Have you ever considered self-publishing your work? Does the idea of being your own “publisher” sound enticing? Are you frustrated with the traditional publishing world? Do you want to make all the profit on your book—since you will have to do the work promoting it no matter who publishes it? If so, you might want to seriously think about using some method of self-publishing for your work.
I have to admit, while I call myself a traditional-publishing hold out, I have considered using print-on-demand publishing myself for a few of my own projects. (And, of course, I have self-published several booklets and ebooks.) While researching self-publishing options, I discovered an expert I knew had to write something this year for WNFiN: editor, writer, self-publishing consultant, and writing coach Sue Collier. Sue is also the co-author with Marilyn Ross of the forthcoming 5th edition of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing.
In this blog post, Sue offers a complete—and I mean complete list—of things you need to do from before you embark on the self-publishing process until after you have the published book in your hand. You can find this list in the revised edition of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing (The list gives you a great idea of how much information is in the book, and if you don’t understand something, you know the answers to your questions lie within its pages.) Reading the list makes me, personally, tired…It’s a lot of work to be a publisher, but it can be very rewarding.
Self-Publishing: Timing Is Everything!
By Sue Collier
Are you the type of person who wants to be behind the wheel rather than just go along for the ride? Then you have the right stuff—the stuff self-publishers are made of. Piloting a plane is much like driving a car, except that in flying, the operator’s sights are set higher. So why don’t you step into the cockpit, get your publication airborne and pilot your work to success. The feeling is exhilarating, the rewards are great, and it is a lot simpler than it may seem. Not easy, mind you, but simple.
Of course, as everyone who has gone before can tell you, the ride can sometimes get bumpy. Self-publishing, like flying, offers exciting highs and some worrisome bumps: the pleasures and pitfalls of the trade.
In order for your self-publishing venture to have a good chance of success, you must plan and execute your actions carefully. This timetable will serve as a checklist to help you use your time wisely and do things in the most effective order. Not all items apply to every book; use your own judgment.
I. Do Immediately
To set yourself up as a self-publisher, you must first “take care of business”—and that means establishing yourself as a commercial entity.
- Read up on the subject to glean an overview of this exciting adventure you’ve embarked upon. Recommended authors include Marilyn Ross and Dan Poynter.
- Start developing a marketing mind-set now!
- Subscribe to Publishers Weekly magazine.
- Order a copy of Literary Market Place from R.R. Bowker.
- Choose your publishing company name. Remember to research to see if it has already been used.
- Write the Small Business Administration for its publications.
- Contact Bowker for ABI information and listing forms, plus ISBN information and log sheet.
- Contact the Chamber of Commerce and discuss local business license requirements, regulations, and procedures.
- File a fictitious name statement (if required in your area).
- Obtain a post office box.
- Have letterhead, envelopes, mailing labels, and business cards printed.
- Open a business checking account.
- Obtain your resale tax permit.
- Write the Library of Congress to get your LCCN.
- Join IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association).
- Research your chosen title to see if it has been used already.
- Get any needed permissions.
- Wrap up last-minute research and verifications.
- Ask competent friends or associates to read/critique/edit the manuscript. Revise accordingly.
- Have your manuscript professionally edited; make changes and proofread them.
- Plan the interior design, and mark the manuscript for typesetting.
- Gather any interior artwork, such as photographs or illustrations; size them.
- Write captions for interior art and prepare a keyed list.
- Prepare a castoff to determine preliminary book length and specifications.
- Get author photo taken.
- Get professional help to design the cover.
- Request price quotations from manufacturers and typesetters.
- Determine the tentative retail sales price using our guidelines.
- Establish your publication date.
- Photocopy your manuscript or save it as a PDF, and send it out to authorities on your topic and key reviewers for advance comments and perhaps a foreword.
- Assign an ISBN.
- Complete and submit the ABI form.
- Complete and submit the LCCN form.
- Typeset your book or send it to a designer/typesetter.
- Obtain a Bookland EAN Scanning Symbol.
II. Do Just After You’ve Finished Writing Your Book
With manuscript in hand, you’re ready to think about the physical aspects of your book: page count, typeface, design, and artwork. Also begin thinking about your specific marketing, promotions and distribution strategy.
III. Do These Initial Marketing Strategies
At this point, you set up your promotional campaign and attend to the details of book production.
- Research your Nationwide Marketing Plan. Track down names of reviewers, newsletter editors, associations, wholesalers, bookstores, special sales outlets, librarians, subsidiary rights buyers, and local media people. Think up innovative strategies. Prepare labels or envelopes.
- Write the following promotional materials: news release, sales letter, mock review, and customer sales flier.
- Set up your website. Or, if you already have one, add your book pages to it.
- Start mapping out your viral marketing campaign. Join Facebook and Twitter, and start building your contacts. Update your page on LinkedIn, and participate in appropriate author, writing and publishing groups.
- Contact appropriate book clubs and first serial rights buyers you have identified through market research to interest them in subsidiary rights.
