Like marketing, self-publishing is the subject of entire books, and there are many available on the subject. Check the resources section of your local bookstore, search for “self-publishing” in your favorite search engine or Amazon, or go to your local library. If you plan to go this route, spend some time learning about it.
What follows are the absolute basics of what you need to know, do, or have a as a self-publisher:
- Start with a great title and subtitle. You’re going to need it every step of the way. This is harder than it sounds, and it’s important enough to hire an expert to guide you. There are two kinds of writers, in my opinion. One can turn a title into a book, and the other can capture the essence of a book in a few pithy words. You need the latter.
- Have your book cover designed by a graphic designer who specializes in books. Go to your favorite bookstore and look at book covers. What grabs your attention? What turns you off? What is boring? What feels good in your hand? Share your impressions with your book designer.
- Write a marketing plan. It is never too early, and you can always add to it as you go along. In its simplest form, a marketing plan starts with an overall goal for what you want to accomplish, strategies for how you plan to do it, and specific tactics or actions you plan to take, with target dates and estimated cost. There are many book-marketing sites on the World Wide Web; my personal favorites are WebsiteMarketingPlan.com, AuthorSmart, and BuildBookBuzz.
- Create a promotional piece or brochure. Here is one time you will be grateful for the time you put into drafting your proposal because you will have all the information you need at your fingertips.
- Put together a mailing list. You should already have one, but this is the time to prune it and add to it. A solid mailing list is a must have for authors.
- Develop a website for your book. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it should entice and inform. Add to it as you are further along in the process. Hire an expert (usually expensive) or try your hand at doing it yourself. These programs all received top reviews from consumer search: DreamWeaver, CoffeeCup, Homestead SiteBuilder, WordPress, and Nvu.
- Create a blog to keep people informed of your progress. There are a host of blog sites to choose from that make it fairly easy to set up your own blog and customize it your message. Here are a few: WordPress, Blogger, and blogs.
- Choose a name for your publishing company (you may have to file a fictitious name statement). Expert Dan Poynter suggests that having a book written, published, and distributed by the author detracts from the book’s credibility.
- Download or send for copyright forms; file them with U.S. Copyright Office. Even though your work is automatically copyrighted when you write it, this is an added protection. Check into the need for local business licenses; apply for them if necessary.
- Secure an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) from R. R. Bowker. You can buy them in blocks of 10; if you plan to write more than one book or develop spin-off products for your present book, this is an advantage. Some printers provide ISBNs, but be sure it is in your name, not the printer’s, so that you will be the publisher of record. Along with the ISBN, you will need an EAN bar code.
- Consider applying for an LOC (library of Congress) number before your book is published. The publisher (perhaps you) will add this information to the copyright page at publication. The advantage: This makes it easier for libraries and book dealers to process your book. The disadvantage: Self-published books are not eligible.
- Have your manuscript edited and copy edited (remember, they are not the same thing).
- When your book is complete, send it out for review to peer reviewers. Take their critiques to heart and make changes.
- Request testimonials to include in the book, on the cover, and in your promotional materials.
- Get competitive quotes from printers (be sure they are all bidding on the same specs), and choose the one that best meets your needs, including but not limited to price.
- Decide how you want to handle storage and distribution. You can do both if you have room and time, but choosing a professional distributor and fulfillment house is well worth the money if you can afford it.
- Send out review copies of galleys (don’t send a printed book) to appropriate publications and reviewers.
- Go over the printed books with a fine tooth comb for appearance, quality, pages, printing—in short everything. Don’t settle for less than perfect.
- Do a promotional mailing. This is when you all your hard work on your brochure and mailing list pay off.
- Write articles on your subject; submit to print publications and online article sites. There are countless such sites, but the undisputed leader of the pack is EzineArticles.
- Think of book promotion as an ongoing, full-time job. The more you do, the more successful your book will be.
- Consider fresh ways to repackage your contents; develop “spin-off” products (CDs, DVDs, reports, mini-books, eBooks, website content).
There is little doubt that being your own publisher is a big job but one that brings creative autonomy, satisfaction and profits. Before you tackle it, be very sure you can afford the time, effort, and money. If so, go for it.
Bobbi Linkemer is a book coach, ghostwriter, editor, and the author of 16 books under her own name. She has been a professional writer for more than 40 years, a magazine editor, and a book-writing teacher. Her clients include Fortune 100 companies, entrepreneurs, and individuals who want to write books in order to enhance their credibility or build their businesses. Visit her Website at: www.WriteANonfictionBook.com.