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Help Self Publishing a Book

When I started self publishing in 1995, I did it blindly, and I made a lot of mistakes. The biggest mistake I made was not studying up on the subject before I started publishing. I believed if I published a "good" book, the world would beat a path to my door. I was half right. All of my initial sales came from overseas, and I had no way to process the payments without losing money. Rather than reading some business books or publishing books to try to learn where I went wrong, I gave up and signed a trade contract - without legal advice!!! If I had read just one article about book contracts I would have saved myself seven years of servitude, but that's what I got for being too proud to ask for help.

Aspiring publishers can find everything they need to know on the Internet. The only thing you need to know before you start searching is that you can't buy help self publishing a book. You'll encounter lots of businesses interested in selling you their services, including experts of every stripe, but it will be money thrown away. We learn in our childhood that "free" always comes with strings attached, and that "you get what you pay for." However, when it comes to learning about self publishing, the best information is free, it's just not very well organized. As to paying for help, if you understood what you were getting before you paid for it, you'd keep your wallet in your pocket.

After corresponding with thousands of aspiring authors over the years, I've concluded that the most costly mistakes result from hurrying. You've spent months or years writing a book, pushing yourself on and on with the promise that you'll see that book published. Then you find that the trades are neither interested nor polite, and you start looking around for other options. You come up with a budget for self publishing and you start looking for help. Five minutes of search work on Google turns up enough offers that you can start comparison shopping, and before you go to bed, you've chosen a subsidy publisher or a book coach. Your budget gets spent, you get a book to put on your shelf, and that's pretty much the end of it.

If you want to go into self publishing as a business, to sell a significant number of books and possibly earn a good living, you have to become knowledgeable first. It takes time, effort, and learning from mistakes, but the sooner you start with the mistakes, the less help they'll be in teaching you something of real value. It doesn't make sense to start suggesting mistakes you should make, so I'll stick with saying something about time and effort.

You'll learn a lot in your first thirty minutes of reading about self publishing on the web if you stay away from publishing company sites that are trying to sell you a service. You may learn more in your first 2 hours of reading than in the next twenty hours, because sources (and writers) will start repeating themselves. But if you take careful notes, it should quickly become apparent to you what parts of the self publishing process you don't understand. Use that knowledge to fine-tune your Google searches for more specific results, until you find meaningful answers to every open question you have.

In the end, you'll still need some help self publishing your book, but that help should be limited to services you can contract with individuals for editing, proofreading, and design. If you can design the book and cover by yourself, that's great, I've gone that route myself, but don't kid yourself that you can do your own proofreading,. What you absolutely don't need if you want to self publish as a business is one-stop shopping, a company who will do everything for a fee. Those subsidy publishers are great for authors who just want their book in print, but it's a business for the subsidy publisher, not for the author.

If you read through a couple dozen of the archived posts on this blog, you'll find that I continually return to one central point. No matter what else you do right, your book won't sell unless you market it. You can't buy help marketing a book, you have to learn how to do it yourself if you're going to have any long-term chance of success. My own approach to self publishing combines print-on-demand for printing and distribution with Internet marketing as the lowest cost entry into publishing, but there are certainly other approaches that work. Just don't take anybody's word for what does or doesn't work without seeing the details and confirming them independently.

1 comment:

japinder said...

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I've read a few of the articles here and saved the links for re-reading. I intend to come here again for guidance. Thanks for sharing the information :)

PS: If you can spare some time, I would like to know your review of my writings.