Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Self-Publishing: A Three Step Primer

The world of publishing is changing dramatically.  Every day it seems, there are new options on how to publish your book, and many of these involve by-passing the traditional route of querying, waiting (sometimes for up to a year) for an almost inevitable rejection, and then querying again.  Although I believe strongly that the curation role of traditional publishers is valuable and will continue to be important as publishing morphs into the future, it's also the case that for many authors, self-publishing will be an important part of their overall platform - even if it's just to produce promotional, in-between material.  I've noticed an almost continual stream of new companies coming along to encourage writers into what's being dubbed "Partnership Publishing", but caveat emptor (buyer beware) since many of the contracts on these sites are signficantly worse than traditional publishing contracts, and where they don't involve substantial upfront payments (better spent, if you've got it, on high quality editors), usually involve you giving up a significant portion of royalties.   If you are self-publishing, you may as well do it yourself, and hire the specific skills you need, keeping control of your project.  After all, keeping control and reaping a high portion of the rewards are two key reasons for self-publishing.  Following are three no frills steps to getting your book published, and out into the market place.  

1. Get hold of good guide book. This is one place where a twenty dollar investment is well spent.  There are so many good books out there, and many are so well written and laid out, that you could use them for every book you self publish.  

2. Learn to turn your word processed file into a series of formats for electronic reading.  e-books are now outselling print books, and it's so easy to take a file and turn it into a .pdf file and other formats that there's no excuse for paying someone else to do it for you.  The easiest one-stop solution is to get hold of Calibre software.  Calibre is free, and will convert your book into any ebook reading format from ePub to .pdf to .mobi, etc.  Just make sure you check each format that you want to sell on a real ebook reader, as selling poorly formatted books is a fast way to make a bad name for yourself (and self-publishing in general).

3. Find a great printer. Not only can the right print company set your book up for print publication of your book at very reasonable prices for small print runs, but you can also use a trusted source for all sorts of promotional material like brochures, stickers, bookmarks, and postcards.  Develop this relationship and you may find that you can negotiate a great package deal that will be far and away more beneficial to your book sales than paying someone to do it all for you.

Of course there's much more to self-publishing than these three steps, as you'll find when you get hold of one of the manuals above, but at base, all we're talking about is taking your completed writing project,  polishing it to perfection (don't skip this step! Or the need for a professional editor), and then making it available to a readership.  Between electronic formatting and a great print resource, you're good to go.

About the Author: Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader. She is the author of the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, the novel Sleep Before Evening, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at http://www.magdalenaball.com


  1. Invaluable checklist Maggie. Now all I have to do is write that book LOL

  2. Awesome article. You make it so much less intimidating. Thanks.

  3. Thanks Maggie. What do you think of using smashwords?

  4. Nice summary. I want to learn more about online publishing and promoting. I think that's the next step, rather than going to print companies. If your e-book takes off, then maybe look at print. To the bookstore!

  5. Mary Jo, Smashwords is a fantastic distribution resource and they have great promotional tools (love the coupon feature), but you have to be very careful about formatting, as their 'meatgrinder' is not foolproof. I'd suggest if you use them that you check the format of everything you're selling post 'grind' on the right reader - you may need to enlist some friends to help with this. Otherwise the quality of what you're putting out could be sub-standard, which is the worst thing a self-publisher can do. Because there's no "curation" you have to be extra careful about this point and make sure everything you're selling is perfect. Monkey M, though I still think print is important (especially for handselling, launches, comp entries, etc - all critical aspects of a writer's career), ebooks are definitely outselling print and are where the money is.

  6. Great overview to get peeps thinking about the process.

    ... but as you said at the end and it can't be stressed often enough these days, make sure your product is as error free as is humanly possible BEFORE you publish. My publisher made some major clunkers that I'm still trying to clean up.

    A well learned lesson for next time, whether I self-publish or otherwise.

  7. Very good information. I too wondered what you thought about Smashwords. Thanks for the tips

  8. Wonderful information for new/unpublished writers like myself. Thank you!

  9. This is great info, Maggie. I've tried Smashwords and agree it can be tricky. For print books, CreateSpace is an option.

    Widder, errors can happen even in the Major publishers. That's why the final proof is so important.


We would love to know your thoughts on this post!

Writing - Getting Past the Gatekeeper

How Do You Make a Good Story Worthy of Getting Past the Gatekeeper? Just about every author knows about the "gatekeeper." Th...