It’s said that ‘everyone has one good book in them’ but before there was an Internet and self-publishing, there were publishers, who were rightly selective about the books they published and would need a lot of convincing before they’d publish any book let alone your book. After all, if they guessed wrong they lost a lot of money. For those who couldn’t persuade a publisher, there was the ‘Vanity Press’ who would publish your book for you at your expense.
A publisher would provide an editor to work with you, copyeditors to set up the manuscript, publish as many copies as they thought might sell, and then promoted your book in all the appropriate places. The Vanity Press would copyedit and publish as many books as you paid for, which they handed over in boxes leaving you to sell them.
Today we have the Internet and the vanity press has become the self-publishing service industry. Now there’s nothing between your book and the world, except some simple steps and some unfamiliar work. This short article gives an insight into those steps and also into the work.
Choose Your Platform
It may seem odd to choose what software you’re going to use before you start writing but it will save time later if you decide to go with a particular self-publishing company because they have different criteria and formats. Will you be going down the Apple path and the Amazon trail?
Self-publishing software is often closely aligned with one or the other. For example, Smashwords aligns itself with Apple, while Kindle is an Amazon product. Then there are self-publishing companies that have their own processes, such as Lulu . The final product, your book, may well be sold on both Amazon and Apple but the steps to get there are slightly different for each.
Write and Edit for Publishing
Set up your MS Word document formatting based on the ebook platform you’ve chosen for self-publishing. It’s best if you don’t start writing until you have that done, however, the first time most of us write (because that’s what we like doing) we end up having to back fit, or have someone else do it. Providing the ‘someone’ is where websites like Freelance or Elance can help.
There are many other companies on the Internet to help you write and publish. Laurenzana Press, for example, has a number of books to help you through the preparatory steps, particularly if you’re writing for the Kindle market.
If you are focusing on Kindle, the Kindle bookstore itself has a number of short books providing an in-depth look into how to do each step; for example, ‘Building Your Book For Kindle’ takes you from setting up the correct format in MS Word, through creating the book’s cover, copyediting and converting your manuscript to upload and finally publish.
When you’ve finished your first draft, get it out to knowledgeable people for review and comment, particularly if it’s a non-fiction book or a fiction story set in a particular historical period. To find reviewers, use web resources like NaNoWriMo Forums, or your local Writer’s Circle. Use a professional editor. If you don’t know one (who does?) visit the FirstEditing site as a starting point.
While you’re editing, start selecting your book cover, writing a blurb for the cover, creating your personal website and writing a great ‘Author’s biography’. This is also a good time to send out some early editions to reviewers so you can quote their comments on the book cover and your website.
Finally, when the editing is done, get the manuscript documents into shape and formatted ready for printing and e-book conversion.
Start Marketing and Protecting Your Copyright
By now, you’ve set up your Author’s Website, and Author’s Page on Amazon (if you’re selling through there), and also a Twitter account, and a Facebook page. Start building buzz, get people talking, comment on other author’s pages, retweet their words, become part of Goodreads.
Before the book goes anywhere, protect your rights to it. You own a book when you create it but unless you register your copyright, you’re the only one who knows it’s yours. Registering your ownership is simple and inexpensive so be sure you do it. If you live in the United States, go to www.copyright.gov and protect your investment of time, money and most importantly your creation.
The Final Step – Publishing Your Book
If you’ve done all the previous steps properly then ‘pressing the button’ and sending your carefully crafted words off to the presses and the electronic bookstores is simple. Be sure you have the book on as many distribution platforms because after all this work you don’t want your book stuck in a dark corner and never seen by anyone.
It may feel like you’ve slogged your way up the Amazon (pun intended) just getting to this point but you should know that all of the above was actually the easy part. There’s so much help out there to get your thoughts from your head and out into the world but the next step, marketing, is not quite so well supported. Getting an effective marketing campaign running is as much an art as a science and it’s not usually an art most writers are comfortable with. However marketing is not exactly the next step after publishing you need to compose your marketing plan long before a book is published.
I said publishing and marketing were the final steps and in the ‘process’ they are. However, I began this article with the quote ‘everyone has one book in them’ and I’ll end it by saying find a second. A second book can reawaken interest in the first so don’t leave it too long before you start writing another.
Jessica Millis is a freelance writer and editor. She has been writing since she was a little girl with big glasses and unnatural love for books. A few years ago she gathered some supporters and started her own online project EssayMama where she collects different free tools and tips about writing for students and provides essay writing help. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.