OR Is Self Publishing the Option for You?

self publisherYou’ve done it! You’ve proven yourself completely nuts by completing an entire manuscript. You might also have already spent lots of time and effort writing Query letters and contacting publishers and literary agents. I know I have!

Lots of writers have been Self Publishing.  It’s not a new concept. Writers have been Self Publishing since publishing began. James Joyce self published ‘Ulysses’! John Grisham, author of ‘A Time to Kill’ was turned down by 15 publishers and 30 agents. He ended up publishing it himself. Dr. Seuss was even turned down 24 times. (Click here for a nice long list of Famous Self Publishers that will make you feel much better…)

It’s just been made easier since the internet has come along and matured before our finger tips. Books on how to ‘make money online‘ and ‘how to get more clients‘ have flourished. Now Amazon is making it even easier to be a credible online author, in any genre, from science fiction to personal memoirs. So, wether you’ve already written your book, or you just know you’ve got one in you, you have to ask yourself ~ is Self Publishing the way to go for me?

6 Things You Need to do to get Your Book Published:

1. Write a manuscript
2. A manuscript needs Formatting for press and online for computers and readers
3. Get an ISBN number
4. Get a Barcode
5. Promotion! Promotion!
6. Find Book stores who will sell your books!

Let’s start at the beginning!
1. Write a Manuscript ~ You’ve written your book, but has anyone read it through? At the very least, make sure you’ve had some trusted friends or colleagues read it through for some constructive critiques. Readers get annoyed by silly errors and they lose faith in the writer if there are too many mistakes.

Your best bet is to have an editor look it over for you before you even think about your final edit. There are editors who will look it over for typos, spelling and grammar. This is a Line Editor. You may also need someone who does Developmental Editing. This kind of editor will review your work for character development, content and flow as well as grammar and spelling.

There are people out there you can add to your team who will help you write your best book. If you’re seeking a good editor, first seek referrals from writer’s who’ve used editors. I use Brian Henry! Click here for his blog.

2. Formatting ~ Your book will be competing with tons of other books. It needs to have a sharp, well designed cover to grab their attention. Often, part of a first chapter, or a chapter or two are offered for free. Yes, the writing has to grab them, but the page layout also has to be professional. If the font you choose is too hard to read, or the size and leading aren’t just right, you will also lose a potential regular reader.

Publishers usually have someone on hand who has experience and skill in making a book look great and easy to read. If you’re choosing the self publishing route, make sure you find an experienced designer who’s easy to communicate with. You can find graphic designers and illustrators online, but wether you seek someone local or through a freelance site, ensure you seek out dependable referrals first. Before selecting someone, develop a report first. Ask all the questions you need answered before you start work, to be sure there is no confusion on the particulars and fees of the job.

From an artist and designer’s perspective, don’t expect them to work for free. This is your dream. Plan on doing the work needed to ensure your book is a success, so you can expect to make your money back and more for the work needed to create a professionally published book. Much like the work that goes into writing, it took a lifetime for an artist and designer to gain the experience, ability and skill to do what they do best.

3. Get An ISBN number
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. In several other countries the process of getting an ISBN and the maintenance of databases has been privatized. ISBN’s are free in Canada! Yay! This greatly reduces the costs for independents and small presses who are operating in this country. That has led to the cost of a single ISBN being as high as $150 USD or more depending on the process you use. Best of all, for Canadians, we can get free ISBN’s for anything, including a CD, DVD, paperback book or any other object that can benefit from an ISBN.

eBooks are a new to the Canadian ISBN system. That means there are a couple extra hoops to jump through.

I am in the midst of creating a new Step by Step in how to get your ISBN, as some of the info and jargon used is a bit confusing. Look for that soon!

