How to Self-Publish Your Book
By Terry Anthony Smith
Before you do anything about self-publishing your book, decide what your overall goal is – be realistic but don’t be afraid to think big also.
Let’s look at each of these items to help you start on the right self-publishing path:
- Why self publish?
- What do you want?
- The nuts and bolts
- Market yourself
Self-publishing is where everything from the writing and illustrations, book design and layout, printing and sales are organized by you! Although you may employ some people to help along the way, you don’t have a traditional publisher looking after all these details and decisions for you.
- Having a published book could give you wide recognition and kudos. However, you will still need to promote and sell some copies; in most cases, for a small royalty payment usually no more than 10% of the publisher’s price on your book. If you strike a ‘best-seller’ you might crack volume sales and become rich and famous. You also might win the lottery.
- If you have a few book marketing ideas and feel excited about doing the work, self-publishing can be fun. If you make enough sales, you might have a traditional publisher or two approaching you.
- Self-publishing gives authors much greater control over the production and distribution of their books. Should they be successful in selling their book, they also keep the profits!
What do you want?
A book is a book, right? Well yes but they come in many shapes and sizes, with hard and soft covers, black and white or in full colour and with or without fancy sleeves and jackets. So, what should your book look like? The author that walks into a book printing organization with a manuscript declaring they’d like a published book; but brings no other details is likely to be met with a plethora of confusing questions.
- For many authors the answer to some of the questions may be determined by cost. Producing paperback books in small numbers and with limited colour is probably the most inexpensive option. However, your book style will depend on your market; a paperback may or may not be suitable. You will need to research bookshops and libraries to discover what books are competing with yours. Notice the design, cover, number of pages and approach to the subject matter. You will achieve the best results by sticking to standard sizes and materials. But be sure your book will offer better value than your competition.
- When you meet with potential printers you might wish to discuss the following items that will affect the final presentation and cost of your book: size (this may affect shipping costs also), cover – will it be hardback or paperback, binding – will it be “perfect-binding”, the kind you see in commercial books or a chapbook with staples through the crease for a smaller publication. Also cover design and colours.
- If you haven’t already written your book, this is also the time for you to consider what an appropriate word count will be. If you have already written your manuscript, the above items may persuade you to increase or bring down your word count.
- In addition to printing, you may like to create an e-book version of your title. Some authors only produce electronic versions, which saves dramatically on costs, although you will still need to consider pre-production costs such as those discussed below.
The nuts and bolts
Once you have decided the kind of book you want, it is time to begin the project. There is a lot to consider and knowing what you want will help make the actual process much quicker and easier.
- Printing – you can either print-on-demand or organize an offset print-run. Either option has positives and it really depends on how many books you think you can sell and if you have storage for keeping extra books on hand. The last thing you want is the spare room full of boxes of unsold books that don’t look like they are going anywhere fast! Do your research when looking for a printer and don’t just go with the first option or the nicest person, make sure they are able to print a quality book and possibly store and distribute for you.
- Layout and design – if you’re not a graphic artist as well as a writer (chances are you’re not!), then you’ll need someone to help with the layout of your book. This involves setting-up margins and page breaks based on the size of the book you are publishing, laying out pages and generally making the raw text look like a book. It also includes cover design and possibly illustrations. Most print companies will offer this service, or part of it, at a charge, or they will be able to give you print specifications that a graphic artist can work to. Make sure the person doing this for you knows a thing or two about book design or you’ll waste precious time and money with frustrated printers who are unable to work with the files you have given them. If you, or a friend can layout your own book or partially lay it out, it will save a lot of time and money.
- Legalities– you will need a name for your enterprise. The fact that the publishing empire is just you and your cup of tea does not mean that you can’t present a professional front to the world. You’ll likely be working as a Sole Trader with profits declared on your personal tax return, and you may offset some operating expenses against tax. If book sales take off you will want to look into forming a company.
- Register your publication– each book you produce will need an ISBN and possibly a barcode for the back cover. An ISBN is the International Standard Book Number. The ISBN allows bookshops and libraries to catalogue and order your book. Do an internet search to find the appropriate ISBN supplier for your country or location.
- Price your book- once you know how much the printing will cost, and you have an idea of how many you will sell, you can sort out what you will charge for the book. Take a look at what other similar types of books are selling for. Typically a book might be priced at around five times its production costs – if you have higher costs, ensure you can price your book at least three times over the cost.
- Print your book – make sure you and at least one other person do a thorough proof read of the final manuscript document as well as submit your work to a professional editing service. Don’t be shy; send a few completed manuscripts out with hand-written notes in the front to let people see what all your hard work has produced. Ask for their comments, also connect with some highly regarded people and ask for their endorsement to feature on the back cover.
- Any real marketing of the book will have to come from you so start brainstorming for good ideas. (See articles by the same author, How to Maximise Potential Profit from Your Nonfiction Book and How to Sell your Book on the Internet)
- Bookshop managers are used to dealing with big, established publishers and may not be impressed by someone who walks in the door with some signed copies of their first book! Unless you’re a very impressive sales person, stick to the mail and phone options and create a mail order system for bookstores wishing to stock your book.
- Create your own website and drive sales for yourself online. (Again, see the article, How to Sell Your Book on the Internet)
- Push yourself to speak in front of an audience where you can talk about your book; as well as sell some. Find out how to have your book placed on recommended reading lists, do whatever it takes to get others talking about it and buying it!
Assess your knowledge based on what you have just read…
To ensure you have gained some valuable insight from this article, identify the correct answer or answers from this multi-choice quiz:
Question 1: The layout of a book is a secondary priority in comparison to the text itself?
- Yes, readers are interested in what they can learn, not how it looks.
- Book layout contributes to the overall impression of a book.
- The content is the main priority but a poorly designed book will look unprofessional.
- Both b and c.
Question 2: Do all books really need an ISBN?
- No, only if they are being sold internationally.
- Only if the major bookstores are stocking the book.
- Yes, without one your book can’t be entered into catalogues and order systems for sale.
- You should get an ISBN when you’ve sold 500 copies.
Question 3: What is the difference between print-on-demand and an offset print run?
- An offset print run has to be over 10,000 copies to be cost-effective.
- Print-on-demand is a lower quality than an offset print run.
- Print-on-demand is a term used to describe a threat towards a printer when they haven’t produced your book in the agreed time.
- The difference relates largely to quantity; offset print runs tend to be larger quantities and print-on-demand prints smaller quantities based on customer requirements.
No peeking at the answers!
Cover this section with a piece of paper and don’t uncover it until you write your answers down. Answers: 1 (d.), 2 (c.), 3 (d.)
Did your self-assessment show you as competent in self-publishing?
Will you self-publish your book now you know how to?