How to Self-Publish a Book
So, do you want to self-publish your book? You are in good company. Many authors have gotten ahead of you in trying to prove that high-quality books can stay on the market without the support of a traditional publisher. Amazon has changed the entire publishing environment, of course, but authors have been in control of the publishing process since the days of Charles Dickens or the Bronte sisters. Self-publishing works when done well – and for the right reasons.
Even if you’re reading an article titled “How to Self-Publish a Book,” the first question to ask is should you self-publish your book? I’m going to assume you have a book; it may not be edited, it may not be edited, but it is drafted and you start thinking about the publishing phase.
I also assume that you want to publish your book in a professional manner . If you just want to get your book listed on Amazon and not worry about professional editing or a massive marketing campaign, that’s great. A lot of people do this, and Amazon has great step-by-step instructions . You can even earn a few dollars.
But this guide is for people who want to self-publish a book that can hold its own in the current literary market and help you build a reputation, if not a career, as an author.
It is also for people who want to self-publish because they have decided that this is the right choice for their book.
“Some people go into self-publishing and say, ‘I know this works for me, I love it, I want to get my hands dirty and figure it all out,’ and for some people it’s pretty much a help. explains Brooke Warner, co-founder of She Writes Press . While it’s perfectly okay to choose to self-publish after requesting your book in the traditional publishing market, you shouldn’t be thinking, “Well, I couldn’t find an agent, so it looks like self-publishing is my only option.” Self-publishing should always be something that you actively decide to do.
So consider this post as an assistant in making that decision. I want to reference (and recommend) two books that have been invaluable during my own publishing process: Brooke Warner’s Green-light Your Book : How Authors Can Succeed in a New Era of Publishing and The Author’s Guide to Marketing: Make a Plan to Attract More Readers and sell more books (you might even like them) . When I wrote this post, I reached out to both Warner and Jushino, so you’ll see their advice interspersed with mine.
Self-publishing pros and cons
Let’s start with inspiration from the Author’s Guide to Marketing:
You may have heard that this is the best time in history for a writer. And it is true. Authors have more opportunities to connect with readers than ever before, and if they want more control over the process, they can get it. Distribution changes have made nearly every printed book available to every reader, wherever and whenever he wants. Online bookstore shelves are limitless and global. Print-on-demand technology allows you to keep your book in print forever. Limited bookstore shelf space or scale requirements no longer limit publishing.
The first big plus of self-publishing is the lack of restrictions : as a person, you can do almost everything that a traditional publisher does. (Note that I wrote “traditional publisher” and not “traditionally published author.” Once you decide to publish yourself, you take on the role of publisher – and that is important.) If you have an idea that you want to turn into a professional-quality e-book, paperback or hardcover, you can. If you want to sell this book in the same major markets as the bestselling authors, you can. If you want to organize a book tour, buy ads, or host a podcast and media appearances, you can.
This brings us to the first big drawback: you have to do all the work – and invest all the money – yourself. Advertising isn’t cheap. Reviewing your book by major industry reviewers is not cheap. Buying preliminary reviews of your own paperback book to distribute to reviewers and bookstores is not cheap, and getting bookstores (both podcasters and the media) to pay attention to a self-published book takes work. Being a self-publisher means taking full responsibility for your book, from the cover you choose to the editor you hire, and that responsibility will cost you both time and money.
Of course, for some people, total responsibility (sometimes called “creative control”) is not necessarily a bad thing. They want to run the show. They want to study successful covers and learn how to create them – or how to hire a designer to create them. They want to know how to legally quote lyrics or link to trademarks. They want to detail pre-orders, pricing, and marketing campaigns.
This brings me to another professional: if your book is successful, you will receive significantly higher royalties than a traditionally published author. (You will receive significantly higher royalties anyway, but it matters less if you only sell five copies.)
I publish my ebooks through Pronoun , which gives authors 70% of the royalties for ebooks ranging from $ 0.99 to $ 9.99 and 65% of the royalties for ebooks priced at $ 10 and up. I publish my paperback books through IngramSpark and receive a direct publisher reward for every book sold.
How does this compare to traditional publishing? I will quote from Green Light Your Book :
The industry standard requires traditional publishers to retain 85 percent of net paperback sales and 75 percent of net e-book sales.
Self-publishing more than doubles your royalties. While industry standards — and self-publishing standards — can and will change, self-publishing royalties are likely to remain higher than traditional publishing royalties because you take on the role of both author and publisher and get both shares of the money.
