May be the past couple of years have been a bit disappointing for you, following numerous failed attempts to make an impression with mainstream publishers. But, somehow, through mainstream media, the internet or a friend, you heard about the prospects of self-publishing and are now giving it serious consideration. However, how do you tell if self-publishing is the way to go for you?
To be honest, self-publishing has done a great job in helping discover and nurture talent. For many, this kind of publishing is like that new record label that signs up artistes who have been turned away by major players in the industry. The good thing about it is that, many of these “artistes” have proved wrong the conservative players in the publishing industry and ended up shining like a diamond with their captivating and highly successful titles.
But, one thing many aspiring authors miss about the concept of self-publishing is the “self” part. For some reason, it may not be obvious to some authors that the “self” part means they’ll be responsible for many aspects of the book-making process. As such, the market will judge an individual author (and not CreateSpace, Lulu, Kindle or Barnes and Noble) for the quality of titles they produce. Neither will readers confront your professional book formatter, cover designer or interior designer for any short-falls in book-making standards that are evident in your production. The buck stops with you and that’s why you should ask yourself the following questions before you take the plunge into the sea waters of self-publishing.
Am I ready to take Full Charge of this Endeavour?
With self-publishing, you don’t have the luxury to sit back and relax as a professional ensures all the book-making standards are met. You’ve got to get involved in every single aspect and process. Thus, take charge of the book formatting process, decide about cover design, and market your book aggressively.
Do I have the Time and Resources?
It’ll take a bit of your time to make sure a quality title gets out there. All these processes will eat into your daily schedule and you should be sure that this is okay for you. Also, it will cost to get your book ready for publishing with firms such as CreateSpace. Aspects such as paperback formatting and others related to book-making will cost you too. Thus, you need to ask yourself if you have the resources to deliver a well prepared product that meets industry’s standards.
Am I Ready to Learn?
Self-publishing is quite a learning curve. This means that both experience and other sources will be there to offer insights on the best way of going about with certain book-making aspects. May be you’re already an excellent writer, but self-publishing turns you into an entrepreneur. This is where learning begins because you’ll not just be operating or thinking as a writer, but also a business person out there to make nothing short of profits. There will be a lot to learn in both online and offline book marketing activities. You’ll also explore better channels of distributions and learn to balance between eBook and paperback productions. There are also lucrative publishing deals to seal once you become popular and you’ve got to learn when to say yes or no or how to strike the most favorable bargains.
Even if you’ve read eBooks before, you may take it as an immensely uphill task to produce one yourself, in case you aspire to become a self-published author. Fortunately, while you need to be familiar with computers and word-processors (such as MS Word), what you really need to know and master as an author hasn’t got much to do with the finer details of the book-making process.
Does that mean, paperback formatting, eBook conversions, cover design, interior formatting and other aspects of book design are irrelevant to you as an author? Far from it! The good thing is that there are professional book formatters that can help with such aspects for a reasonable fee and with guarantee of professional quality. While you should let a professional help you with book design (unless you are a book formatter yourself), the joy of self-publishing offers no room for a hands-off approach. That’s why you should consider the points below very seriously:
(1) Get involved - You don’t just walk in there and ask a book formatter to do whatever they deem necessary to deliver a nice product. This means that you should come up with a standard idea of what you think is best for your audience. See, some authors stand out for their style and presentation and not just their story. Thus, if you don’t offer input as to how certain aspects of book formatting should be implemented, how sure can you be that a service provider will pull it off for you? Yes, they are professional, but you need to add a voice so that a unique product is delivered for you.
(2) Research Extensively - Read widely. Visit libraries (both offline and online). Spare no efforts in seeking to know what the standards and trends are in the book-making industry and story-telling. Also, research on your genre of interest to see how other authors are going about it. There is room for creativity here but there are certain aspects of design that match certain genres. For instance, find out what cover designs suit thrillers, motivational writing, sci-fi and others. Do that for every single aspect of book design.
(3) Decide on Book Format - Quite obviously, you’ll be offering an eBook. But having your book ready for printing into paperback has its perks too. This is a decision you should make in time because it determines which self-publishing firm suits your approach. If you’re publishing an eBook alone, CreateSpace, Smashwords and other similar platforms will suit your approach. However, if you need your book available for print, you’ll find CreateSpace very appropriate as it offers Print-on-Demand services.
