The hard work of self-publishing

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It’s so easy to assume that self-published books simply appear ‘on the shelves’ and sell themselves. Before I embarked on self-publishing I had some idea that it would be hard work, but no understanding of the work itself. I will update this post as I learn more…

Have the book

This step is really about quality, not availability. My first n drafts were dreadful. No-one  said so directly, but I picked up the subtle hints. I used electronic editors, I printed and marked up and it got better, but was still pretty poor.

Edit the book (and proof-read)

I decided to engage a professional editor. Picking the right person was proving laborious until a friend recommended someone and it all fell into place. My first outing with my editor was to get an overview of the book. She recommended a wholesale reordering and made a myriad of other suggestions that helped with flow and readability. On Tuesday she returned a marked up manuscript, it has over eighteen thousand revisions and a tonne of notes.

I also got some great feedback from a friend and my other half is reading a print-out. Over the next couple of weeks I will be returning to the editing phase.

Keeping it up to date

Improving the quality and preparing for market is taking time – if a job is worth doing etc. So I am collecting things I need to update or add in. I will add them in as I edit, but at some point I have to say this is the book and no more – that date will be very important. Of course I have to update all those spreadsheets too.

Format the book

I have tried to use styles in Word, I say tried as my editor has found some inconsistencies. They are all due to user error. I also have the book in something like a report format. I need to restyle it so that it looks like a book.

I also have to work out what to do with the end notes, they don’t work well in Word and I expect they will be a disaster in an ebook. I think they may become appendices. I also need to transfer all my sources from Excel to Word, that will be fun.

Convert to ebook formats

There are two main ebook formats – Amazon and Epubs – conversion is a bit technical. I have to make changes to my manuscript, eg take out page numbers, headers and footers and then use software or pay for a conversion service. I have a few ebooks and am not happy with the way they work (or don’t) so I will have to find a balance between getting it right and not losing my sanity.

Design a cover

As already posted, I used Canva to design three covers. I used my blog and social media to ask for feedback and got many helpful comments. I have to revisit the covers and will rerun my question.

Link to Canva.com

Get an ISBN

I need an ISBN to sell the book and have to decide whether to get one for myself or use an ISBN service. On-line advice suggests going alone will give me more control over my book after publication.

Manage copyright

I use data from various sources in my book – I list over one thousand sources. Luckily for me facts are not included in copyright legislation, so I don’t have to ask permission to repeat them. However, I do have about fifty quotes and I must get permission to use them. If I can’t get permission then I have to remove the quote.  See With Kind Permission from….

Decide whether to print

Print books still account for about seventy per cent of book sales in the UK. But my book is big and will be expensive to print (first indications are £16.37 a copy for a print on demand service). At the moment I am disinclined to print, but am keeping my options open.

Distribution

This was completely new to me, I did wonder how to get my book out to esellers other than Amazon (the latter explains everything on its website), but had to do some research to get the answer. The answer is distributors. They take a cut of the money (between fifteen and twenty per cent), but handle all the paperwork. Many offer a sales page, selling directly from a distributor increases the revenue for the writer.

Marketing

In simple terms marketing is putting yourself and your book ‘out there’. At first sight the biggest difference between traditional publishing and self publishing is who does the marketing. In self-publishing it is clearly the author, but many websites say that the traditional publishers don’t market as well as authors would like. Not that it matters to me, I have to do my own marketing.

Everyone who writes about self-publishing says you need an author website, but it is kind of difficult to see what it will do for me.  In terms of publicity, I am a private person and don’t want a self-aggrandising site.  In terms of sales, sure I could cut the cost of sales by selling myself.  But I would have to sell A LOT to break even.  So I have decided to use a range of social media – about.me, FaceBook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and, of course WordPress.  I will also set up Goodreads, an Amazon author page, and others. The big decision is how much to pay, some websites charge a lot of money for this kind of marketing.

The other way of getting notice is through the media. None of the big companies offer book reviews to self-publishing small fry. So I will have to take a different route. I can pay for a review and publish that in various places – that is another decision to make. I will ask specialist magazines and journals for a review. I will be issuing press releases to tell the media the book is coming and on launch.

But a press release is not enough, I need a media kit. A media kit is a comprehensive collection of all the stuff a journalist would need to report on my book or decide whether to review it. I am building my media kit as a page on this blog.

Another tool I am employing is endorsements. These are the little snippets you see on book covers and other places. The right endorsement, from the right person can really help raise the profile of my book. I am looking for the right people and writing to them. So far three have kindly said they would look at a draft of my book. But that is not ready and I have had to send out the version to which my editor has made eighteen thousand revisions…

 

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