Meanwhile, if you’re in a hurry, you can go get your ISBN here:
http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/ciss-ssci/index-e.html

You need a Barcode on your book cover4. Get a Barcode
Why do you need a Barcode? Almost all books these days have a Barcode – because almost all book retailers require one. If you’re serious about selling your book you’re going to need a Barcode on the back cover. The good news is that it’s easy and inexpensive to do.

If you’ve hired a professional designer, they should know either where to find a free Barcode online or should have software capable of creating one. You do need your ISBN number first.

Things to know about your new Barcode:

  •  Your Barcode image must be printed at the correct size and resolution – do not resized or reshape your Barcode, ever.
  •  You may want your Barcode image to have the same colour background as the rest of your book’s cover, but you’re safest to keep it black-on-white. This improves scanning accuracy at the checkout.
  • You should save the Barcode image as a graphics format file, ready to import into your Desktop Publishing application (which should be InDesign or Quark Xpress), to add it to the cover of your book.
  • For some markets (including the United States), an optional 5 digit extension can be added to include the price of the book or other information. It is sometimes a 2-digit extension if the publication is a magazine or journal.

5. Promotion! Promotion!
You’ve written, edited and had your book formatted and designed for press. You’ve got the ISBN number and a Barcode and it’s ready for publication. This is something worth celebrating in itself, but where are your customers?

Lots of self publishing companies, many being mostly hired printers, may offer help in getting your book on Amazon or into a few stores. That may sell a few books, but it doesn’t get anyone excited about it. It doesn’t get people running to the stores to buy your book. The real question here is this: How do you get people excited about your book?

I promise to go into depth on this on a regular basis, but this should get you started. The beginning of the excitement starts with two letters. PR. Press Releases.

A Press Release needs to be sent to a ton of both online and traditional media to introduce your amazing new book. In some cases, specially where you are confident, send them your book, either in PDF or in print, to someone who will read and review it. The more excitement you can garner, the more people will be interested.

Of course, you need to have a place to send your media and prospective customers to! A working Website that allows you to sell your books and possibly other supporting products online! (Ask me questions and I will answer… ) A few local Book Stores should also be on that list.

Beyond the website, it will pay to do some marketing on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. But don’t just stop there! Good old traditional marketing efforts will still also pay off. Organize a Book Launch with a book store or library, and seek some support in doing so. (Don’t forget to send out a Press Release for that too!) Creatively invite friends and colleagues. Offer free signed books as a give-aways. Have business cards.

Whatever you do, know that this is as much a part of Self Publishing as writing the book itself. It takes creativity, time and money. It should be planned and well thought out. When something doesn’t work, rethink it, and keep going until it does work.

6. Book Stores who will sell your books!
Some publishers, who accept your book and do the printing will offer Distribution Packages to help get your book retailers like Ingram or Barnes & Nobles. Just make sure you’re not over paying for this service.

Chapters / Indigo Book Stores work with iUniverse, which offer authors the ability to get their books in Chapters book stores and book signings in one of those stores. It’s part of one of their self publishers packages. Amazon works with CreateSpace. Both iUniverse and CreateSpace help you get your books printed and online, and in their stores for varying fees.

This is the crux of the big boom in self publishing these days, most specifically with Amazon. They have recognized that there is a big market for self publishers and the readers who follow them. People like you and I, who have a book in them and who have lost patience with publishing companies who just can’t afford to work fast enough for us.

There are a lot of choices for writers these days! Ask yourself,Can I do all of these 6 things to successfully Self Publish?” Most people can’t do it all, but there are people out there, like me and some of my friends, who are happy to work with you. There’s time and energy involved, but I always say, “Anything worth doing, is worth a little effort!” Just make sure you ask for help where and when you need it! It doesn’t have to be a lonely road.

Pura Vida (‘pure life’ from Costa Rica)

Linda offers personal page design, illustration and marketing services.

by visual artist, graphic designer (and sometimes writer) Linda Laforge.
See her art and some of her writing at www.LindaLaforge.com

Article copyright © Linda Laforge

9 comments

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