When I self-published my first novel in 2002, the process was a lot different in one key way: Everything took a lot longer. I believe I sent my first print run off to the printer and didn’t get books in-hand for three months. Today, you can have books printed in as little as a few days if you need a rush.
Technology has helped make the process easier, but it can still be confusing and daunting. So if you are thinking about self-publishing a book or you want to refine your process, this post is just for you.
I’ve become an expert in publishing after ten years of doing it. I began by self-publishing my own novels, then when I landed a book deal, I began to seriously focus on helping others publish their books. The process does not have to be difficult, but you do need to know a few things to make sure you do it in the proper way.
1. Decide the type of book you will write and who your audience is. It’s important to be clear about this because that will determine how you market it and even how well it sells.
2. Write (or hire a ghostwriter to write) the book. Writing a book doesn’t have to take years and years. You can do it in a matter of a few months, depending on how much research you must do or source material you have.
3. Have the book edited. No matter how smart you are or how great of a writer you are, you need an editor. And don’t leave it up to your cousin who got a decent grade in English. Hire a professional who can help you with style, structure, content, and a host of other things.
4. Have the book designed. Get a professional to design the book cover and interior pages. While it’s great to give the designer suggestions, be open to your designer’s ideas as well. While you may only be considering what you like, an experienced professional book cover designer is actually considering what works for your market, readability, and shelf appeal. Same for the interior pages. A professional will make sure your interior pages are readable, have proper spacing, and are using a consistent style. The designer also will use typography and design elements that are standard and consistent with what you need based on your book’s target audience.
5. File for your technical details. These include ISBN, LCCN, and barcode. You’ll actually want to have this information to give to the designer, unless you hire a designer who will file for this on your behalf. The ISBN is the International Standard Book Number, and it’s the number used to track your book in the industry. This is what bookstores will use to order your book. They will not order a book without an ISBN. The LCCN is the Library of Congress Control Number and is a number libraries use to catalog your book in their system. The barcode is a graphical representation of your ISBN.
The ISBN goes on the back of the book in the barcode, as well as on the copyright page. The LCCN goes on the copyright page at the front of the book. You might choose to get a P-CIP, which is a data block that goes on the copyright page and helps libraries more easily catalog and stock your book. A P-CIP is nice to have, but not essential, like the other technical details mentioned here.
If your designer or author services company is ordering the ISBN on your behalf, confirm that the ISBN will be registered under your company’s name, not under the designer’s or author services company’s name. The owner of the ISBN is the publisher of the book, and you want to be properly credited as owner and publisher so book orders come to you.
When you order your ISBN at www.myidentifiers.com, you can also input info about your book so bookstores can easily learn about it. You update the pricing, release date, upload the cover art, and more.
6. Get your book printed. Once your book has been edited and designed with the proper technical details in place, it’s time to go to print. Solicit quotes from several printers, as rates can vary widely. Make sure you are getting an apples to apples comparison. One printer may quote you using 50 lb paper, while another may quote you with 60 lb paper. So you might see the 50 lb quote come in costing less, but that’s because it’s a lesser quality paper. That may be OK with you, but you need to make sure you are comparing similar quotes.
In addition to paper, page count and number of books ordered also will affect your printing quote. You may order a smaller quantity and pay more per book but less overall, or you may choose to order a larger quantity and pay less per book.
7. Market the book. You can actually start marketing early in the process. You don’t have to wait for the book to get back from the printer. In fact, you want to start marketing before the book is back!
8. Get the book in-hand. Once you get the book in-hand, it’s time to do two things: Celebrate your book and inspect it. Celebrate that you’ve gotten it published. And take some time to inspect the book. You most likely will see a few things that escaped your review when you edited the book. That happens. Even large publishers like Random House and Simon & Schuster, with teams of editors, publish books with typos or errors. So don’t be too bummed out about a minor mistake. Just make a note of it so you can correct it in your next print run.
9. Decide on distribution. Decide if you will distribute the book yourself or if you will sign up with a distributor or wholesaler to do this for you. If you distribute books on your own, you’ll have to contact bookstores and libraries individually to see if you can get onto their shelves, if you are interested in selling books to them. If you go with a distributor, the distributor markets your book to bookstores and libraries. Getting into bookstores is easier with a distributor, but some self-publishers don’t like the discounts they must give to the distributors and bookstores. You’ll have to decide what’s more important to you: Keeping more of your money and possibly selling fewer books or parting with more money per book but possibly selling more books.
10. Market some more. Make sure you have a good plan for letting people know about your book. Next to producing a good book, this is your biggest priority. That’s because if nobody knows about your book, nobody can buy it. So use social networking, your website, media, reviews, and other tools to get the word out about your book.
Follow these ten steps — and you’ll be well on your way to self-publishing success!