The downside is that you won’t earn an advance. Traditional publishers often pay authors a large amount upfront, also known as an “advance”. Technically, this is an advance against royalties , which means that the author doesn’t make more money from his book until his royalties exceed the amount that was advanced to him — and many authors never get their advance. But they get this advance, regardless of whether their book sells five or 50,000 copies, and self-published authors … no.
Crowdfunding has changed the game a bit. Some self-publishing authors (like yours truly) have used Kickstarter and Patreon to make “advanced money” from friends and supporters. If you go down this path, keep in mind that it is not necessarily money that will be left to you; you are likely to spend a lot on the cost of publishing your book.
So. Should I publish myself? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I ready to take full responsibility for my book?
- Am I willing to fund the publication of my book?
- Am I willing to take on all the work required for publishing – design, copying, marketing, etc. – and / or outsource that work to people who are more qualified in these fields?
There is also another question to be answered:
- Is my book good? Is it ready for publication?
Or, as Beth Giussino put it, “The biggest mistake a writer can make in self-publishing is hitting the Publish button on a book that isn’t GREAT.”
If you’ve enthusiastically answered YES to all of these questions, let’s look at the different ways you can get the job done.
Self-publishing methods: DIY, Assisted, or Hybrid
There are three main methods for self-publishing a book:
- DIY: You do pretty much everything yourself, from copying to formatting and marketing. You can hire another person to create the cover or edit, but you do most of the work yourself.
- Help: You do some of the work yourself, but also hire a team of editors / designers / publicists, etc. to complement skills that you currently don’t have. You can create this command yourself or use the service that provides you with the command.
- Hybrid: You hire a publishing company to take on the entire “publisher” role.
I’m going to assume that the DIY and helper techniques are pretty self-explanatory and focus on what hybrid publishers are doing as they have a really interesting place in the publishing world. She Writes Press is a great example of a hybrid publisher, and here’s a rundown of their services:
Unlike traditional publishers who buy a controlling stake in your book but often don’t provide the editorial and marketing assistance they need, SWP gives authors a traditional home experience, complemented by traditional distribution and expert editing and production. team, allowing you to retain full ownership of your project and profit.
Many hybrid publishers, including She Writes Press, selectively select manuscripts and the authors they work with. This makes sense for two reasons: first, because it helps both you and the publisher make sure the project is right, and second, because it allows hybrid publishers to maintain a certain level of quality in the books they publish and promote.
Which method is right for you? Here’s my advice: don’t base your decision on cost alone. The hybrid publishing service may seem like the most expensive option – the She Writes She Publishes all-inclusive package is $ 5,200 at the time of this writing – but no matter which method you choose, you’re probably going to invest several thousand dollars (or more) in the process. publications.
Instead, make a decision based on the skills you have, the skills you need, and the type of experience you need. Do you want a publisher to guide you, do you want a few people to help you, or do you want to take your own self-publishing path?
Typical Self-Publishing Path
Here I finally explain how to self-publish the book . (You’re still reading, right?) The self-publishing path is slightly different for everyone, but here are a few steps that, if followed, will lead you to self-publish:
1. Write your book. Or write two.
Write this book. Make this the best book possible. Start it up by writing groups, or beta readers, or sensitive readers. Review this. Review it again. Proofread. (If you are thinking of hiring an editor, you can do so either at this stage or at the Build Your Team stage, as shown below.)
If you are planning to write a series, it will be beneficial for you to write the first two books before you start publishing. Momentum is a huge ingredient in success, so if you can get your first book out and write a second book very quickly, you’ll have twice the opportunity to promote your series, inspire your readers, sell your second book, give out your first book for free, etc. etc.
2. Build your team.
If you’re on the hybrid route, look for a hybrid service that publishes books like yours. If you are on the do-it-yourself / with-help path and are hiring designers / editors / publicists, look for people who already have experience in your genre. Readers have certain expectations for novels, riddles, and more, and you want your team members to be as familiar with those expectations as you are. (You are familiar with the expectations and traditions of your genre, right?)
“Ask for recommendations,” Warner advises. Hiring a designer or editor is tricky because you might ask for samples of the finished work, but that won’t give you a detailed understanding of the process. “You can ask editors what work they’ve edited, but they’re not going to send us their editor’s ratings.” So get those recommendations and talk to other writers about their experiences before recruiting someone to your team.
It goes without saying that there are many scams out there. Check out Writer Beware before hiring any publishers or signing up for any services, in case you accidentally pick one that’s too good to be true.