(4) Market Aggressively - Book marketing is one of the most critical tasks for self-published authors to undertake in the writing industry. Yet, you’re almost on your own in this regard, meaning that if you don’t do enough, nobody will! Thus, get involved online in social media, blogs, writers’ and readers’ forums and engage your potential audience in constructive conversations.
The above does not constitute everything there is to do for you as a self-publishing author. But, whatever else you do, remember the four critical points.
If your self-published title is not available in one of the major eBook libraries in the world, you’re missing so much on revenue as a writer. Today, several eBook lending platforms have come up and authors can take these as opportunities to earn more revenue from their titles. The platforms have devised convenient ways for self-publishers to compete effectively with their traditional counterparts as far as lending is concerned. There are several eBook lending platforms for self-publishing authors both in the US and UK. The major one is OverDrive and the other is 3M Cloud Library.
The OverDrive eBook library offers your title anywhere in the world on a wide array of platforms, devices and displays. The system is designed to work on modern devices and your audience won’t have to download eBooks in order to read them. Thus, you can take advantage of this platform to make your book available for lending and reading over Smartphones, tablets and desktops.
3M Cloud Library
The 3M Cloud Library offers an application where users can access thousands of titles. This is also a way for self-publishers to present their works for browsing, borrowing and reading.
How the System Works
There are two main ways for self-publishers to make their titles available for borrowing in US or UK libraries: Aggregators or library’s own checkout system.
These are neither publishers nor platforms that aid self-publishing. Rather, aggregators are third party platforms that bridge the gap between publishers and libraries. Thus, 3M Cloud Library, OverDrive and Axis 360 are aggregators that link publishers with libraries to make their works available conveniently online for borrowing. For example, Smashwords has entered into working relationship with all the three aggregators such that titles published through the platforms are available for borrowing.
Any library that offers a title for borrowing pays for it once and can only lend it to one patron at a time. The book is available for checking out again if it’s checked back in by the patron or the library purchases subsequent copies.
Author Solutions and Amazon’s Kindle also have working relations with aggregators so that authors publishing through their platforms can earn more revenue by lending.
Library’s Own Checkout System
Individual libraries may also run their own systems to facilitate lending and borrowing of books directly from their publishers. These also may have a system whereby a copy is available for borrowing one at a time. Other terms may limit the number of checkouts possible for a title or duration of time a title is available for lending before a library has to repurchase it.
But publishers may find it more convenient to work with aggregators through their self-publishing platforms. The good thing about this arrangement is that a self-publisher has more say over pricing of their titles for purchase by libraries. For authors who seek to lend out directly to libraries and sidestep aggregators, Smashwords has a feature where they can set their own prices, of course subject to an acceptable limit.
Many independent authors will attest to one thing: mainstream publishing is way out of reach for many aspiring authors. Thus, if somehow a title gets published and enters the market, other publishing options and not traditional channels must work. However, there is still some level of confusion around what self-publishing really is and whether the term also encompasses subsidy publishing, the two being the only seemingly viable options for many aspiring writers. So, what’s the difference between subsidy publishing and self-publishing? Read on to find out…
A Look at the Original Concept of Self-Publishing
The concept of self-publishing dates back a couple of years, at a time when the line between it and subsidy publishing was a bit thick. To be a self-publisher, you had to buy and own an ISBN no. for your title, having already put up your own publishing company. If you were the do-it-yourself type, you’d probably do the editing, proof-reading and even book formatting. However, you could still enlist the services of a professional book formatter and designer for a more quality product. You’d then engage a manufacturer to print the books in bulk and sell for profit. That was self-publishing’s original shape. Remember, you were the publisher here and owned your book’s ISBN.
Just as the term suggests, somebody here subsidized the costs of production of your book. But the deal came with a catch. You pay someone to “self-publish” under their company’s imprint, meaning you don’t exactly own the book. The only advantage this type of publishing had over traditional publishing was that your manuscript would readily be accepted, plus you never needed plenty of resources to get started.
Today, self-publishing continues to suit many aspiring authors for the control, flexibility and ease of the book-making process it accords them. You don’t have to start your own company to start out as a self-publisher, yet you own all the rights to your book. You have the option to buy your own ISBN and dictate the book production process in all its critical aspects including cover design, interior design, typography, graphic design and images.
Caution about Subsidy Publishing
- Subsidy publishing is neither self-publishing nor traditional publishing.
- Many subsidy publishers set the book price because they want to recoup their investment. This may disadvantage you, if the price is set to high.
