When writers talk about self publishing, they are no longer discussing the biggest mistake of their career. Self publishing is no longer a dirty word. Attitudes towards self publishing have changed and so have the available technologies that make it happen. Success stories in self publishing have helped to de-marginalise the self publishing industry and give creative control back to the writers.
Writers now have a plethora of information, resources, technologies, software programs and e commerce plugins to make the process easy and professional. Just Googling ‘Self Publishing’ will bring up over 40 million results. That’s enough information to bury you for the rest of your life.
The following article is a collection of what I have learnt, information from various festival panels, tips from other writers, information from fellow bloggers, a lot of research and a secret chat with an SEO expert.
So if you are interested in Self Publishing – Go fourth & publish!
WHY SELF PUBLISH?
What you need to ask yourself before you begin, is why you want to self publish. No really, why?
Knowing why you want to self publish will get you through the difficult times. Self publishing is a long and difficult process, and while it can be incredibly rewarding, establishing your intentions early one will help you nagivate this huge industry.
When Guy Kawaski, from Author Publisher Entrepreneur was interviewed about why people self publish, he had this to say. ‘If you’re writing a book simply as a means to an end – to get rich, or to get the word out about your expertise, or to attract more consulting or coaching business – forget it. Stop what you’re doing right now. If you’re thinking just about what you can get out of it, you’re probably writing a “crappy” book (Guy’s word), and your “crap” will be forever immortalized in black and white. Something you definitely don’t want. (2)
Karen Andrews from Misc Mum was in the process of sending her children’s fiction to publishers when she decided to self publish instead. ‘Bugger it, I’ll do it!’ She had a feeling it would work and took the risk. She admits it was a big risk, deciding to use her personal savings to fund the project. ‘The whole process took about a month,’ she says, ‘Employing an illustrator, getting a professional logo and learning about the business. She ‘took a risk and it paid off.’ (1)
IT TAKES A COMMUNITY TO RAISE A WRITER
Andrews told the audience at The Emerging Writers Festival, Melbourne, that deciding to self publish was scary. ‘It is a daunting spot to be in when you are deciding what to do, but you have to back yourself.’
When Andrews added that, ‘the best advice I can give you is to not do it all your self,’ the other panelists nodded in agreement. Getting professional help is the difference between people connecting with your work and it looking like a big piece of crap.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROFESSIONALISM AND COMMERCIALISM
Putting your best work forward does not mean you need to sell out.
When you are self publishing, seek the advice and services of professionals through every step of the way.
Self Publishing does not mean ‘Free Publishing.’
When Torre DeRoche decided to self publish, she set about educating herself. What she learnt very early on was that she really needed to build an audience first. She was told that publishers weren’t publishing memoirs ‘at the moment’ decided to do it herself.
DeRoche learnt all she could about self publishing, seeking professionals to edit and review her work. As a professional designer she was able to do a lot of the graphic work herself. DeRoche told the crowd at the Emerging Writers Festival that she spent a lot of time making her book into a product that she was proud of. She focused on the art work, book design, packaging and overall image of the book.
She als0 learnt how to build a community online. DeRoche started her own blog The Fearful Adventurer and got very involve in social media. She spoke about her book on Facebook and Twittter as @fearfulgirl – ‘I was obsessed.’ (3)
For more information on Building an Audience online Check out Self Publishing 202 – Marketing.
WRITE THE DAM BOOK!
The most important process in the whole process is to actually write the dam book. This is very crucial. Write it! Make sure you have something that you believe in and that you are proud of; it will make marketing and advertising your self published work a lot easier.
NAME THE DAM BOOK
Think about what you want to call your book, then Google it. Check if there are other books with the same name. You might be surprised. Type your potential book name into Amazon and talk to your friends about the draft title.
If there are already a number of books (or 21 books on the first page of Amazon) called ‘Hope’ then consider calling your book something else. It is hard enough to sell an original novel with an original title. You will be making your life very difficult if you are going to use a title that is taken. You will be at the bottom of the search results on Amazon and you will rank on page 5 of Google search results. The website Domain name for that book title will probably be taken. The back link profile online for that title will be directed to other peoples books.
You may confuse any potential readers send them off to by someone else’s work by mistake.
Also – Dont make your title difficult to spell, remember or pronounce. Word of mouth marketing for novels is very important. My mother always tells me about the books she reads and my friends and I discuss what we are reading when we chat. If I dont feel comfortable with the pronunciation then I tend to mumble it. If you want to call your book ‘We are one.‘ Don’t spell it …. ‘Oui R won‘. Things that are hard to find – Are hard to find.
