsourcing the printing of your manuscript to a printer or publishing services company directly, as opposed to through a publishing company. Electronic publishing, or e publishing, is one way to self-publish. Of course, the ‘e-book’ is only available online and you’ll have to work with a “printer” who will lay out your book for the web.

Reasons to do it
Publishers are market-driven, and even if your story is good, it may not resonate with a big enough market. If you’ve written a family history or personal story, this could be the route for you.

The advantages
You can bypass the tiring process of finding a publisher, and you retain copyright, editorial control and keep the net profit. Some publishing services companies offer print-on-demand (POD) distribution (copies of the book are only printed once ordered), which means you can also avoid the risk of printing books that might not be sold. POD also means your book remains in stock indefinitely. There’s also the chance to develop your name, assuming you’ve done it well. And, if you go the e-book route, it’s easy to transform your work to other formats i.e. mobile, website.

A word of warning
Self-published books are often associated with poor quality, so booksellers are wary of them. Print quality varies with each printer and your choice of page sizes, paper, finishes and binding is often limited. Marketing and distribution take time and money, and you may be at a disadvantage if you lack contacts or experience. And it may be difficult to have your work accepted in the literary arena.

Show me the money
Though you get the net profits (usually about 10–20% of the selling price of your book), you also bear all the cost. Your book can be profitable though, if it’s meeting a need that isn’t being met in any other way. Academic and reference books work well as e-books because people need the content to be searchable, and so do erotic fiction, romance, and science fiction.

The steps

  1. Check it out. Have your book edited before submitting it for printing.
  2. Choose a printer. Only approach printers that have been recommended and get at least three quotes. You don’t have to copyright your work, but an ISBn (International Standard Book Number) is essential, without it, your book can’t be sold through the usual retailers. If you’re creating an e-book, it may be an idea to do a printed edition too, if you’re not comfortable doing online marketing.
  3. Decisions, decisions… It’s time to finalise typography, cover design, paper, page size, binding, and layout. Many publishing services companies have packages that include these services, but you can also hire professionals to help you. Have a proof reader read over the final product. The entire process can take between one and eight months.
  4. Sell it! Pre-marketing is useful. Send out review copies and work your contacts. Sell directly to your target market, and explore all online avenues: join online book clubs as well as blogs and forums relevant to your book. Create a website or ‘shop-front’ for your book. For e-books, use relatively cheap advertising services such as Facebook. Include details of your book(s) at the end of every e-mail you send.
  5. Get it out there… Ask specialist and independent shops to stock your book; they tend to be more approachable. Some publishing services will make your work available through online bookstores and distributors.

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