- The publisher assigns you an ISBN they own. Changing it can be tricky for you and even impede sales.
- You don’t own a book you wrote. Thus, you must by one if you need it for yourself.
- Subsidy publishers manage the marketing and promotion process, but not in an aggressive fashion and with no guarantee of results.
Why You should Consider Self-Publishing
With self-publishing, you have total rights to your work and own the entire process. You determine the pricing and may even engage a traditional publisher at choice and on your own terms. Plus, you have your book designed to your tastes and in line with industry standards.
If you already have a personal Pinterest account, then you will have to convert it into a business account because they differ. A personal account won’t be suitable for promoting your book as you are aiming to build author brand. If you don’t have an account then you should create a business account.
- It’s important that you use a professional photo for your profile and your own name that you use across all your platforms for consistency. You don’t want to confuse your followers and more so your potential clients. You need to connect and build a relationship with people since its easier and more practical to develop a relationship with an individual rather than a company; thus your clients will be able to recognize and connect with you more efficiently.
- Bear in mind that your main aim is to build loyalty and trust; thus you should be particular with unveiling and presenting your personality to your audience. Quirky names of photos will obscure the image you need to present to your audience and neither is your book’s title suitable nor the book cover. Just ensure to present your identity and personality as the individual behind whatever great write-up you may be trying to promote.
- Maximize your “about section” with a highly compelling description and hash-tag in front of your keywords. Then link to your twitter and personal Facebook account. Facebook pages aren’t applicable here.
- Verify your author website on Pinterest by adding a link to it on Pinterest. Then start pinning your photos of interest. You can do this easily by first adding a Pin It button. You can pin a video, a blog post or an image that you find of interest to your board. Once you click on the Pin It button, its original source is availed and the object is automatically added onto your board.
- Create a number of boards depending on your audience of target and craft catchy titles, though short, for categorizing your board topics and to aid gain publicity. Use distinct board names and be creative. Defining the interests of your audience will be helpful in determining what to include in your boards that will be enticing and interesting to your audience. Find out what they are pinning on their boards and what they are searching for so that you can in turn provide it with precision.
- Add a Pinterest tab to your site, and Social media accounts to enable your visitors and fans share your content with their Pinterest followers. Add Mobile App and other tools such as Pinleague for more efficiency.
Are you a first time publisher or one simply looking for an alternative publishing method? You are in the right place as you get to learn why self-publishing is not only a self-fulfilling but also an effective undertaking you could ever choose for your book. In all your endeavors, you will agree with me that what you want is to invest the least possible with maxim returns. Self-publishing will do just that for you if applied accordingly.
Majority of book authors are turning to self-publishing and are making a great success of which you too could become a partaker. You see, the benefits of self-publishing are numerous; they are not only attractive but also guaranteed and highly rewarding if you are careful to apply the self-publishing tools ideally.
You can self-publish your book regardless of whatever version you choose. However, eBooks and print on demand books have a greater advantage over printed books. This is based on the fact that printed books are costly as they require large amounts of investments whereas their returns are in no way guaranteed. Well, the eBooks are relatively cheaper to publish and the print on demand requires no upfront investment as you print on order as per demand.
Online book-marketing importance
Online marketing opens a whole range of platforms and openings for an author to present his book to the target audience free of charge. Although you could actually pay to market your book, it’s an advantage to have a chance to do so freely especially when the free marketing guarantees you results.
The publishing houses basically keep authors for long waiting for their books to be published if at all they are lucky to have them published yet the authors themselves could do the publishing in person provided the necessary tools. Take for instant, the publisher will charge you a lump some amount to do what you could accomplish in person at no cost all; why then not do it yourself?
The only requirement for you to get your book rolling in the market today is to register for online publishing which is totally a free exercise. Then you will have these advantages at your disposal;
Print-on-demand printing. This enables you to have your book printed/aggravated when a customer demands for a copy/s hence you won’t require any prior investment.
ISBN issuance. Majority of the online self-publishing companies will provide you with International Standard Book Number.
Royalty management. You get to control your royalties and your budget gets slashed by far.
Technical support. Get an opportunity to obtain technical support from other authors who have succeeded using the online tools.
You got a number of online self publishing companies that are reliable and you can choose any that you find suitable, bearing in mind that the requirements vary from one company to the other.
