A lot of people still think of self-publishing as a shameful, ego-driven act.
For starters, self-publishing allows you to get your work out into the world without waiting for editors to make up their minds, to avoid the seemingly ceaseless barrage of rejection notices, and to control just about every aspect of the publishing process.
It also requires you, the writer, to be responsible for a lot of tasks, many unpleasant, such as proof-reading, marketing, and reading bad reviews. Or getting no reviews at all.
But despite the negativity associated with the process, self-publishing offers many rewards.
So, once you decide to take the plunge, how do you keep your head above water?
1. Be sure your content is well-organized, proofed, and clear in terms of theme and message. Ask people to read your manuscript before you upload your files to a publishing platform. That means asking people who will be honest about everything. Not your mother or significant other.
2. What about costs? Some authors complain about costs. A lot. But remember: it will cost you something to do it right if you choose to go the route of self-publishing.
What are you looking at in terms of costs for non-traditional publishing once you have your book laid out and your cover ready to go?
Be sure everything looks professional. Some cover templates just don’t cut the mustard and the resulting covers look, well, amateurish. Sorry, but they do. Invest in hiring a professional graphic artist to design the cover and interior layout. It makes all the difference in the world between a so-so product and the professional look you want. Costs will vary.
It costs about $50 to upload both your cover and content to Ingram. Nothing to Amazon. There is, as far as I know, no annual fee to use either of these platforms (Amazon and Ingram).
You need to buy an ISBN and barcode, from Bowker.com, so that your books are listed in Ingram’s database. If you go with Amazon KDP (formerly Kindle Create) alone and opt for them to add an ISBN to your cover, your options for distribution narrow—certain restrictions might hamper your efforts later to distribute your book via another distributor. Read the fine print. Ingram distributes to Amazon. So, I have listed 3 of my five books with Ingram. I use Amazon, also. Especially for eBook versions.
Yes, distributors and sellers request a minimum of 30-35% of the cost—the preferred amount IS 55%—but you don’t always need to agree to that. The 55% figure for discounts is the usual industry standard for distribution, an incentive for sellers to carry your book either online or in a bricks-and-mortar shop. Shipping costs are NOT part of either deal here for Amazon or Ingram―unless you distribute your books yourself. For any author copies/books you buy from either platform (Amazon or Ingram), you pay the print price, and that means no royalties ensue unless you pay full price.
Price your book accordingly, and you won’t be hurting financially. Use the price calculators provided by publishing platforms to determine what to charge per copy.
3. Color printing is out of sight cost-wise on Amazon, so for one of my books―Meatballs & Lefse, which included a lot of interior color―I went with IngramSpark. You also have the option with Ingram to pay a fee for inclusion in a catalog announcing the publication of a book, but you don’t have to do that.
4. As for marketing, that’s the hardest and least-attractive part of this whole business. Even people whose books emanate from traditional publishing houses must hustle to get their books noticed. Why? These days most traditional publishers provide very little marketing support beyond the initial launch―unless you’re Ina Garten or somebody like that. I send gorgeous postcards about my books to various library acquisitions folks, bookstores, etc. Sellers can look up my titles in Ingram’s database. I also seek out other opportunities too numerous to list here. In other words, try everything you can think of to get the news out about your book. But avoid saying “Buy my book!” Instead, look at it as putting information out there about your books without the hard-sell.
5. Another important thing: apply for copyright, which you can do through Bowker, too, or directly through the U.S. Copyright Office.
6. And be sure to opt for the “Look Inside” feature―you will lose a lot of sales if people cannot glimpse the magic inside the covers! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked up enticing-sounding books, only to be confronted with nothing about the content other than the back-cover text. It takes several days after uploading your files to the publishing platform for this feature to appear on sites, BTW, so don’t despair if it’s not there immediately.
7. Follow the directions for manuscript uploading on whatever publishing platform you choose. You will save yourself a lot of headaches.
My bottom-line opinion on self-publishing?
- There’s no shame in doing it. I won an international prize for one of my self-published books, a prize that many traditional publishers/authors have also won.
- Find the best publishing platform that fits your wallet and your aspirations.
- Write. Do the work. Life is short. Get your work out there.