Behindthe-scenes secrets of a self-published author

1. Who said you can’t design and distribute on your own?

Though book design and distribution is what I do – I’d never say you can’t “do it yourself.”
Many authors do and avoid the cost of assembling, designing and distributing their paperback or ebook. They get help at book portals and find tools on-line – even free software to help them finish their book. Though quality production is a craft that takes time, creativity and careful attention, if you have an interest and devote the time, there’s no reason you can’t do it.
If you don’t work at it, the result is a book that look like vacuum cleaner manual – or a so-called ebook that’s nothing more than a PDF.
(Remember what Hemingway said: “If I had more time, I’d have written you a shorter letter.”)

2. That said, self-publishing has many advantages.

While you can go the do-it-yourself route, don’t minimize what it takes to get it right. I’ve been at this a while and a day doesn’t pass that I don’t learn some new technique, some small nuance to help improve the books I work on … my own books as well.
Quality book design is the sum of a hundred small considerations – headers, hyphenation, leading, tracking, widows, indexing, proof-reading, editing, cover design, the blurb – everything required to produce a professional look. Many try, stumble along the way, and their manuscript is still lingering on their desk.
Others spend hours seeking an agent only to get stacks of disheartening rejection letters… and they still have no book.

A benefit to working with a self-publishing shepherd is that you actually get your book published and experience the thrill of holding it in your hand, our using it as a calling card to establish your business expertise.

3. Watch out free paperback to ebook conversions.

Free paperback to ebook conversions are worth the money you spend on them. Paragraphs get jumbled and run together, pictures and charts collide with text. At least at this writing, to convert a paperback into a true, reflowable ebook and do it right – takes a time-consuming, manual effort. Google this issue and read the complaints about free ebook conversions.
If you’ve spend hours, sometimes years on your manuscript, don’t settle for a poorly produced ebook and produce a true, reflowable ebook.

4. Watch for “a la carte”charges.

If you decide to work with a self-publishing shepherd, here’s what I’ve learned to look out for.
More than a few book designers beef up profits with add-ons. The new costs keep coming…. drip….drip….drip, from all-inclusive design packages aren’t so all-inclusive.

Example: I usually don’t charge to make changes. (There are exceptions, but rare.) As a fellow author, I share the author’s urge to keep improving their manuscript and my authors haven’t abused my generosity so together, we make lots of changes.

But many consultants charge for changes and they can really add up.
For example, the following is from the current price list of a well-known, self-publishing book developer:
Free: the first 50 changes. After 50, there’s a charge of $15 per change. Does 50 changes seem like a lot? Write a book and you’ll discover you’ll make hundreds of changes.

Here’s a second example, and a true story. An author came to me with a very complicated manuscript – filled with charts, 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 but alerted him to watch for extras, and I asked him to keep me in the loop as he progressed. Two months later he called to advise that with add-ons, their price had risen to over $3,600.
He asked me to finish his book which I did.

5. The pot of gold at the end of the publishing rainbow is sometimes a sinkhole.

If you plan to publish for riches, pan for gold instead. Why?
Print-on-demand low cost paperbacks and ebooks have democratized publishing. The digital revolution has wrenched the ability to get published from the hands of big imprints. But that also means the number of books released annually increases exponentially. Competition for readership is fierce. It’s tough to get noticed and get sales.
So if your writing goal is to make money, think twice. Be careful how much time and money you invest.

6. That said, yes, some self-published authors make money.

If you are computer savvy and willing to market your book nearly full-time, there’s an endless list of productive marketing actions that propel a good book up the sales charts. It can be done with continuous, relentless effort. You’ll use every gorilla marketing technique you’ve ever heard of. You’ll hone your social media skills, blogs, video production skills, get reviews and work all the basics. But it is possible and some do it well.

Have questions about self-publishing? Give us a call: 401-487-3818. Or, send us an email:
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