The one hurdle to your book marketing is the assumption that your book publisher is going to do the marketing for you or assuming that once your book is out there in the market then the sales are naturally going to happen.
On the contrary, you indeed will have to work very hard in order to get your book selling. However, book marketing doesn’t have to be such an exorbitant venture. Indeed, all you need are the skills and commitment and can actually do so for free.
Advertising your book for free
WordPress blogs - This is a great facility for advertising your book you can’t afford to ignore as it’s not only free but quite effective too. It's one tool you use to your advantage by posting quality SEO optimized useful content that is not only captivating but quite engaging too. For every post you make, include a link to your site and if your content is really good then no doubt your readers are going to visit your site. On the other hand, they are likely to share your good content and widen your scope of publicity. When you optimize your blog content, your audience will easily locate you on the first page of the search engine and among the many views you will get there shall be viable buyers included.
Facebook - This is one of the largest social media sites that are rated as reliable worldwide where you can connect not only with your friends and family but with your prospective book readers and a wide range of audience who may not purchase your book but can also help you promote the same. It’s one platform that you need to outsource maximally by engaging your fans and being committed to work with them. It’s not hard to win loyalty with a good number of fans on Facebook who will have the pleasure to share your content/links. All you need is to show them appreciation when they do so by liking what they have shared or their comments and also commenting/commending them for choosing to carry on with you.
Apart from posting and sharing links on your Facebook profile, you could also create a fan page on Facebook where your fans could literally follow you by subscribing to your updates. You can customize your page to allow your fans subscribe to get a free download or sign up to an email list if you wish. You can also add a find us on Facebook-button/widget so as to enhance your publicity when a fan shares your link then their friends can see.
Blog commenting is an effective way of creating backlinks to your books website and can be very rewarding. All you need is leave non-spam/sensible comments by staying on the relevant topic and leaving your link in the appropriate places provided.
Forums are also another platform for you to build your backlinks and derive traffic to your site. Ensure to keep to the topic and leave your link where appropriate.
It seems that self-publishing firms are not about to run out of ideas when it comes to the laying down of strategies that can enhance book sales. Recently, Amazon announced the introduction of the matchbook program to encourage readers to buy more paperback formats at a reasonable bargain. But what exactly does the program mean to indies, readers and the self-publishing arena?
How Amazon’s Kindle Matchbook Program Works
The Kindle Matchbook program is meant for titles produced via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). This will make it possible for self-publishing authors to offer their eBooks at discounted rates to customers who have already bought the paperback format. Publishers will set discounted prices of $2.99 or less via the “Rights & Pricing” page of their KDP title on the KDP Bookshelf.
Traditional publishers have a similar strategy meant to encourage the purchase of both print and eBook copies of a title. With the plan, a customer pays a higher fee for a hardcover that’s sold together with its eBook version. If a customer chooses the lower fee, they only get to buy the paperback.
Should Indies Use the Kindle Matchbook Program?
If your book is available on both paperback and eBook formats, you should consider this approach to enhance overall sales. Plus, you can think of the benefits it offers your potential customers as an impressive marketing strategy. The customers enjoy the benefits of having a physical copy and an eBook that’s portable and easily copied. You probably spend a good amount of resources promoting your book through cleverly worded marketing speak, articles and ads, but the Matchbook program is an opportunity to offer tangible benefits to your customers. There is no better way to impress potential readers!
You may also look it from the perspective of an indie who has had a tough time trying to offer paperbacks at competitive rates. If your book is going to be available for Print-on-Demand (POD) and expanded distribution, you incur extra costs. Naturally, your only option is to pass the extra costs of expanded distribution to your buyers. This in turn disadvantages your title’s position in the market. Thus, if there is a way for your readers to buy your title with both its paperback and eBook formats packaged together, you can set the price such that the reader can’t complain, while you still retain an appreciable profit margin. This is exactly what the Kindle Matchbook program is meant to help you accomplish.
However, is the Matchbook program relevant to authors who are only focused on electronic formats of their titles? Yes, because the program is an incentive for authors to publish in print formats as well. Thus, if you’ve been worrying about the possibility of failure in the paperback market, you have an opportunity to try it with the new Amazon program.
There is no better marketing strategy than that which addresses concerns of both the buyer and seller in equal measure. As an author, the Kindle Match Program empowers you to compete effectively in the paperback market. On the other hand, the program offers your readers bundled paperback and eBook copies of your title at discounted rates.
