Tuesday, September 6, 2011

So You Want to Self-Publish

Okay people, this took forever. But it got stuck in my head and I had to get it out of me before I could continue editing because it was driving me insane. For some reason, I am convinced everyone NEEDS to know this information RIGHT NOW. You should know that as I'm writing this my right-hand fingers are twitching and I have a blinding pain shooting up my wrist to the elbow. That's how dedicated I am to writing. I torture myself and my poor, underserving hands. But that's neither here nor there.

*Before going any further in reading the longest damn post in the world, please note that this is not concrete information about any and everything you need to know. These are my own experiences and tips on what I have learned thus far in my writing career.*

There are a lot of negative connotations with self-publishing, but these days, it’s a great solution for those who want to share their writing with the world. It’s important to know beforehand that it’s not the easiest way to make fast money selling books (if that’s what you’re going for, at least) and that it takes a lot of work (gotta be willing to put in the effort), but I feel it’s a great way to get your foot in the door and learn the industry ropes.

There is a lot to know going in to self-publishing, and while I certainly don’t claim to know everything, I hope these tips will help guide you along the way. I’ll start off with a list of pros and cons of self-publishing. If you decide to continue in learning more, then keep reading for tips below.

Can be expensive
Can be harder to market books
More work on the author’s part
Harder to sell to book distributors (such as with B&N)
Many scam-artist publishers

Total control over your book
You set the price
Projects done on your timeline
Easier to get published now

Decide to Try for a Publisher?
I admit, I don’t blame you. Life’s a lot easier with someone else doing the hard work for you. Plus, many bookstores won’t buy from POD (Print On Demand) publishers due to their no-returns policy. So, I’ll tell you as much as I know about the process. If you are hoping for an agent, or decide to look for a publishing company, do not try for anyone who charges a reading fee. An honest, reliable company/agency will not charge for an initial reading fee, so chances are one that does probably just wants your money and will reject you.

Before sending out queries, research various publishers or literary agents. You can do this online, such as at the Predators & Editors site, as well as in a Writer’s Market book. It’s important to do your research first because not all companies cater to the same audience. You don’t want to sent your children’s book to a company that focuses solely on erotica, right? Or maybe you do, all the power to ya.

Once you find the right fit, it’s time to write your query. This should be a 1-page letter tailored to the specific company featuring a brief book synopsis, author bio, and why your book should be considered for representation. If requested, send in a sample chapter or two. Also be sure to include a SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope) so they can send their reply.

After mailing off your query, prepare to wait. Some companies take as long as six months to get back to you, others maybe only three. Also, be prepared for rejections. Unless you’re incredibly lucky, you’ll get a lot of them.

Self-Publishing: Let’s Get Started
So, you want to self-publish. Sweet. Welcome to my world. Suffice it to say I was published “for real” once but that went sour. I’m not sure I’m allowed to say that anything bad about a publishing company without getting sued, so I won’t. Suffice it to say their listing on Predators & Editors is probably the worst one on the site (I figure I can say that because, well, it’s true). Ah, to be 17 again and know how to make better choices when selecting a publishing company. The more you know, huh?

Anyway, due to that rather unpleasant experience, I really enjoy self-publishing. The power is in my hands and I make the important decisions, such as the book size and price. The biggest thing to keep in mind is: do your research. I’ll say it again. Do Your Research. Know what you need, know your budget, and know the company you’re publishing through. Check out the tips below to get started:

So you have the next Great American Novel all typed up and ready to share. Is it perfect? Are you sure it’s perfect? No matter how awesome an author you are, always find an editor or five. You need a fresh pair of eyes, someone who doesn’t know what the text is supposed to say, someone who can find those small typos or areas that don’t make sense. Take it as constructive criticism; no one likes a poorly edited book. It’s no fun to read and you lose credibility.

A reputable self-publisher guarantees that you maintain all rights to your novel, but cover your bases anyway. Get the copyright. It’s easy and only cost about $35 (depends on what you’re copyrighting). Get started here for information on forms and whatnot, then you’ll make an eCO account and fill out your form online. It can take anywhere from 2 to 9 months to get the official paperwork mailed, but technically as soon as you send in the paperwork and manuscript, and it’s all recorded in the Library of Congress’ system, the copyright is yours.

You don’t always have to purchase your own ISBN for self-published books (which is nice, because they are pricey at about $125 last time I checked), but I prefer to have my own because it makes it easier to list your books through outside distributors. Some self-publishers don’t allow you to outsource your book in that way, so if you hold your own ISBN then you can basically do whatever you want with the book. For more information, click here and here.

I find it easier to get the ISBN first, then the barcode since you’ll have to assign the ISBN to it anyway. Barcodes are pretty cheap at $25. Once you have this and the ISBN, you can assign book details on your account, such as the book price and whatnot. Buy a barcode here.

I don’t know a lot of self-publishers, as I’ve only used CreateSpace. CS has been fantastic for me. I highly recommend them, and their publishing package where they take care of the interior formatting for you (because trust me, it’s a pain in the ass). All I can say here is do lots of research beforehand. Read message boards, check for complaints, look at their e-stores to determine their quality of work. You can view my e-store here to get an idea of what CS does for you (book cover pic might not show up, I uploaded it and I think the format is wonky for some reason). Plus CS sets you up on Amazon and you can make your book available for the Kindle and Nook, which is awesome. But that’s besides the point. Choose whatever publisher works best for you.

One thing to keep in mind when researching self-publishers is what people say in terms of selling. For example, when I was researching CS I saw complaints that they weren’t selling books and blamed the company for poor sales, yet when asked if they were doing any marketing themselves, they said no. The point—don’t expect the company to sell your book for you. If you’re not willing to put forth the effort, then you won’t sell anything. You have to find local bookstores, set up signings, sign up for literary events, spread the word on your book, etc. It’s up to you. Don’t be lazy.

Most importantly, have fun! Holding your new book for the first time in your hands is the best feeling ever. Enjoy the process, learn something new every time, and love what you do.

If you made it all the way to the end (holy Hera, you read all this??),  then I hope I've helped even just a bit. I'm always happy to talk about the process and writing. Feel free to contact me by email or through my Facebook page.

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