Make it to Print: Self-publishing
By Melissa Conroy
You’ve always said you’d write a book, and you finally have a manuscript ready. However, as any published author will tell you, an even bigger challenge is finding a publisher willing to take on your book. The world today contains hordes of would-be authors clamoring for a publishing company to take notice, and competition is stiff. J.K. Rowlings, author of the best-selling Harry Potter series, was rejected by 12 e-publishers before a small British publishing house accepted her first book and made her into a world-renowned author. It can take years of dedicated work until you find a publishing company willing to accept your book, and it is very possible your book will never make it to print.
Since breaking into the publishing world is so challenging, many authors are choosing to self-publish their books. Self-publishing means exactly that: Instead of turning your manuscript over to a publishing company, you the author do the work yourself. You are responsible for editing and formatting the book, marketing it, managing sales, dealing with inventory and getting your name out to the reading public. Recent innovations have opened up more self-publishing opportunities for authors, and more books are self-published every year.
Self-publishing might be your best option for turning your dreams into a reality. There are many pros and cons to self-publishing, so here are some things that you need to consider.
– You will get your book published as long as you put in the time and effort needed.
– You will own exclusive copyright information and all profits. A traditional publisher generally owns the rights to a book, so self-publishing allows you to keep control.
– Self-publishing is generally quicker. It can easily take two years for a book to be published by a publishing house. However, if you are self-publishing, you can speed this process up considerably.
– You can sell your book for a low cost, thus increasing the chances people will buy it.
– You can continue to sell your book even if its sales are low. A traditional publishing company will often yank a low-selling book, but you don’t have this risk when self-publishing.
– If your self-published book becomes popular, traditional publishing companies may seek you out, offering to carry your book, instead of you begging a publisher.
– You have to do all the work: hiring a cover artist, finding an editor, convincing people to buy your book. Everything that a traditional publishing company handles is now on your shoulders.
– There are plenty of scams and less-desirable “self-publishing” companies that can lead an author into quite a bit of debt or to unknowingly signing away the rights to their book.
– You miss out on having a group of experienced editors and publishers helping you develop your book into the best it can be.
– Cost can be quite high for a self-published book because you have to pay for all printing and marketing costs yourself.
If you have decided that self-publishing is the route you want to take, the absolutely best thing you can do is carefully research all of your options and make sure that you are approaching the endeavor with knowledge and skill. One important concern is legal issues. This applies to both the content of your book and your ownership of it. There are specific rules governing such issues as quoting from other books, portraying historical characters and using song lyrics, so you need to be careful you don’t end up on the wrong end of the law because of your book’s content. You also need to be extremely careful that in the process of self-publishing, you do not inadvertently sign away your copyright to others or jeopardize your legal standing. Consulting with a media lawyer is a wise step in self-publishing to make certain that you protect yourself from legal problems.
Bring in the Professionals
Self-published books are often thought to be of poor quality, so it is important that your self-published book is top quality. It is well worth the price to hire a professional book editor to critique your book and help you develop it further. While you may think your book cannot be improved anymore, an editor can give you suggestions for further development and improvement. At the very least, you certainly want a professional editor checking for comma splices, colon problems and misspelled words so that your self-published book doesn’t contain any embarrassing writing flubs.
Professional cover art is important, even if you have an e-book. We may say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But good quality cover art is an important part of making your book attractive to potential buyers. You can find plenty of cover illustrators available on the Internet, or you may find a promising art student who is willing to tackle the challenge of creating cover art for your book.
You also will need to consider the format of your book. Many self-published authors choose to publish in e-book form only, particularly because it is significantly less expensive to publish an e-book. This way you don’t end up with hundreds of print copies in your garage that you are trying to sell. E-books often sell for a few dollars, and some authors even offer them for free, which can be an excellent way of getting people to read your book and anticipate the next one you will write.
However, many authors like to have physical copies of their books, especially since there are still plenty of readers who prefer print to digital. Print-on-demand is an excellent option for creating physical copies of your books. There are many print-on-demand companies such as Lulu or Amazon’s CreateSpace that will print as few or as many copies of your book as you wish. Some programs, such as CreateSpace, allow a buyer to order a single book which is then printed and mailed to him or her.
Marketing is another issue. In a world where thousands of books are readily accessed, how do you get people to buy yours? One low-cost option is creating a Facebook page for your book and reaching out to the worldwide Facebook community. Facebook also offers advertising, and you can reach millions of readers with a Facebook ad that can be as low as a few dollars a day. Other social networks such as Twitter, a well-designed website and a carefully-crafted blog can be extremely helpful for attracting people to your book.
You shouldn’t wait until your book is published to start marketing. If you are in the process of writing, start today with Facebook, Twitter and blogging to draw readers into your writing and give them tantalizing bits of information about what is to come. Try bouncing ideas or questions off your Facebook and Twitter friends and see what writing ideas they have. This way, by the time your book is available, you will have already attracted a large number of people who have helped you with the process and are excited to see your book finally finished. Also, the feedback from others will be helpful and keep you motivated.
The world of self-publishing is vast, exciting, daunting, rewarding and challenging, and it just may be what you need to finally see your name in print.
Melissa will soon be self-publishing her first book, “Steam on the Horizon,” part of a steampunk trilogy that she is writing. Join her on her writing adventure at www.facebook.com/steamygirlpublishing