Publish Your Own Book is a phrase often seen in internet ads and heard from frustrated writers who are finding it difficult to get their novel or non-fiction book published. But is self-publishing really a practicable solution? As with most of these things, the answer isn’t always “yes” or “no”, it’s “maybe” A lot depends on the circumstances.
This article explores publishing your own book using both digital and printed media. Amazon have just announced that they are now selling more Kindle books than printed stock. Although this is not yet the case for the book trade as a whole, this is the way the market is trending. For a more specialist look at digital self-publishing, click here: How To Write An eBook.
Why Might You Be Wanting to Publish Your Own Book?
The usual reason is that an author is finding it difficult to get a book he or she has written published. This is usually because of one of three main reasons:
- The subject is very specialized.
- The book has been branded by one or more publishers as “not commercially attractive”, or…
- The author wants to retain complete control over his or her own work.
We’ll examine each reason in detail. When a subject is very specialized it usually means that it is not worth the while of commercial publishers, whose primary function, when all’s said and done, is to make money, to put out books in that market. Of course, it could follow that if it’s not viable for an established business to publish a book like this, would it ever be practicable for the author to wake up one morning with the will to publish your own book?
The answer is probably not, I’m afraid. If we’re looking at this purely from a commercial viewpoint. If a publishing company that is already set up, with deals in place with printers, binder and (more importantly) distribution and sales companies, don’t think it worthwhile, the idea of doing it all yourself (including getting the book, edited, designed and proof-read) would be an absolutely huge mountain of work. That could be what you want to do. You could literally sell it yourself via your own website and that might work for you.
Not being commercially attractive might stop the big publishers working with you on your book, but maybe you could interest smaller, niche publishers. Or you could just publish your own book! This would especially apply if you fell into the third category and wanted complete control over the finished book.
When Is It Right To Publish Your Own Book?
There’s something very attractive about having total control of your book project. Publishing has become a lot easier in the age of the Internet. I began a small publishing company called The Do-Not Press back in the 1990s, sparked by the idea that the Apple computer meant that anyone could write (though I tended to publish other people’s work), design and layout a book in your own bedroom. I did this literally for the first five years! No one ever said to me “Do you want to publish your own book?” it just happened.
Now that the internet is with us, everyone has it in them to publish books themselves, even if the finished item is not printed but available online as an eBook. This cuts out the hardest parts of the book publishing process which is production into an actual book and then sales and distribution into shops. You can just sell your book online for download either as a PDF file (easily converted from most design and WP programs) or as a Kindle.
No matter how you eventually present, sell and distribute your book, the core of any book has to be sound. That simply means that you have to have a well-written, error-free document. That requires skills you can acquire from established authors. When you publish your own book your standards must be as high or higher than those of a commercial publisher. If only for your own self-esteem; plus Amazon will reject your book or downgrade it if your finished copies or Kindle edition is full of errors.
Should You Publish Your Own Book?
My answer would be yes, but only if you are sure this is what you want to do. If the choice was only to publish your own book or not be published at all, then the dilemma would be massive. One way around the problem is to write a book that can be published without you resorting to having to publish your own book. But what if you are determined to write a book that is about as commercial as a kosher sausage roll? Then you will have to find out how to publish your own book and that’s where I can help.
How To Publish Your Own Book
Here are the ten stages to enable you to publish your own book:
- Writing. Your book must be good. Make sure your manuscript is fit for publication. Your standards should be as high as those of any publisher. When you publish your own book, the book itself must be as well written and formed as any from a major publishing house.
- Edit your pages. Hiring a professional editor to look over it and edit for you is a good idea. You can post ads on Craiglist.com, Copyeditor.com or local job boards. It’s a good idea to ask for references, and to try them out with a few pages first. Do what they say in 99% of cases (it’s still your book, so you do have the final say!)
- Hire a good graphic designer. Someone who has designed book covers before. People do judge a book by its cover, so it needs not only to look good but also to fulfill other criteria that bookshop buyers may insist on. these might relate to title colour and size, colour scheme and so on. This is an industry in itself! You’ll also need to find money to pay for an ISDN number that will differentiate your book from the others. www.isbn.org is the place to go for that.
- Lay it out. You’ll need to use a program like Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress to lay out your book. You have to set up page margins, style the text, add page numbers and so. Hopefully you will know how to do this yourself, but if not you need to hire a professional book designer/ typesetter. Your graphic designer might be able to help or even do it him or herself. This is a costly step either way. The software can cost several hundred (pounds, euros and dollars!), but if you intend to do it more than once, it could be worth your while getting it and learning how to use it. I started on Quark and now work on InDesign. I soon discovered that knowing how to publish your own book includes learning lots of extra skills.
- Print or PDF? If you’re going down the PDF/ Kindle route then you need to convert your file to a PDF (as easy process within Quark or InDesign) and then making a website and/ or logging on to your local Amazon website for signing up and uploading instructions. I suggest you check out what you have to do at an early stage and not when you’re ready to print.
- Printing on Demand: If you want a tiny printing you’d be better off with a print-on-demand operation, such as Blurb, Cafepress, Xlibris, Lulu and AuthorHouse. You can search for all these on Google. They are companies that can simplify the entire publishing process by doing all the layout and design services, getting you the ISBN number and they even have their own distribution service within teh USA. The downside is that they charge you for all this and the chances of you seeing a return are slim.
- Traditional Book Printers & Binders: If you’re getting a thousand or more printed, which is the only economic way to make any money out of it, you’ll need to find a good printer who can also bind them for you. You should be familiar with the terms (for example hardbacks are always referred to as “casebound”, the book is always the “title” and large format paperbacks are called “large format paperbacks” or “trade paperbacks”. There are also sizes of paperback A, B, C, etc, which go up in size (A being the smallest) and can vary slightly from printer to printer and from country to country. But don’t rush into this thousands of books can be expensive and very hard to sell! I still have a house and garage filled with unsold books several years after I stopped publishing. The best way to find a suitable printer is to go to a bookshop, find a “title” that’s roughly the same size, layout and quality as you are looking for and see who printed it. Google them and ask them for a quite. Try several and pick the best deal.
- Publicize! Get out there and make sure everyone knows about your book. Use every available means: the internet, local newspapers, radio and TV, and any other means you can think of. This is a whole big subject by itself and when you’re self-publishing a book you need to know all about it.
- Publicize it some more! When you publish your own book you wear a lot of hats: writer, editor, designer, production manager and marketing director. Getting people to know your book is out there is one thing, getting them to want to buy it is another. Think how you can achieve this and focus your energies to where it will do the most good. Tell everyone you know about it and ask them to tell everyone they know. Get your friends involved and excited in your project. Email or telephone the local media, offering them excerpts to magazines and newsletters and yourself for interview. National or large regional newspapers may not be interested in your slim volume on hang-gliding or whatever, but there will be specialist magazines and websites who will. Think out of the box and be tireless and relentless. Tell people how good your book is: this is no time for shrinking violets. When you publish your own book you have to be tireless and fearless.
- Do it all again. Yes, don’t stop there: now you know how to publish your own book don’t waste all that effort learning how to do it. Do it again and do it better!
If you are determined to publish your own book, then I wish you the best of “self-publishing luck”, but please remember to make it as good a book as you possibly can.