My most recent endeavor has been to venture into the world of self-publishing. At first it seems simple and like an obvious choice, but there are pitfalls that make caution a must. Like my experience with traditional publishing, I have not learned everything there is to know about this facet of producing your work, but I will share what I know and, perhaps, others will help fill in the gaps.
Fortunately there are many resources available to help you in the world of self-publishing, but it can still be too much of a good thing. As with traditional publishing, you must decide what you are trying to accomplish and identify your audience. If you are merely putting together a family reunion photo book your choices will be different than if you are trying to gain a national audience for your new self-help ideas.
One thing to watch for are the “vanity” publishers. This type of self-publishing does work, but the cost can be quite high. For this service you pay an editor to check over your work and help you correct grammar. They may make suggestions about style and content, but overall, they “approve” what you have written. They have professional graphic artists to help with cover design and book layout. Your costs may run into the thousands of dollars, but you will have a professional product to sell. Every step of the production for the book has a significant cost. You will end up with a certain number of copies which you will, then, be tasked to market and sell. Additional fees gain you marketing and advertising help, but add to your overhead. If you have written a best-seller you may recoup your costs, but it is a risky way to start out.
Print-on-demand (POD) publishers offer reduced fee options (and this is becoming more common in the “vanity” market as well). In fact, one can publish a novel through Amazon Createspace at little or no cost to the writer. This may be true with other POD publishers too, but I have not investigated them. At this point you may want to stop reading and check out how this works with Amazon. I was intrigued by the possibility of “free” publishing, myself. If you have a manuscript and have done the editing you may submit this directly to Createspace (once you have opened an account). If it meets their editing criteria you may go on to design you own cover. Createspace has stock photos that can be used for free to make the cover. Once you put it all together and they approve the design, you may publish your book.
The caveat to doing the “free” publishing is that Createspace directs where and how the book is sold. They are the publisher of record. The ISBN (I will explain this later) is in their name and, while you may set the price, if you go this route entirely you may not be able to sell your books anywhere but on Amazon. Nevertheless, Amazon comprises the lion’s share of the market. So by hitching your wagon to Amazon, you could still do quite well at selling your book.
I chose a middle route for my second book. I did submit the copy to my original publisher, but I found out later that they were dealing with a distributor who had declared bankruptcy. I suspect this was a little distracting while I was hoping they were evaluating my manuscript (or maybe they just didn’t like it). Having done some research I chose to self-publish.
I am blessed with daughters who are all very literate and capable of proofreading and editing my manuscripts. One is a teacher and willingly provided the editorial service I needed for my second novel, “Congo Mission.” I paid her a modest sum (this could reach into the thousands for some editors) and she did a marvelous job. I’m not saying that having a professional copy editor wouldn’t be valuable, but one must take into account the “return on investment,” to a certain extent. Getting the spelling and grammar correct is a major undertaking. Editing content and advising the writer on what sells and what doesn’t sell is probably important, but comprises a major investment. I utilize readers to help me decide if I have a good idea or not. Friends and relatives can read your book and provide surprisingly effective critique. After-all, they are “consumers.”
I had this manuscript in hand when I started the process with Createspace. Here it gets a little tricky. My document was double-spaced with equal margins. A paperback book has to have a wider margin along the spine side of the page. Createspace provides a template for you to do the proper margins and spacing. The best idea I found (from Smashwords – which I will discuss in a later post) is to “NUKE” your document. This process is to copy the entire document to the clipboard then open it in “Notepad.” By doing this you remove most of the extraneous formatting that can get you into trouble later. The formatting guide provided by Createspace helps you to know exactly what is required. It took me a couple of weeks, making adjustments, to get the formatting just right so that it looked perfect on the template. When you upload the correctly formatted manuscript, it is then checked to see if everything is in shape. If issues are found, you have the opportunity to fix them and re-upload the document.
This is only part of the story, however. Before I ever uploaded my manuscript I paved the way to make this book my own. I formed a publishing company, called Esengo Publishing, purchased ISBN numbers, and found a company called Smashwords where I was able to produce an e-book. All about this on later posts.by