11 Things You’ll Need to Self-Publish —
Thinking of self-publishing your book? You may as well learn from my mistakes! Before you begin, I suggest you consider your strengths and weaknesses. Here’s 11 attributes I’ve found essential for survival as an independent author.
Do You Have These 11 Things?
1. Can you write?
If this is your first manuscript the chances are that, no, you probably can’t. Sorry. Most writers have a few failed scripts in boxes somewhere. If this is your first manuscript, and its your first draft and you are planning on self-publishing I really suggest that you DO NOT ask people to pay for it – i.e. don’t put it onto Amazon or ibooks. If you really think the idea is good (in between the normal ‘it’s crap’ feeling that every writer has) I would try to find a critique partner — you can often find a CP through a writer’s association — or put it onto WattPad or Fan Fiction . Anything to get feedback. Even better, do a course. Believe me, study really helps.
2. Do you understand the publishing process?
Commercial publishers are very unlikely to publish even your final draft. Before it is set to print your book will have at least three edits – usually by three different people:
- a structural edit – where the structure of the plot, the characters and so forth are analysed and recommendations made on how to strengthen them
- a copy edit – where the spelling, grammar and so on is checked
- a proofing edit – check for final errors
If self-publishing, you would be wise to follow this process. Otherwise your book won’t be as good as it could be. Which is bad for reviews, bad for your reputation, and just bad for the reader. But be warned, professional editorial input is not free. It’s worth it, in terms of product, but you may not get your money back in sales.
3. Are you comfortable with the internet?
If you’re reading this, chances are you are quite comfortable on a browser. Just be warned: self-publishing is a global industry and unless you want to pay someone a lot of money to do everything for you, you’ll probably need to do it yourself. This means that invariably, you’ll be on the internet a lot.
4. Are you comfortable with e-books?
Self-publishing is really about e. The future is p and audio, too, I think. So if you’re planning on self-publishing, make sure you enjoy and are familiar with reading on an e-platform. This means you’ll have a greater understanding for the importance of layout, and you’ll be more careful when it comes to formatting. Also, you’ll be making purchasing decisions similar to your readers.
5. Do you have a kindle account?
Currently, Amazon is the dominator of the self-pub industry. iTunes is coming on strong, too, but more people still read on Amazon apps or kindles. Amazingly, I heard today that Amazon has 42% of the world’s print market as well!
So if you’re really wanting to self-publish, I do suggest you become familiar with the Amazon store. Understand how books are presented to purchasers and download a few yourself. Get a feeling for what you like, and what features you don’t. It is different to navigating your way through a bricks and mortars store.
6. Do you have a basic understanding of finances?
Here’s a lesson for you. I have an MBA so I thought, well, no problem. I’ll be fine here. And yet – I forgot about the exchange rate! I can’t believe it, but I did! The problem is, Amazon presents all its prices in USD. So when I calculated the costs of CreateSpace, I forgot to convert. This meant a price inflation of around 20%.
7. Do you have time?
Self-publishing your first book will take you ages. Well, it’s taken me ages. Everything is new. I don’t know how to use the technology. This is what I have had to learn so far:
- how to download a mobi file
- how to read a mobi file
- how to format to a print-ready proof
- how to format a word document to smashwords requirements (don’t believe them when they say their Style Guide is easy to use. It isn’t)
- how to organise a press release
- how to create, and edit, an .html document.
- What is bleed?
- How long are delivery times?
- What does a book distributor do? What does a book marketer do? How much do they cost?
- What is an ASIN and what is an ISBN?
- What paper thickness do I need? Do I need matt or gloss cover? What is a laminate?
- How to organise a blog tour
- What is a marketing plan and what should it look like?
- How much should I price my book?
- How many copies should I order?
8. Do you have a healthy dose of skepticism?
In this industry – in most industries, really – there is no ‘get rich quick’ scheme. Yet, when you read the websites of Smashwords or Amazon, they say just upload your manuscript and click the ‘publish’ button and voila, your words in your way, ready to be read by the world. Don’t believe them. Don’t believe anyone when they tell you that it’s simple. For the first few books, you’ll be on a steep, slow, climb up the learning curve.
9. Do you have a background that includes any or all of the following?
The following skill sets are really, really helpful. If you have some or all of these, you’ll find the route to self-publishing so much easier.
- Project Management
10. Do you have enough money?
Self-publishing is not free. Well, I don’t think it’s free. Costs include time, of course, but there’s also editorial, book covers, marketing and anything else you care to spend. You can do it on a really tight, tight budget of perhaps $500 USD, but some people pay a lot more. The good thing is, these costs are all tax-deductible.
One bonus of writing – you might not make much money, but pretty much everything you do can be claimed as a deduction.
11. Are you willing to learn?
The independent publishing market is global, highly software-enabled and is in its early years. Things are changing rapidly. What might work today may not work tomorrow. You need to be willing to embrace these changes! Doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work, you can always try again.
And on a Positive Note!
The eleven qualities above are mostly personal. They do not involve spending enormous amounts of money, or hiring employees, or building plant or buying expensive equipment. They do, however, involve spending large amounts of time.