FIVE THINGS I DISCOVERED
WHEN I SET OUT TO SELF-PUBLISH
MY FIRST BOOK...
Behind-the-scenes secrets worth reading
I Michael Grossman of EbookBakery.com
1. That pot of gold at the end of the rainbow...sometimes it’s a sinkhole.
If you plan to publish for riches, pan for gold instead. Why? Print-on-demand paperbacks and ebooks mean publishing is democratic at last. Yes, the digital revolution has wrenched the freedom to publish from the hands of big imprints. That means any author can bring a book to life now. It also means that the number of books for sale have increased exponentially. The competition for readership is fierce. It’s tough to get noticed. It’s hard getting reviews. My point: if your writing goal is making money, think twice about how much time and money to invest.
2. That said, some self-publishers are making money.
If you are computer savvy and willing to market your book almost on a full-time basis, there’s an endless list of productive actions you can take to propel a good book up the sales charts. It can be done with marketing savvy and continuous, relentless efforts. You’ll use every gorilla marketing technique you’ve ever heard of, hone your social media skills, and also work the basics.
3. Who said you can not design and distribute on your own?
Though book design and distributing is what I do - I’d never say you can't “do it yourself.” Lots of authors do, avoiding a third party to assemble, design and distribute a paperback or ebook. They can get help - and find lots of tools on-line and even download free software at book portals to finish their book.
On the other hand, I’ve been at this a while and a day doesn’t pass that I don’t pick up some new technique, a small nuance that helps me improve the author’s books I work on...or my own. Book design is hard work requiring a focus on details. In part, a well-designed book is the sum of a hundred smaller considerations - headers, hyphenation, leading, tracking, widows, indexing, proof-reading, editing, cover design, blurbs - everything required to produce a book that has a professional look.
At the other end of the spectrum, you will find too many shoddy efforts – books that look like vacuum cleaner manuals - and so-called ebooks that are merely a converted PDF. (Remember what Hemingway said, “If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter.”) Quality production is a craft that takes time, creativity and careful attention to detail.
4. Watch for “a la carte.”
Some designers beef up profits with add-ons. They keep the costs coming.... drip....drip....drip. They advertise an inexpensive design and distribution package...but then here come the add-ons.
Example: I usually don’t charge authors to make changes. (There have been rare exceptions.) Together, we make a lot of changes on every book. As a fellow author, I share each author’s urge to keep improving a manuscript. (So far most authors have not abused my generosity.)
But some consultants do charge for changes which can really add up. For example, the following is from the current price list of a well-known, self-publishing book developer:
Free: first 50 changes
Then $15 a change
Do 50 changes seem like a lot? Write a book and you’ll discover you will make a whole lot more.
Here’s a second example, and this is a true story. An author came to me with a very complicated manuscript, filled with charts and graphs, cartoons and sidebars. He said he was quoted $695 by a well-known book design company. I told him I couldn’t do it for that price and alerted him to watch out for extras. I asked him to keep me in the loop as he progressed. Two months later he called back to advise that with the add-ons, the price the company was now asking had risen to over $3,600. He asked me to finish his book. I did.
5. All that said, self-publishing has many advantages.
Not the least of them is that you will actually get your book published. It will get printed and distributed and without the painful, laborious efforts required to attract an agent or a traditional publishing house.
Yet some authors should publish traditionally and those efforts should be undertaken. Others should self publish. My first two books were traditionally published. I chose to self-publish my next two and a forth that's in the works.
Call and ask what’s best for you. Our advice may surprise you...because we won’t try to sell you. The “ax to grind” we have is our hope to help a fellow author with the best, objective advice we can offer.
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