How To Be A Self-Published Author
Introduction | Self-Publishing Options – Part 1 | Self-Publishing Options – Part 2 | Self-Publishing Options – Part 3 | Why Self-Publishing Is Worth Doing | Creating A Manuscript | Critiques Are Painful But Necessary | Book Illustrations | A Cover That Sells | Self-Publishing Through Lightning Source | Self-Publishing Through CreateSpace | Finally A Book!
UPDATE April 2015: The online world is continually changing and what was ‘current’ in 2009, is old news now. I have linked to the book on Amazon so that you can use their ‘Look Inside’ feature to see the layout of the print book as well as the Table of Contents. Not everything in the book is included here but you can probably get most of the information you need through this website.
Self-Publishing Options – Part 1
Self-publishing can be done several different ways depending upon how much you want to do yourself, how much you’d rather let someone else do, and how much money you want to spend.
And, speaking of money, now is a good time to pour a bucket of cold water on the thought that once your book is published, you’ll be rich and famous. It’s more likely you’ll sell a few hundred copies (if you’re lucky) and many of those will be bought by you or your family and friends.
Any money spent to publish your book should be considered an investment in doing something you’ve always wanted to do, not an investment in your future wealth. Perhaps yours will be the book that sells a million copies, but don’t bet your savings on it.
So, let’s look at three ways you can self-publish your book(s):
Self-Publishing and Subsidy Publishers
You can submit your manuscript to self-publishing or subsidy publishers such as LuLu, AuthorHouse, iUniverse, BookSurge, and BookLocker. That is an extremely short list of the self-publishing companies available and each has specific services they will, for a price, provide to authors.
Some will publish your book, give you a small percentage of the sale of each book (royalty), and sell books to you at a fairly high mark-up. Others will charge extra for the editing and layout of your book. Or you won’t be charged for the pre-press production but you will be required to purchase a large quantity of books at a highly inflated cost.
You’ll sign a publishing contract and it would be smart to have the contract reviewed by an attorney before you sign so that legalize doesn’t turn your book publishing dream into a nightmare. The self-publishing contract may have fine print that gives the publisher full rights to your book, payment clauses to hold your royalties, and other nasty surprises once the relationship with the publishing company begins to sour.
Books won’t sell without marketing and some self-publishing companies will offer a marketing package at additional cost that may include printed promotional materials such as business cards, postcards, and bookmarks. And they’ll suggest ways you can market yourself and your book but you’ll have to do the work and bear all of the expenses without a guarantee that you’ll generate media interest or book sales.
If you have virtually no skills other than writing, the right subsidy publisher could be your best choice because, for a price, they will provide editing, layout, design, and everything else needed to actually turn your manuscript into a printed book.
Before choosing a self-publishing or subsidy publisher, do your homework so you don’t end up locked in a contract that takes away all your rights, depletes your bank account, or worse. One book I highly recommend is Mark Levine’s The Fine Print of Self Publishing: The Contracts & Services of 45 Self-Publishing Companies Analyzed Ranked & Exposed. If you are even casually considering this publishing option, read this book.
UPDATE! Since writing the above paragraph, I’ve had a chance to see whether or not the information in Levine’s book is worth the price of the book. I can sum the answer up in just one word: ABSOLUTELY!! This is the third edition, copyright 2008, and even though some of the prices and services provided by various self-publishing companies have changed since it was published, the basic information could save a new author literally THOUSANDS of dollars!
For example, in looking over the Wordclay self-publishing site, I found it very user-friendly and their basic services are free and include an online “publishing wizard” so that a new author could easily and quickly end up with a book for sale in the Wordclay bookstore.
A few of the extra services I looked at seemed to be priced modestly such as purchasing an ISBN which would allow the book to be sold elsewhere. Using a Wordclay ISBN (identifying them as the publisher) is $99; buying an ISBN for your publishing company is $135 through Wordclay. We’ll get into ISBNs and their importance later on.
I wondered how Wordclay fared in Levine’s book and found them included in the “Publishers to Avoid” section — the very worst category, which also included iUniverse, AuthorHouse and several others I didn’t expect. So I read on to see why.
First, they’re owned by the same company that owns iUniverse and Authorhouse so despite the homey feel of the site, they’re the “down home” contingent of a mega corporation. Second, their paid services can be pricey and the author won’t own services they have paid for. For example, a custom cover may cost $999 but the author can only use the cover with Wordclay’s services; the cover layout files cannot be used to publish the book elsewhere. Third, one particular sentence in the contract regarding payment of royalties would be enough to make me turn and run from Wordclay:
That’s right, if they owe royalties of $20,000 or more, the author will be paid. Anything lower and they sit on the money. Most authors won’t earn this much in royalties during their lifetime. Fact.
Wordclay is only one of many self-publishing/subsidy/vanity publishers you should avoid. Buy and read Mark Levine’s book to sift the good from the bad.
More self-publishing options are discussed in Self-Publishing Options – Part 2.