Maybe you’ve written some poetry, short stories, or even a memoir. Perhaps you want to share it with a wider audience, or just give copies to family and friends.
I’ve just helped a friend self-publish her memoir. It was so exciting to finally see her life story and precious photos preserved for future generations to enjoy. There’s immense joy and satisfaction in seeing your work published.
I’ve published with a traditional publisher but decided to self-publish my latest book, Yoga Years.
Here’s, a little about how self-publishing differs from traditional publishing and six tips about self-publishing from what I’ve learnt along the way.
Here are the major reasons why we decided to self-publish:
It doesn’t require submitting time-consuming pitches to traditional publishers. So, there’s more time to spend on your actual writing.
Publishers receive massive numbers of submissions. Most end up on their ‘slush pile’. Although you might be the lucky person offered a million-dollar contract!
Another benefit of self-publishing is that you have total control over content, cover and design and earn 100% of sales price (after taxes, printing and all other costs are deducted).
Having said that, in self-publishing authors do need to take on or outsource the many tasks a traditional publisher organises, including:
Don’t let this list overwhelm you. While many of these tasks may be beyond your realm of expertise, they can be outsourced. More about this next. Costs can quickly add up though so it’s best to draw up a budget.
The type of editing required depends on how polished the publication needs to be and what you can do yourself. You may need to employ a professional.
Structural Editing, for instance, can identify where a storyline doesn’t flow, gaps in plot and repetition. Some people use beta readers to start this process. Basically, a free service provided by friends, people in your local reading group or others.
In Copy Editing the focus is on checking spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
With Proof Reading (end stage) every word is checked for typos and spelling mistakes.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have your document proofread by someone else. After being emerged in writing, it’s difficult to pick up errors yourself, but your readers will. Also, don’t rush to print bulk copies, carefully edit your proof first.
A quality cover is essential. It’s the first thing family and friends – or a potential buyer – sees. If you’re planning on sales, the cover also needs to look good as a thumbnail for your email signature block.
My friend had a basic idea for her cover design and used a high-quality personal photo. Alternatively, stock photos can be purchased (with copyright included). Some internet sites have free photos for use without infringing copyright, e.g., Pexels and Pixabay.
You may need to outsource the final cover design and internal formatting to a professional. Keep in mind the more straightforward the cheaper the cost. There are also services offering pre-formatted book designs.
Check out the internet for reputable distributors in your area. I use a print on demand (POD) distributor because I can order small, affordable quantities of my book as needed. This mitigates the need to find somewhere to store bulk copies. They also offer global distribution, so I don’t have to ship books to readers; they can simply purchase on-line.
But the standard trade discount for this process (discount offered to retailers with each sale, e.g., bookstores, Amazon) is 55% of the book’s retail price. So, there’s less profit than if you decide to sell direct from your own website.
Marketing can be tough. It requires putting your hand up for speaking events, pitches to organisations and media groups, and writing articles and posts on social media.
My friend and I both had small in-personbook launches, which were limited due to Covid restrictions. Having an online launch is another option.
Any photos need high enough resolution and a suitable format for publication (e.g., jpeg) of at least 300dpi (dots per inch).
If you take the photos yourself, or use them from the internet, you may have to ask people for permission or purchase a copyright license for use.
Note that photos printed in colour, while beautiful, require a higher standard of paper than for black and white, and a thicker spine. This increases the cost.
If you plan to sell your publication, a final part of the process is to obtain ISBN numbers. A different one is required for each book format (softcover, hard cover, eBook). They can be purchased from ISBN agencies, which vary, depending on the country where you live.
Of course, there’s a lot more to it, but this outlines the basics to get you started.
Are you thinking about publishing some writing? Perhaps you’re going down the traditional publishing track? Is self-publishing something you’ve thought about? Maybe you’ve already tried self-publishing? Was it a good experience?
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