3. Create your book. Also, start marketing.
At the moment, you have at least six months from the date of publication; potentially nine months, depending on how much editorial work your book takes. You will manage three large projects at the same time:
- Book interior preparation
- Preparing the exterior of your book
- Marketing your book
The interior of the book includes not only your text, but also the cover, back, copyright information, author notes, thanks, etc. Every word that goes into your book must be written, edited, edited, edited and edited finally – and there are many words that you won’t understand in your book until you start putting it together. (Are you going to include annotations? Are you going to write a call to action at the end of your book encouraging readers to leave Amazon and Goodreads reviews?)
Book appearance includes cover design, as well as back cover, spine, dust jacket flaps if you are going hardcover, a photograph of a potential author, and even more copies. (What are you going to write on the back cover and how will it convince people to buy your book? Are you going to include quotes from industry reviewers like Kirkus that will take up to 9 weeks to receive?)
You also need to make sure your interior and exterior are up to traditional publishing standards. “There are ways to communicate to the industry that you publish yourself,” Warner says. She regularly sees books without running heads or covers with the words [Author’s name] . “There is no word ‘by’ on the covers.”
While you’re doing all of this, you can also build a platform (if you don’t already have one), build a mailing list, set up pre-ordering, book interviews, share reviews of your industry, write about your process on your blog, post an Instagram cover and appear this hype.
“Marketing, at its core, creates a positive experience for your audience,” explains Giusino. “It’s never too early to start this. Thus, even when the writer is still working on his draft, he also has to think about his audience. Who will be the main avid readers of this book? Who will be delighted with the first sight? “
If you read Beth Giusino’s book, The Author’s Guide to Marketing – which I seriously recommend that you do – you will learn about her Attract-Transform-Transform marketing plan. Attraction and Transformation is self-explanatory; transform is about turning the reader into a fan (which in turn will help attract and convert more readers).
Anything you do to promote your book should cover at least one of three stages of ACTION. A careful marketing plan balances the effort to cover all three.
The book has worksheets to help you plan your own ACT strategies. (I love books with sheets.)
4. Plan your launch.
At this point, you may have three months. Let’s say your text is fully edited, which might mean an edited copy or final confirmation, but should give you enough mental space to start thinking about how you want your launch to go.
Launching more than one day. I think of a “launch” as “anything that happens two weeks before publication and three months after publication.”
The launch is also not a solo event. Ideally, it should include the audience you’ve built in the past few months, as well as the contacts you’ve established as part of your marketing and media strategy.
So what happens during startup? It can be any combination:
- Articles (written by you) about your book
- Articles (written by others) about your book
- Interview (print or podcast)
- Social media campaigns
- Bookstores and libraries
You are trying to attract as many people as possible to your book. This means using your existing network and the audience you have already built to create momentum that will propel your book further than you can promote it yourself.
“If your name is completely unknown, and you throw a book into a huge ocean of titles on Amazon, it will be very, very difficult for someone to find it,” explains Giusino. “But if you’ve done your homework and built your core follower group before release, then you’ve got a built-in army of ambassadors to help grab attention.”
The launch is also what comes next . If you are writing a series, let your readers know right away that the next volume will be out in a year or six months. If you are taking a book tour, share that information with your mailing list, local news sites, Facebook, and everywhere else – you can even post your tour information on your Amazon author page.
5. Publish your book.
The launch is not one day, but the day of publication. Enjoy it.
Ideally, you should have multiple interviews or blog posts that should be published on Publishing Day. You should also take the time to interact directly with your readers, whether you are responding to their social media posts, setting up an online event, or hosting a book launch party at your local bookstore.
Publishing Day is not only about you and your book, but also your readers. Make them a part of your day and let them know how much you value support.
6. Keep writing and posting.
Here’s what many writers fail to realize: Selling large print runs is much more difficult than it used to be. I’ll quote Green-Light Your Book again:
Six-digit numbers (or even five-digit numbers) are being sold in fewer books than ever, because more inventory means more choices for consumers.
Your first book is unlikely to be a six-figure success, but that’s okay. The best thing you can do as a self-publishing writer is to keep publishing . You might need three books before you cut off your first 5,000 copies sold, but if you self-publish, you can get those three books out in two years, while increasing your audience and improving your “author” and “publisher” skills.
Yes, that means you get more work done for less money than writers “in the past” should have done, but this is true of all writers (and people in most industries right now). You can see self-publishing as a way to build a writing career, but you can’t always see it as something that will be your only source of income. It can happen, but it is more likely that you will find a core group of readers who love your work and are excited about what comes next, which is honestly considered a success in my book.
What about yours?