Self-publishing a book: 24 things you need to know
By Patricia de Hemricourt
Your book is ready and you are considering self-publishing but not quite sure what it implies. Here is a list of elements to take into account . The other option is to publish the traditional way. If that is still a question in your mind, have a look at the respective advantage and inconveniences of traditional publishing vs self-publishing.
1. Self-publishing is easy.
Self-publishing a print book is easy. Self-publishing an e-book is even easier.
To self-publish a print book:
- Choose a size for your book,
- Format your Word manuscript to fit that size,
- Turn your Word doc into a PDF,
- Create some cover art in Photoshop, turn that into a PDF,
- Upload it all to the self-publisher of your choice,
- When getting the book proof back make necessary changes and swap in new PDFs,
That is the easy part, then comes the rest…
2. To self-publish a digital book
In this day and age, it is preferable to begin by testing the waters with a digital book. If that seems to gain a decent readership, it is then time to think about print book. Of course starting with both print and digital books is always an option for optimistic writers,
Finalize your book in a Word or PDF file,
Convert it into on or more of the many e-book formats or just offer it as a download as a PDF.
Go to “How to self-publish an e-book” for more information on e-book creation.
Again, that is the easy part, then comes the rest…
3. Since self-publishing is so easy, everybody’s doing it.
This means the slush pile moved from the agent/publisher’s desk to Amazon, B&N and other on-line book retailers catalog. Expect to have to invest time and effort into marketing to pull your book out of the slush pile and into the limelight
4. Good self-published books are few and far between.
The 6 figures successful self-published books are a tiny minority of the fast growing number of self-published books. Don’t forget to reward yourself if you manage to sell over a thousand copies of your book in the first year of publication. That is a great success even if it does not pay your bills.
5. The odds are stacked against you.
In the absence of official statistics on the topic, the accepted average print self-published book sells about 100-150 copies. When removing the copies bought by friends a family, that leaves a few dozen copies sold to real buyers.
6. Creating a “professional” book requires the help of professionals.
While self-publishing is easy, doing a professional job of it is a different ball game. The formatting part is becoming easier everyday with the launching of a growing number of software doing the formatting and conversion to various formats, but the editing, book cover and blurb part are still best left to professionals of the trade.
A sloppy editing or a lame cover spells an early death for your book. Lack of marketing is likely to leave your book bury to deep to ever have a chance to grow a readership.
7. Have a clear goal for your book.
The time and money investment dedicated to perfecting your book needs to match your goals, i.e., if it is meant only to be a memorabilia for friends and family, success in reaching the potential readership can be achieved with far less means than if your goal is to rival J.K. Rowlings.
8. Writing a great book is no guarantee of success
Unfortunately, even the masterpiece of the century has to be discovered. A bland cover and ineffective or lack of marketing means it will not make it, or has as much chance of being found than you have of winning the Lottery big prize.
Yet, a mediocre book is unlikely to break even, regardless of how much is invested in book cover and marketing efforts.
9. Niche books tend to do best.
Niche books are targeting a limited audience, which enables maximizing marketing efforts to a limited crowd, and where quality recognized by member of that limited potential readership is more likely to be reported from within, easing the chances that your book will be talked about to potential readers.
10. Buy your own ISBN
If you have market aspirations for your book, buy your own ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and create your own publishing company.
Most self-publishing operations will provide you with a free ISBN for both your print book and e-book but whatever operation provides you with the ISBN will be listed as the publisher.
11. Create a unique title.
Trying to hitch a ride on successful titles by giving your book a title such as “Fifty Shades of …” is a risky bet. Better ensure that your book title is unique by entering the first two or three words of your title I Amazon search field to see what Amazon brings up. After all, your book should stand on its own.
By using a knock off title, your book risks being buried below associated products to the original title. Further more, you will have a hard time competing for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for those actually looking for your book. You might end up loosing readers who were actually looking for your book.
12. Turn-key solutions cost a lot of money.
Before signing off a few thousands dollars with a company offering turn-key solutions for editing, book cover, formatting etc, have a look at other books published by these companies. If they are offering marketing services, as well, do not believe what they say on their website. Have a look at the Amazon rating of a few of their books, (not those they list as samples) to see how well they fared.
Running a Google search for testimonial about the company’s services might also be helpful.
Keep in mind that the interests of self-publishers outfit is to get as many clients as possible. However much they claim they care about your book, they don’t really care. You have to make them care.