Book awards is a way to recognize excellence and quality writing on a wide array of genres. Thus, several book awards that recognize independent or self-published writing can serve as a shot in the arm for authors. Plus, these being literary contests, they encourage high standards of writing and make it critical for authors to sharpen their writing skills. Thus, you may want to consider registering with the book awards listed below to enhance your writing career.
Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award
Amazon not only helps self-publish through CreateSpace and Kindle but also offers a way to shine the spotlight on stunning literary creations through its breakthrough novel awards. Just as its name suggests, this award is about helping unknown or unpublished authors “breakthrough” into the world of literary accomplishment. It attracts the sponsorship of major players in self-publishing and other agencies such as Amazon’s CreateSpace, Penguin Group, Book Surge and Hewlett Packard.
Do you write on business subjects and ideas? Well, this book award may suit your literary endeavors. The Axiom Business Book Awards is tailored for authors who write unique business content that can help readers succeed in business ventures. If you’re specifically innovative, this might just be what you need to get noticed.
The Beverly Hills Book Awards is meant for books sold in the US market in print. According to the Awards’ site, to stand a chance at recognition you need to demonstrate high quality in book-making aspects such as book formatting, cover design, images and interior design among others. Of course, your writing has to be great too. The 2014 edition of the awards will consider all books written between 2010 and 2014.
Book Work Awards is the brainchild of the Self-Publishers Association and accepts all books from self-published writers. A wide array of genres is supported including fiction, thriller/mystery, romance, non-fiction, memoirs, religion and self-help among others. You stand to win $400 in cash on top of international recognition.
The eLit awards is the brainchild of the Jenkins Group Inc. The awards is a good way for writers in digital publishing to get noticed. Any author who has written in English and eBook format is eligible to enter this awards. A total of 59 categories are listed under this awards, making room for a wider scope of literary imagination.
Epic eBook Competition
This competition is open for titles published between June 1 and May 31. It only accepts books submitted as non-DRM PDF formats and in English language. Both independent and mainstream authors are eligible to participate in the eBook competition.
So, you can make good use of several book awards to promote your writing and command a wider following. Just make sure to learn about what is expected of you in joining a specific book award, especially in matters of timing, deadlines and entry fees among others. All specific details of each of the above-listed awards are available on their respective websites accessible via the links provided.
The need to write a compelling story to enhance book sales cannot be overemphasized. However, cover design and the design of the inside pages of a book play a critical role too. Thus, your professional book designershould pay attention to the following key elements of the design of inside pages of your book.
Microsoft word or premium book design software such as Quark Xpress and InDesign have impressive fonts you can use for both body and header text of the interior of your book. Some of the most readable fonts you can use include: Garamond, Caslon, or Stone Print. Remember choice of fonts will determine whether or not your book gets a professional look. This makes it an important factor in book sales.
Kerning, Tracking and Leading
A professional book designer will tell you how important kerning, tracking and leading are, especially when it comes to the neat laying out of text. Kerning involves the manipulation of character sets within text such as in headers or headlines for both readability and aesthetics. Book designers track block of texts to tighten or loosen them. On the other hand, leading is an indication of space between lines of text in a block. All these are critical manipulations of text to enhance presentation and readability.
Interior design of a self-published book gives room for choice, taste and preference. That’s why it can help to explore different styles, especially as employed in other titles. Several options exist for paragraph formatting and the same applies for chapter demarcations. Try out different spacing between lines of text and paragraphs and see how it all works out. Do you want your text centered or paragraphs indented? Your book designer understands the importance of adhering to rules set by self-publishing agencies, when it comes to aspects such as interior layout, margins and placement of images. You don’t want anything lost or some parts of body text missing when your book is finally bound.
Unless you’re publishing for academic reading, you’ll also have plenty of freedom in choice of page numbering styles. Do you want page numbers on top, bottom, left, right or center? Having flipped through the pages of other popular books, you already have an idea of what looks best in the inside of your book. You may then decide on an interior formatting style that suits your preferences.
You may not be very tech savvy and that’s why the technical aspects of book design such as kerning and tracking can be tricky to implement. The same goes for components such as table of contents, which also have to meet certain formatting standards. But the good thing is that you need not be a professional book designer to know what you want for the interior of your self-published books. Thus, armed with accurate knowledge (and probably samples) of the standards you need attained for your book design, you may then approach a professional book designer for a fine product. This is a sure way to deliver a readable book with impressive layouts in its interior.