Self-publishing enables the writer to control every aspect of the creation and promotion of their book. It’s an appealing option for creative people who have the confidence and time to undertake such a large task. But most writers enter the process not knowing what to expect, relying on their well-honed research skills to learn the ins and outs of the publishing biz. Before you dig too deep, read through the list of 10 things to consider before self-publishing and determine if you’re up for the challenge.
- The success rate is tiny
Very few self-publishers experience success because they simply don’t know what they’re doing. In many cases, they lack the foresight and perseverance required of a self-proprietor. Some of the common problems encountered by first-time self-publishers include the refusal to seek the help they need, the use of unprofessional covers and weak titles, overprinting and lazy marketing. It takes a lot of time and effort to write, print and market a book, so plan accordingly.
- Do it for the right reasons
Because of the amount of risk involved, it’s wise to go into the process not expecting to make money. In other words, don’t expect self-publishing to become your primary source of income – if it generates any income. Also, don’t self-publish because you don’t feel that you need any help. If your book has been rejected by multiple publishers, then it could likely use a change or two.
- It helps to have a niche
Most successful self-publishers are experts in a field with a narrow target audience. If you’ve already made a name for yourself in that niche – perhaps through lectures or previously published articles and papers and you have at least a modest audience, then you could market the book to those same people. Professors often utilize this strategy because they don’t immediately intend to mass market their books.
- You’ll be running a business
That means a business license is required. You’ll need to know the cost of the operation – as you’ll see below – and you’ll need to devise a marketing strategy if you intend to reach an audience beyond the modest one that may already be established. As a publisher, you’ll need to create a name that include -books, press or publishing- so that people will know what it represents.
- You’ll need money
Self-publishing is a big investment. In addition to the cost of printing, money must be set aside for marketing and hiring an editor, illustrator and/or graphic designer. A traditional publishing house is normally responsible for those costs, but since you’ll be doing it on your own, they’ll be your responsibility. Be sure to research and establish a budget beforehand so that you won’t encounter any unforeseen financial problems.
- You’ll still need an editor
Because you won’t be dealing with a publishing house, you’ll need to find an editor to look over your work and offer his or her sage advice. Self-publishers hire freelance developmental editors to perform those tasks – they ensure you have an interesting and readable book. The final say on all matters is still yours, but their expertise will be needed if you have little or no previous publishing experience.
- Know the details
Before your book hits the shelves, it’ll need an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and a Library of Congress catalog number. The ISBN enables book retailers to identify the title amid their vast collections of books. You can obtain one from the RR Bowker Company. The Library of Congress catalog number enables you to get your book into libraries.
- Sales will be your job
As previously mentioned, self-publishers must know how to run a business. In order for a business to be successful, it must have an efficient sales team – in this case, it’s you. You’ll need to convince brick-and-mortar bookstores, online bookstores, distributors and wholesalers that your book will be profitable. It’s important to know that different buyers require a different cut of the sales, so don’t demand for every buyer to take the same amount. And remember, patience is a virtue – your books won’t fly off the shelves all at once.
- Respect will be hard-earned
If you’re fortunate enough to earn respect, it will be hard-earned. Reviewers tend to ignore self-published books because self-publishers tend to be amateurs who, honestly, produce unappealing work. It’ll be entirely your responsibility to get your work noticed by reviewers, retailers and readers. The process by which you compose your book will help determine how much success you’ll have.
- It’ll never be too late to sell your book to a commercial publisher
If you successfully reach your intended market and have shown there’s potential to reach an even larger audience, then a commercial publisher will likely express interest in taking over the title. But this doesn’t always mean they’ll push it into the next stratosphere of sales. Make sure the people with whom you work will have as much interest in promoting the books as you have – otherwise, the transaction will be pointless.