Despite all the great advice offered by WNFIN’s expert bloggers, it’s possible that your book proposal may not land you a traditional publishing contact. Or maybe you have no interest at all in traditional publishing; you may want to be an indie publisher—to self-publish your work. Great!
At this point in the WNFIN challenge, we turn our attention to just that—self-publishing. To start us off I’ve asked my favorite self-publishing expert to join us: Sue Collier,author of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition. If anyone knows what it takes to create successful self-published books, it’s Sue. And that’s the focus of her post—not just how to self-publish your book but how to do so successfully. After all, you don’t want to simply turn out a book that sits at Amazon.com and never sells more than one or two copies. You want to produce a book that sells thousands of copies—and maybe even makes it to the best-seller list. To do that, I suggest you pay attention to Sue’s nine essentials for self-publishing success.
Nine Essentials for Self-Publishing Success
By Sue Collier
Print-on-demand and ebook technology—and the fact that there is no longer a need to have thousands of dollars tied up in inventory—mean that there has never been a better time to self-publish. That said, however, the vast majority of books that are self-published each year don’t sell. What can you do to ensure yours isn’t one of them?
- Start building your author platform—even before the book is written. The importance of creating a platform as a basis for your book’s success cannot be underestimated. It’s something you should be thinking about even before you write your manuscript—and even before deciding on what you’ll write. Platform is crucial when it comes to promoting yourself. Ultimately, it will drive book sales.
- Choose a marketable subject. Whether you’ve already written your book, know what you are going to write about, or have yet to pick a subject, there are several steps you can take to help ensure the salability of your manuscript. A marketable subject is vital both for commercial publication and for self-publishing. Some books quickly establish phenomenal sales records and rocket to bestseller status, while others languish. Why? There are two reasons: The winners are usually about hot, timely subjects, and they’ve been aggressively promoted. Subject matter greatly influences your book’s track record.
- Get your own ISBN prefix—and make sure you are the publisher of record. If you use another company’s ISBN, you are no longer the publisher—and technically, you haven’t self-published. Often, eager authors are excited when they are “accepted” by what appears to be a legitimate publishing company. With subsidy publishers (also known as vanity publishers), it’s the writer’s cash, not the quality of his or her work, that counts. They publish anyone who can pay. Typically, they provide little or no book editing, marketing/promotion, or warehousing services. Sales channels for these types of books are usually limited to the subsidy publisher’s website. Even worse, these books are generally ignored by reviewers and others in the book trade. It has become more and more common in the past couple years for these subsidy presses to refer to themselves as a “self-publishing company.” Make sure you know what you are getting into.
- Have your book professionally edited. Even the best writers can benefit from good editors working behind them. Editing is a special skill the average author doesn’t perform well on his or her own work. A poorly edited book is harder to read, harder to believe, and less likely to be reviewed. It is shameful to see a good book cut to ribbons by a reviewer because of poor grammar or spelling. By the way, please, please don’t submit an e-book without editing. Most sites will simply take what you give them and put it up. If our industry is to prosper, every author must take personal responsibility for presenting a quality product.
- Hire a cover designer to create an audience-grabbing cover. This is a mistake I see over and over among self-publishers. Often they will do the cover design themselves or they have a friend do it—and the results look very amateurish. If you don’t have genuine graphic arts experience yourself, get in touch with a professional—someone who has done book covers before—and talk concepts and prices. Don’t choose a person who specializes in logos or brochures. Such individuals aren’t familiar with the intricacies of cover design. (Even if you are publishing only an ebook, having a professional-looking cover is critical.)
- Have the book typeset. Unless you are a whiz at InDesign, I also recommend you hire a pro to create a polished, attractive interior. Microsoft Word does not lend itself well to book design (or to file preparation for press) and trying to do page layout with that program usually results in an inferior interior.
- Have the book proofread. Even if your manuscript was professionally edited, I still recommend proofreading. By the time an editor has made one, two, or more passes through your manuscript, it becomes so familiar, errors and typos can easily be overlooked. Best to have fresh eyes take another look. In addition, a proofreader can ensure that headings and subheadings are the correct size, paragraph breaks are correct, bulleted lists are consistent—all of which can be set incorrectly by the typesetter.
- Don’t expect your book to magically sell once it’s published. I frequently tell authors that even if they’ve written the best book in the world, if no one knows about it no one will buy it. You will have to tirelessly promote your book as long as you hope to make sales.
- Realize that you are now in the publishing business. If you are going it alone, as many self-publishers are, you will have to wear many hats: writer, editor, production manager, financier/accountant, marketer, shipper/warehouse, business manager. Managing a company is fun if you establish and adhere to operating procedures designed for that business. Be prepared to fall and skin your knees occasionally. No one has all the answers; certainly not a new self-publisher. As in anything, there are pitfalls, but there are also many pleasures. Move ahead with passion and conviction, and you will have a much better chance to succeed.
About the Author
Self-publishing expert Sue Collier is coauthor of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing,5th Edition (Writer’s Digest Books, 2010) and the forthcoming Jump Start Your Books Sales, 2nd Edition (Communication Creativity, 2012). She has been working with authors and small presses for more than two decades, providing writing, editing, production, and promotions work for hundreds of book projects. Visit her website and blog at Self-Publishing Resources.
Watch for the final telesminar of this year’s WNFIN event on November 30th at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST, “Content, Character & Connection: Becoming a Successful Writer in a Bottom-Up World,” with Michael Larsen. To be sure you receive registration information, please go to www.copywrightcommunications.com and sign up for the free newsletter.