I have achieved a life-long ambition: To have a book in print. Infact, you can see from the photograph that I now have three in print, two of which were delivered today, the first time I have held them in my hands…
Lots of people want to have a book published, yet for many years it may have seemed like a dream to us all. It used to take forever to get a poem or article published, then there were do’s and don’ts to follow such as: Don’t send the same copy to more than one publisher at once; Do include return postage; Don’t bombard the publisher with letters and phone calls following up your manuscript!
Fortunately nowadays things have changed, particularly since modern technology has sped up the whole process – no more waiting six weeks for a reply so you can forward your prize-winning story to another publisher! No more eating rejection for breakfast either, just because a publisher says ‘no’ doesn’t mean someone isn’t going to appreciate your labour of love – perhaps it just didn’t fit in with their house-style and you hadn’t done your homework before you posted it…
It’s great to have a publishing house behind you, and wonderful if you can get an agent too, but these days it isn’t necessary because you can be publisher and agent yourself, like I am. The downside is, it’s a hard slog and nobody knows you! If you’ve tried (and failed) the traditional routes into getting your novel/poetry/whatever you’ve written published, then is it time to consider self-publishing? Can you honestly say your work is up to the mark and suitable? Have you researched your subject matter thoroughly? Have you checked your grammar (and I don’t mean the lady on the rocking chair) and spellchecked every word? Do you know your target audience?
If you are still passionate about your masterpiece and want to see it through to fruition then perhaps you should self-publish. Although it is a hard slog, as I mentioned, it is very rewarding. You learn about the industry, about rights, about territories, and providing you do everything i.e. even design your own cover, then you are in complete control of your baby and all the benefits it is going to bring.
There are many self-publishing platforms on the internet such as Createspace and lulu.com and so read their guidelines carefully as each may offer different terms. Choose the one that is going to be the most beneficial to you and your audience. After much research, I chose Createspace to get my books into print. Because of their association with Amazon I knew I was in good company and they both offer great sales and distribution opportunities, not least because everyone has heard of Amazon!
I had already brought out the three books above on Kindle and all I had to do was convert them into paperbacks. It helps if you are technically minded and pc literate, which fortunately I am and was therefore able to complete the whole process by myself. You need to know about word processing. You need to adhere to certain rules such as which fonts work best and to avoid certain formatting etc. These are just considerations because you may want to make your paperback into an e-book and some things do not transfer/translate very well from one form of reader e.g. tablet to another e.g. smartphone. Get it right first time and save yourself having to make too many adjustments in the future. You need to be pretty good with software and internet-savvy because once uploaded to your chosen print-house it will probably be converted into another file which you then proof before they can run any copies off. Any alterations are down to you and you cannot proceed until they give the all-clear that it fits in with their requirements. Although they proof it, they don’t necessarily proof for typo’s – that’s your job – they tend to check that it will print clearly and nothing will get chopped off the page! It is advisable to keep copies of your documents, any cover designs, any converted documents from the print-house etc and back them up also to external drive – these are precious to you and you don’t want to lose them!
As you know, I chose Createspace and found the whole process fairly straight-forward. I think this is because I had already done most of the work by publishing onto Kindle first. I had already read and understood how everything worked, I knew about formatting, I knew about territorial rights, I knew page numbers can be a pain because when reading your manuscript on different devices it alters the page number depending on the device and the chosen size of font by the reader. I personally have omitted page numbers from my books, I didn’t feel they were necessary, although when I write my first novel they will need to be there. I already had the books word-processed and was ready to proceed. However, because I chose a 6 x 9 book size (the norm if you are considering having Createspace distribute it for you) it meant I had to adjust the document (which I produced using Microsoft Word). It wasn’t difficult, I simply downloaded their reader which then converted my word document, made any adjustments regarding alignment etc, proofed it until I was happy and then it simply needed uploading ready for printing. Easy!
There were other things involved too such as designing a cover. Createspace offer a cover design facility, complete with illustrations. I decided it best to use my own photographs as covers, then there would never be a copyright issue. I advise using your own but if you are in a rush to see your book in print then use what’s available, the cover can always be changed later.
You will need an ISBN (International Book Standard Number) if you intend for your book to be distributed and sold to bookshops and there are lots of rules regarding ISBN’s. I suggest you visit http://www.isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk or http://www.isbn.org for info or Wikipedia is a good place to get an overview. If you want to see your book in libraries and academic institutions you will also require a Bic code (Book Industry Catagory) – see http://www.bic.org.uk for an example of the UK system. Always check the requirements for the above in your own country and/or to the country you wish to see your book being sold/distributed.
I opted to use Expanded Distribution through Createspace which means my books will be printed and distributed across America, I also got a Bic code and therefore my books will be available in many places other than bookstores. My books are also being listed by many online retailers internationally and therefore (to my knowledge) don’t require an additional ISBN because they are still being printed in America where my ISBN applies. Createspace offered the ISBN for free but there are a number of different options, some you need to pay for, depending on what you want to achieve. Choose carefully as ISBN’s cannot be altered once assigned.
So, I’ve done it now. A dream realised and yes, it has been worth it. Already I am seeing the royalties coming in. Already I can see my books appearing on many websites and it is exciting! I still have the support network that Amazon provide for they are also selling my books, and not to mention Createspace advertising them for me too via their own website. There is a strong community on Createspace, as there will be on any self-publishing site, so you needn’t feel alone if you have any questions. However, it is a lonely process and only you can do it unless you have someone sit by your side and guide you through it.
My work is by no means done here. Now I have the hard task of marketing, I am but a small creature in a massive world – how can I make people take notice of my products? That’s what one needs to figure out. Social media is probably one of the best ways, so take advantage – visit my Facebook page to see how I’ve raised my profile – start a blog, such as mine, create a website (here’s mine) – just learn to communicate! Be prepared to pay money as many sites, although free, know you need their services and will limit your online presence until you put your hand in your pocket… There’s a lot to be said for good old-fashioned marketing such as visiting your local bookstore with a view to getting your book(s) on their shelves, or maybe arrange a book signing, talk face to face with people. There is still a procedure to go through (Waterstones, WH Smith in the UK) so visit their online pages for submission guidelines. If you do this then don’t forget point-of-sale material, a desk and chair in a corner of the shop will not attract customers! Get your family and friends to spread the word. Offer freebies (again, this will cost you but you want your book to sell, don’t you?) run a competition. Be creative, but most of all be yourself as nobody wants to see ‘buy my book!’ rubbed in their face constantly. There is an 80/20 rule here whereby the 20% is about the product, the 80% is about you – people are interested in you, particularly on social media sites – your product will sell itself, although only if it’s any good…
I am glad that my books are in paperback and also electronic format, in my opinion it has doubled sales options and offered more income potential. If I can self-publish, so can you. It just takes time and effort to research and implement everything involved, but if you believe in yourself and want to share your words with others then what have you got to lose? Go for it, it’s a legacy to leave behind and providing you know your rights, someone you care about could be receiving your royalties for up to seventy years after you have left this Earth – what a nice gift to leave!
I am interested in publishing on behalf of writers so please get in touch using the form below if you require any help. Comments always welcome.