Bill’s Guide to Self-Publishing
So, you have written a book and want to make some money. Hopefully, this guide will help you in some way. Let’s start off with what you have so far. You have written a book, shown it to somebody, they liked it and you have self-edited it many times. At this point in your own mind, your work must be the best it can be without outside help.
What you now need to do:
You need a copy of Microsoft Word and your book needs to be in Word format. At this point, it should not have any formatting unless this is a major part of your work. You will then need a short 1 paragraph summary of your work (including the ending) and a detailed ~2-page summary of your work (including the ending.) You need to describe the category of our book will be placed. IE, Science fiction, drama. Look at the possible book categories on Amazon and pick up to 4.
Now comes the hardest part [well, it was for me.] You need to write a “book description.” This is an advertisement, teaser and, summary of your work. Look online for tips on how to create one and then go to Amazon and just start reading book descriptions. I recommend reading at least 50 and reading them should take at least 4 hours. Really take a deep dive into this. Look at the classics, look at your favorites, look at ones with lots of stars and then look at ones with 1 star. Your goal is to determine the format and what the good book descriptions read like and what a bad book descriptions read like. Remember when I suggested you write a short paragraph of your work? Start there and then take a stab at writing your own book description. It needs to be sharp, get the reader’s attention quickly and then deliver a knockout “buy it now” teaser blow. Show it to as many people as you can to get their feedback.
Now, you have a major decision you have to make. Traditional publishing or self-publishing or hardcore self-publishing. Let’s start with hardcore self-publishing. This means going to a printer, making 10,000 copies of your book and selling them. My father did this for many years with ceramics textbooks. While this used to be popular with the “how to” kinds of books that were advertised in the back of magazines, hardcore self-publishing isn’t really done today.
Traditional publishing has become a really strange environment. You must first locate a “book representative” to present your work to a publisher. Book representatives often want $ up front [$2K] and then they take 20% of your profit. Publishers WILL NOT talk to you without a book representative. Locating a competent book representative is a difficult task. In my opinion, traditional publishing has been dying for many years. To me, this isn’t the future and if you want to get ahead of the game, self-publishing is your best bet.
Self-publishing has two different approaches that can be done in parallel. The first is on-demand printing and the second is an electronic book (eBook.) On-demand printing is really cool. Once the book is formatted, the printing house keeps an electronic copy on their servers. When somebody orders the book, it is simply printed and mailed directly to them. This allows for a lot of flexibility. eBooks can be sold on several sites.
The second major decision you have to make is if you should use a “self-publishing helper.” This is a person who will guide you through the process and make sure your work is the best it can be. For a first self-published book, I recommend using a self-publishing helper as they will guide you through the process. The problem is that this person will be expensive. They usually charge $50-100 per hour or a flat rate for the project.
What are the costs? I know I am going to get a lot of disagreements over this, but expect to pay $5,000 for all the steps including a self-publishing helper. Yes, you’re probably can get it done for less, but if your goal is to make a profit, spending a significant amount of money up front is a necessary step. Sorry for the bad news. Also, remember that your first book will tell the public a lot about you. If your first book is poorly done with bad reviews, it will take a long time to gain the public’s interest in your subsequent works. Start out strong!
Here are the steps necessary for self-publishing.
1) A professional person needs to look over your book. You are going to need to pay for this opinion. Probably $500. They will first professionally determine if your work is worth the massive $/effort that you are about to undertake. Then they will point out areas that have major problems. IE, bad ending, move chapter 2 after chapter 5, start your book with X and part Y doesn’t make sense. A big issue for me was when my main character made several “critical decisions.” I didn’t explain to the reader what was going through their head. My character simply reacted in one sentence and then the plot moved on. I had to do a lot of additional writing to “help the reader” see what I was thinking.
2) Your work needs to be professionally edited. How do you find an editor? Look online for one and there are sites where they advertise and people rate them. This is going to be an expensive process. Good editors charge a minimum of $65 an hour. $75 is a better number. There will be a few back and forth passes. You will be using the “review” function in Microsoft Word. Not using the review function will make this process impossible and it essential to have Microsoft Word. Now, there is a major problem. At best the English language is a vague collection of rules we sometimes follow. All editors are different and their edited result will likely not agree these “established” rules. Even worse, they will not agree with their own rules and flip-flop on the changes you paid them to make. In addition, they will never agree with your rules. In addition, there is the style, flow, sentence structure, dialog and paragraph breaks. These will all be different than your writing style. My advice is to go with the “flow of the editor” as best as you can because this is going to challenge you. Important tip. As you are doing this process. Make mental notes so that the next time you write, the editor will have less to do. This gives you more control and saves you money. It also makes you a better writer.