- Test mail-order ads if you’re using direct marketing.
- Prepare a personal mailing list from holiday card recipients, business associates, club membership directories, your Rolodex, database, or other sources.
- Carefully proofread typeset galleys and have corrections made.
- Prepare electronic copy according to printer specifications.
- Double-check that all corrections were made accurately and that all pages, illustrations, and book parts are in the correct places.
- Prepare the index (if applicable).
- Typeset and proofread index.
- Have galleys printed via print-on-demand; mark them as “Advance Reading Copy.” Send out to potential reviewers.
IV. What to Do While Your Book Is Being Printed
As you continue your promotional efforts, begin implementing your Nationwide Marketing Plan. Get ready for the arrival of your books.
- Review printer proofs of your book carefully for any final corrections.
- Set up warehousing space and a shipping area, or arrange for outside fulfillment.
- Order shipping and office supplies.
- Prepare the following additional materials: acknowledgment card for reviewers, discount schedule and return policy statement.
- Implement your Nationwide Marketing Plan.
- Follow up on book clubs and first serial rights potential buyers.
- Mail your prepublication offer to your personal mailing list.
- Write the copyright office for Form TX.
- Contact Dustbooks for listing in its various directories.
- Implement full-scale mail-order campaign (if applicable).
- Coordinate freight delivery of books, making sure you’ll be there to receive shipment and have payment ready (if needed).
- Embellish your book detail page on Amazon.com.
V. Do When Books Arrive
At last—You have books to sell. Your baby has arrived. Now you can begin filling orders and following up on marketing leads. Rejoice!
- Take an inventory count and open several random cases to be sure books are not scuffed, bound upside down or otherwise damaged.
- Fill complimentary copy requests generated by your Nationwide Marketing Plan.
- Fill advance orders.
- Pursue prime wholesalers and distributors who have not yet shown interest.
- Go after second serial rights sales.
- Implement special sales and innovative promotional ideas.
- Request the return of pertinent printing materials from your book manufacturer.
- Complete your copyright registration on form TX.
- Send a copy of the book to the CIP office.
- Send a copy of the book to Baker & Taylor.
- Always carry a copy of the book with you—in your briefcase, handbag, or backpack—and have a case of books in your vehicle.
- Contact all bookstores in your area.
- Set up a “revisions’’ file for noting corrections and new material for subsequent editions.
VI. Do These Ongoing Promotional Activities
A successful self-publisher’s work is never done; you’ll always be thinking of new ways to sell books. Now is the time to line up print, radio, TV, and Internet interviews.
- Implement special sales and innovative merchandising techniques.
- Follow up on prime reviewers to be sure they received books.
- Develop an Available for Interview sheet.
- Contact local media for interviews and stories.
- Expand your media focus to include regional print, radio, and TV.
- Ask enthusiastic readers to write customer reviews for the book at Amazon .com and barnesandnoble.com.
- Pursue reviews, excerpts, and book sales on various Internet sites.
- Be constantly on the lookout for new review sources and sales opportunities.
- Consider giving lectures and/or seminars as promotional vehicles.
VII. Do After a Successful First Printing
It’s time to decide whether you want to reprint your book or offer it to a trade publisher.
- Add favorable reviews to the book cover or first page.
- Revise the copyright page and correct any typos.
- Revise, update, and/or expand the book as needed.
- Review the back-page order form for price or other changes.
- Get reprinting quotes on a second printing or . . .
- Offer the book to major trade publishers.
In all you do, much success. You can make it happen!
About the Author
Sue Collier began her career in publishing as communications editor for the College of American Pathologists in Chicago during the late 1980s. She later moved on to a position as production editor for the American Society for Quality Control in Milwaukee, handling all facets of production for approximately 25 Quality Press titles annually. In 1991, she relocated to the Denver area and accepted a position as managing editor for Fulcrum Publishing, a trade publisher where she spent more than four years working with dozens of authors, freelancers and staffers on a myriad of projects.
In the mid-1990s, she began working with self-publishing authors and small presses. At that time, she also began collaborating with well-known publishing guru Marilyn Ross. Sue took over for her mentor in 2007 as the owner Self-Publishing Resources. Working as a coach and consultant, Sue overseas all book writing, packaging and promotions project work for SPR.
Sue has degrees in English and education from the University of Wisconsin. She is a licensed real estate broker in Colorado (inactive status) and a member of Toastmasters International. She is the co-author with Marilyn Ross of the forthcoming The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition (Writer’s Digest Books, March 2010).
Help other writers find the wonderful information and resources at Write Nonfiction in November all year long: Vote WNFIN One of Writer’s Digest’s Annual 101 Best Internet Sites for Writers
Please visit www.copywrightcommunications.com and sign up for the free newsletter to receive a gift at the end of the Write Nonfiction in November challenge!
Don’t forget to sign into the WNFiN social networking and chat room and tell us what you are writing about or start a discussion. http://writenonfictioninnovember.ning.com/