Quick tip – Don’t use the word Lavender, Love or Time – they are taken.
No matter how good you are at proofreading and editing, never edit your own work. Editing your own work defeats the whole purpose. Find someone that you trust, who is good at their job and get them to edit your book. Once they have finished, pay them.
If you are struggling to justisfy paying an editor, think of it this way, an editor is not an outgoing cost but a business investment. You need an editor for your self publishing business to survive. An editor will not only make your work better than it was, it will help you to shift into the mindset of a professional writer.
With my latest book, I went all out. I hired two copy editors to go through the basics on spelling and grammar. Then I hired Command Z Editing, run by Nils Parker, to help me structurally edit, i.e. do the job that editors used to do (example: Maxwell Perkins in the 1930s) but have been sorely lacking in the past 20 years from traditional publishers. Nils has previously edited bestsellers from Tucker Max, Kamal Ravikant, Ryan Holiday, and a dozen writers, as well as written screenplays, books, etc.
I am not saying “hire Nils” by the way. I’m just saying this is who I used (and paid). Nils and I went back and forth on more than 15 different rewrites for my book. The difference between the original version and the final version is like the difference between chicken shit and chicken salad.'(4) James Altucher
Where do you find an editor?
Editors are everywhere, you just need to ask the right people. Editors are online, editors are using Linked In, editors are members of Facebook groups and editors go to Writers Centres. There are a lot of editors working as freelancers on websites such as Freelancer and Odesk. Editors also sometimes hang out at the Institute of Professional Editors. They can be found on websites such as the Society of Editors. Editors are on Facebook and Twitter, they go to writing festivals and present at the Emerging Editors panel. Editors are not cheeky, they are not hiding from you, you just haven’t started looking yet. Some editors can charge up to $10 000 to edit your work, though most of them will charge a lot less. It is a matter of whether you believe in your work enough to find the money to spend on it.
Google Editor and see what comes up.
PRICING YOUR BOOK
How do you price your work? This is a very difficult question. How do you price creativity?
Darrell Pitt always wanted to be a writer. He sold his first self published book an hour after is was posted – for 99 cents. Pitt is an advocate for selling a lot of stories for less, and is his own success story.
The issue with having a low cost novel is that people may perceive it as a low cost publication. It all depends on who your audience is. It would make sense to have a lower priced book if you want to catch the attention of Young Adult readers.
When you are publishing your own work, you are receiving all of the profits. When you are in charge of your product you can set the price. If you are still not sure what to charge, Publishers Weekly have an online article that may help guide you through the pricing delema How to Price a Self Published Ebook?
Once you have written your book, edited it and think you have it ready to publish, you are still only halfway there. What comes next is a whole lot of boring administration. If something happens to your books, it is your responsibility, even if it’s not your fault. As a self published writer you are a self employed small business owner. Who is going to print it? Are you just going to have an Ebook? Where are you going to keep your stock? Andrews spoke of receiving her first print run of books and then realising she needed somewhere to store them all. Do you have space in your garage for all your printed books?
How are you going to monitor online sales?
How are you going to keep track of your stock?
Where are you going to keep your stock?
Are you going to get insurance for your work?
Who is going to distribute the work?
How are people going to know the book exists?
TOP BORING ADMIN TIPS
- Remember that once you begin to self publish you are officially a small business owner.
- Learn about small business and get control of you taxes.
- Know you responsibilities as a self publisher and be informed.
Darrell Pitt’s advice, ‘You can’t break the internet. If the cover is not working, change it. If you find a typo or spelling mistake in your finished book, upload a better version. You can keep updating and improving your work for as long as you like. It is yours. So don’t be scared to get it wrong the first time. You can have a few go’s at it.’
…And don’t worry about connecting with everyone
Think about how many people are on the internet right now. Don’t get carried away trying to connect with everyone online, you don’t need them all. Just focus your attention on getting your book into the 1% of people online who are really going to get something out of your work. Aim to get your book into 1% of the internet readership, you will have just found yourself about 50 000 000 readers.
Jenny Blake is an amazing lady with a strong mind for organisation. She has kindly shared her 15 tab Book Marketing Master Spread Sheet online. It is a great resource for getting your head around marketing your book.
If you enjoyed this article there is more!
Click here for Self Publishing 201
And here for Self Publishing 202 – Marketing.
(1) Karen Andrews appeared on a DIY self publishing panel at the Emerging Writers Festival 2014.
(3) Torre DeRoche appeared on a DIY self publishing panel at the Emerging Writers Festival 2014.
(4) James Altucher from The Altucher Confidential has published many articles on Self Publishing