It wasn’t all that long ago that if an artistic person wanted to pursue a career in their genre, they had to get past the gatekeepers: Agents, editors, publishing houses, record labels, and so on. And if their work didn’t “wow” or suit the needs of the person they were pitching their vision to, their dreams were never realized. Today we live in an era of indie, and for the writer, with the advent of e-books and cost free print on demand, many new indie authors are crashing the gates and building their own careers.
Amanda Hocking, H.P. Mallory, John Locke, Richard Paul Evans, and J.A. Konrath are three names that might be familiar to you if you follow the success of self-published authors. Hocking, Mallory, Locke and Evans have since signed with major publishing houses.
And Newbie’s aren’t the only authors that have self-published their work. Already established in their careers, James Scott Bell and Stephen King have both tested the self-publishing waters.
It isn’t a complicated process, but if you want to join the growing list of gatecrashers and strike out on your own as an author, a little knowledge will go a long way in getting you where you want to go.
What Do I Need to Do?
Step One: Editing. One of the biggest criticisms of self-published authors is bad editing so don’t contribute to the problem. Once you have spell-checked, proofread, and corrected any glaring errors in your manuscript, you need to find a competent editor to review it. Self-editing is important, but so are a second pair of eyes that don’t know the storyline.
Line editing covers grammar and spelling, but there is also substantive editing. A substantive edit reviews the overall structure of your manuscript. The editor will evaluate whether or not the work is coherent and consistent, verify that all the necessary information is included, and that the order it’s written in is logical.
Step 2: Formatting. Many self-publishing companies will do the formatting for you, but some print-on-demand services require that you format your manuscript so that it is print ready. This means that however you send it in is how it will appear in the book. This includes the font size and type, page numbers, layout, line space, chapter headings, table of contents, etc.
Step 3: Copyright. In the United States, any copyrightable work is protected under the law from the moment it is completed. However, for added protection, if you want to register a legal copyright for your book, for a nominal fee, you can apply at: http://www.copyright.gov/
Step 4: The book cover. Most self-publishing houses offer cover design in their packages. You can also contract this work out or do the design yourself in Photoshop. Each publisher will have specific requirements on dimensions. Some print on demand publishers also offer templates that simplify designing the cover, making it easy to do yourself.
Step 5: ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and barcodes. When you publish a book an ISBN and barcode are provided by the publishing house. When you use a publisher provided ISBN your book will be listed under that publisher’s name. Some self-publishing or print on demand houses allow you to use your own publishing house name. If you choose to do this you can purchase an ISBN at Bowker Identifier Services https://www.myidentifiers.com/
Step 6: Setting your price. Most self-publishers or print on demand publishers will automatically set the retail price for you while others will allow you to set the price based on the number of pages in your book.
Step 7: The proof copy. Once you have submitted your manuscript to the publisher, you will receive a proof copy in some form. Before it goes to press, you have the opportunity to review your work, correct any errors and make any necessary changes. This is a process and will sometimes take more than one proof to get it right. Once you are satisfied with the contents, your book will be submitted for publication.
Step 8: Distribution. Self-publishers and POD offer some form of distribution, usually through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online bookstores. Your title should also be listed with libraries and major book distributors such as Baker & Taylor and Ingram. If you want to get your book on the shelf of a brick and mortar store, unless you know the owner or are the owner, it will be a difficult feat until a successful sales history of your book has been established.
Step 9: Self-promotion. Step nine is also step one, because promoting or advertising your book should begin before it’s released. There are a variety of ways to promote your book, which is really promoting your name, your brand. You can solicit reviews from bloggers, professional reviewers, friends and family. Create an author website with a blog. Start an author Facebook page. Do book giveaways, book fairs, online book tours, contact your local paper, send out a press release, and maybe even hire a PR firm. Publicity firms such as Smith Publicity offer packages that are designed for the independent author.
There are pros and cons to self-publishing as well as traditional publishing, but it’s the self-publishing that tends to get the bad rap. The bad news is that statistically independently published books average sales of 100-200 copies per title. But don’t fret, because there are two important factors to keep in mind when considering those less than exciting numbers. One, anyone can self-publish, but not everyone can write. Many of the existing self-published authors need to take more time to hone their skills before publishing their work. And secondly, poor promotion will kill your book sales. An average of 300,000 new titles are released in the US each year. You need to be a squeaky wheel in the marketplace to get your book noticed.
The good news? Like I said earlier, there are many authors who have been a big success with self-publishing. If you can write well and learn how to successfully market your book, you have the potential to thrive as an independent author.