3) I am sure you have already come up with a title for your work. Now, brainstorm with as many people you can and come up with at least 30 alternate titles. Somehow pick the best one. If you have a publishing helper that knows the industry, they can help in this area. Important tip. Do not use a title that has already been used. For example, the Steven King book “Christine.” Your unrelated children’s book “Christine” would be completely confused with the one by Steven King. Parents would never buy this for their child no matter how well it is written. Another example is the Beatles song, “A Hard Day's Night.” Your book “A Hard Day's Night” about WWII combat would be associated with this song. All of this could lead to lawsuits and other issues. Play it safe and avoid this.
4) Go over your book description with a professional book person and an editor. There will be a lot of work in this area. This is the most important part of the whole publishing process. If your book description is even slightly less than perfect, people will not “buy it now.” Plan to spend as much time as you can in this area. Important tip. Print your work on an oversized paper or use a whiteboard to go over it from a large perspective.
5) Write a bio about yourself and find your best picture. Professionally edit this bio and show it to people.
6) Get an ISBN/Library of Congress/Copyright number. This is an easy step that requires ~$100
7) Now that you have a work comes a part that was extremely difficult for me. You need endorsements. IE, Bob Smith, New York Times book editor wrote, “This is a fantastic book. Get yourself a copy.” You will need to have a few of these for the back of your book cover. How do you get this to happen? That’s the hard part. I have a few suggestions. Do you know anybody that is famous in some way? Ask them first. By this point, you should have made a few contacts in your online writing groups. Start by asking them. When that doesn’t work, post and ask the group. As a last resort, pay for a review. They’re expensive and range from $99 to $3K. I know, this is an awful option and the review you pay for will most likely be poorly written.
8) You need to hire a cover designer. How to find one? Same as finding an editor. There are sights where they advertise with reviews. You will send them a 2 page summary of your work, your ideas on what the cover should look like, categories of other works and images of book covers that you like. At this point, the title and overall book will need to be finalized. For example, you cannot change the main character from male to female. The cover designer will design the cover, the spine and the back cover. How much will they charge? Depends on what you want. Also, you will have to pay for the rights to photographs you may use. Make sure you keep the documentation that came when you purchased the photograph rights. Expect to pay at least $300. Romance books all have paintings on the front. That’s got to cost a lot. Important tip. DO NOT just copy something from the internet and call it yours. This WILL BITE YOU HARD.
9) Now that everything is wrapped up and the book is finalized, you need to do a copy edit. This is an expensive process that takes a master. They go over the book and look for typos and other grammar nit-picky stuff. Ideally, they will also check facts, point out logic issues and give your work another perspective. This is the final point where you can make changes. Now, you’re committed and no more changes can be made.
10) Your book is then formatted for on-demand printing. You get a copy, look at it and make a few changes as possible. They really hate it when you make changes at this stage and it is expensive. Important tip. It has been my experience that the thing you will change the most at this stage is the copyright page and table of contents. Make sure you go over this carefully before formatting for printing.
11) Format the book as an ebook. This will generate both MOBI and epub formats. Review it in several readers to make sure it comes out correctly.
12) Create an Amazon, Kubo and Barns Nobel account. Get your AISN number from Amazon. Now, you have a decision to make. Use Amazon KDP select or not. In my opinion, the advantage of KDP select is minimal. I used it for a free book giveaway which didn’t really help. If you use KDP select then your eBook cannot be on other sites. Amazon will check, so be careful. My advice is to try KDP select for 3 months, see no benefit and never look back.
13) There are several sites that will promote your book for free. Before your book is released, set up accounts 2 weeks early and inform them of your release date. Put on your book description, bio, picture, ISBN number, amazon link, AISN number Kubo link and Barns Nobel link.
Here are the best ones I found:
14) Put your book info on Goodreads and any other site that will host information about you.
15) That’s it. Time for marketing.
For more tips, check out: https://www.thebookdesigner.com/
You’re the best -Bill
February 5, 2018
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