They say everybody has a book inside them, just waiting to burst out. I utterly agree. Writing a book is a common dream for most people. So is publishing it.
Getting published may seem like an unassailable feat. There’s the writing, the getting of an agent, the long period of submissions and rejections, and then, if you get published, there’s no guarantee of reaching the dizzying heights of say JK Rowling, or the newest star of the bunch, EL James.
But there’s another way. A quicker, different, and just as viable way of publishing your books. A way that EL James actually took. This way is called self-publishing.
Thanks to technology and market forces, self-publishing has never been easier. It’s on the tip of everybody’s tongue at the moment. But surely it’s quite difficult? Surely it costs a lot of money? Surely it can’t be a profession? I am here to say that no, it’s not. No, it doesn’t, and yes, it can. To show you how it can be done, I’ve put together a brief guide to self-publishing, and how you can turn that book of yours into a reality.
Step 1 – Write a book
The first step of self-publishing of course is having something to publish!
Writing takes dedication and time. Like any art, writing is a skill and must be practised and honed. My main tips to writing a book are to write every day, no matter what, and plan every detail of what you are writing. Some days will feel like wading through treacle, but knowing you can publish when you’re finished, no questions asked, is a great driving force.
Step 2 – Edit, Edit, Edit
The next step is to make sure that your book is professional and worthy of publishing, and that is something that sadly most self-publishers don’t spend enough time on. Making sure your book is perfect is a top priority for making sales.
A professional level of editing can still be achieved a number of ways:
- The first is to hire a freelance editor. These can be affordable and worthwhile. Editing is a professional skill, and is worth paying for. All you have to do is shop around online.
- The second is to use something called crowd-editing. This involves using a number of experienced readers and friends to provide very detailed feedback and point out mistakes. It’s a “many hands – light work” approach, and can save you a lot.
Step 3 – Cover
The next step of making your book ready for sale, and standing out from the crowd, is a great book cover. We try not to, but we naturally judge books by their covers. It’s their wrapping, their packaging, and they can make or break sales. That’s why you need to put a lot of effort into them.
Again, I would advise sourcing professional help here. If you’re lucky enough to be a designer or artist in your spare time, then that’s brilliant. Otherwise, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can create an industry-worthy cover in something like Word! Professionals are professional for a reason.
Use a freelance designer, or open the project up to a design community, such as PeoplePerHour.com, or Crowdspring.com.
Step 4 – ISBNs
They allow your book to be sold and searched for. ISBNs are needed for some eBook formats (except Amazon) but they are mainly used for physical books. You will need to have a barcode on the back of your book cover and the ISBN in the book’s copyright page.
Where do you get them? They can be bought from most print on demand companies for a small fee, or buy your own from your country’s ISBN agency. It is Nielsen in the UK, or Bowker in the US.
Step 5 – Publishing: eBooks
Now that you’ve made a product worthy of publishing, it’s time to actually publish it!
eBooks first. It is the easiest form of publishing there is, and many authors are happy just to e-publish, and forget the physical side. eBooks are popular, instant, global, and can get you royalties of up to 70-80%. Compare that to traditional royalties of 10-20%.
The process can look daunting, but most eBook retailer of distributor websites (like Amazon or Smashwords) will guide you through it step by step. The only hard part is formatting your book file so that they can be converted to eBook files by the website (beware of paying for conversion!). Guides to doing this are usually supplied.
Step 6 – Publishing: Physically
Two choices here: Either you can have a large batch printed and sell them yourself, or have a company print off copies individually every time you or your readers want them.
The former – known as offset printing, requires a large initial investment and having to store and handle the books yourself, but in turn allows for volume discounts. The latter, known as print on demand publishing, may mean higher prices per book, but it also means little or no initial cost, and no storage costs. Your books are literally printed and shipped to order whenever anyone clicks ‘Buy!’ You never have to see them.
Once again, the company you use will normally guide you through the nitty gritty, and it’s as easy as that. Popular print on demand companies are CreateSpace, or Lulu, and local offset printers are best to avoid heavy shipping costs.
Step 7 – Done!
Once you click those buttons, you’ve done it. You’re published. What now? Well, the next and ongoing step is to push your book as far as you can, and that comes down to marketing. Use every angle you can to tell people about your book. Get yourself a website, use social media, get on tour, and spread the word!
Those are my seven quick and easy steps to self-publishing. I hope they give you an idea of how easy it is.
The last thing to say is that self-publishing is not a quick fix. Like any profession it takes work and effort. But the main thing to remember that self-publishing is now a viable venture and one that is every bit as capable of reaching those dizzying heights. After all, you owe it to that book inside you!
By Ben Galley from self-publishing how-to site Shelf Help. At 24, Ben Galley is the author of Emaneska Series of epic fantasy books. Ben wrote most of his debut book on his mobile phone whilst working full-time at a bar. Ben is zealous about sharing his knowledge and know-how with upcoming writers and he now offers 1:1 consultancy sessions for would-be authors to help them publish the quick, easy, and professional way.