Writing a Book? Tips for Self-Publishing

If you’re writing a book or you’ve written one, you might be thinking of going the self-publishing route. I have written two books and self-published both of them. Along the way, I learned a lot, so I thought I’d write a little article to share what I’ve learned. This article is for those who plan to write only one or two books.

The quickest way to get published is to self-publish, and there is a lot of help available if you choose to do that, but there are also a number of pitfalls. In my experience, writing the book was the easy part; much of the really hard work comes after the writing is done. If you Google self-publishing, you will find many companies that claim to self-publish people’s books, but in fact, they are just printers. Publishing involves copyediting, copyright, designing how the book will look, creating an eBook and printed copies, and marketing, promoting, and distributing the final product.

There’s a quick way to tell the difference between a printer and a publisher, and it’s really quite simple. If the publisher’s website has a link for you to order your own ISBN number, chances are you’re seeing a printer rather than a publisher. Moreover, an actual publisher will never require you to buy a single copy of your own book. I have heard many stories of authors who had to purchase boxes of their books in order to get a quantity discount so they could sell them at a price that would give them a profit. Another tip is to avoid high-pressure sales pitches. I would also steer clear of any company that requires you to enter your contact information before you can see any pricing or get additional information. Look for publishers who are open and upfront about everything – before you tell them anything about yourself.

Let’s talk about copyediting and copywriting next. Copyediting is essential for me. Most writers get so close to their work that they become unable to see errors in content, usage, and mechanics. It’s just about impossible to ensure that your own writing is error free is difficult. It is always beneficial to have a new, fresh set of eyes go over your work, and publishers have working relationships with many copy editors. They can even help connect you to one who has a background or experience in your subject matter. I have worked with some great copyeditors, and I am always learning from the feedback they give me. Professional copy editors are usually fast and thorough, and in the scope of things, not all that expensive. A good copy editor will charge between $.01 and $.03 per word. If you are unsure whether or not you need one, take 3 or 4 pages from your manuscript and have a copy editor look them over. If they come back clean, you are okay; if not, consider having him or her review your whole manuscript. Acquiring a copyright for your work is not a requirement, but it is a good thing to have in this world where plagiarism is common. If you spend the few bucks to have your work registered with the US Copyright Office, it will be much easier to prove ownership of your work should you need to. A publisher will be willing to do this for you; just make sure that the copyright is put in your name.

There are over 70 major online book distribution companies. Amazon has a tool that you can use to create an e-book for their site; however, that e-book will be available only on Amazon’s site, and it does not register your ISBN number in the Ingram database. The Ingram database is key to your success. This database is the de facto standard, and if anyone is searching for your book at a bookstore, this is the database they search. A major difference between a printer and a publisher is that a publisher will take care of this for you. By working with a publisher, your e-book will be submitted to all the major online bookstores, not just Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

The most difficult part about publishing a book is figuring out how to market and promote your book. Getting it in the bookstores is straightforward; there are thousands of new books added to the database each year. With that many books being added all the time, how do you make your book stand out? How do people find out about your book? All I can tell you is that the answer varies as much as the books themselves. I have worked with some authors who are excellent speakers, and I put them on a speaking tour. In this case, I sell the book by marketing the author. There are many tactics you can employ, but you will find that social media is one of the best ways to build a strong fan base. Building a fan base will consume a fair amount of time, and it’s hard to do if you plan on writing only one book. This is where a publisher can make a difference; they have connections and experience marketing books. Publishers make their money by selling books. Many self-publishers don’t have access to these marketing channels. You can market your own book, and many self-publishers have been successful. However, what they will tell you is that it was a lot of work.

The growth in the number of self-published authors has given rise to a new kind of publisher who can take the work out of self-publishing, and their prices to do so range significantly. These new publishers combine the benefits of having a publisher with the flexibility of being self-published. They bring a lot of experience and numerous resources to the self-publisher. In many cases, if you shop around, you will find companies that charge about the same as what it would cost you to do it on your own. However you decide to move forward with your work, I wish you all the best, and happy writing!

Stephanie Timmer