If you are reading this, the chances are that you are considering self-publishing your writing. This means foregoing the trappings of a literary agent and a publishing house, and instead being your own publishing house.
Self-publishing is not a modern idea, although it certainly has become easier through the introduction of print on demand and epublishing. Sadly, it has somehow garnered a reputation of being the last resort of a writer that no one actually wants to read, and therefore they create the books themselves. But this is complete nonsense.
Authors such as Jane Austen, James Joyce, Beatrix Potter and Mark Twain all self-published some of the works. It was, and is, a way for new writers to get the beginnings of a readership, and they can use this to demonstrate to more typical publishing houses that actually, there are people out there that will be willing to pay money to read what I write.
If you are tired of never hearing back from publishing houses, or hearing from literary agents that, “readers just don’t want what you’re writing at the moment”, then the time may be right for you to look elsewhere. You can read about my personal experience trying to get published for the first time here. And remember, just because you start out self-publishing doesn’t mean that a big publishing house won’t notice you and approach you.
But don’t be taken in! There are certain elements that you should look out for and be wary of, because in self-publishing as in any industry, there are pitfalls. When you self-publish, you have to be your own editor, cover designer, formatter, and marketing department. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. Take a look at my spotter’s guide:
What is Print on Demand?
This process is rather clever, and it is how I personally publish the paperback version of my book Conquests. Print on demand means that a publishing company keeps your manuscript on file. Every time someone orders and buys your book, they print one copy. This means that you don’t have to invest your own money into buying up five hundred copies of your book that you may never manage to sell. It also means that all of the hassle of printing and posting is up to the print on demand company.
Can’t I print print lots anyway?
Well of course you can! But it would probably be a lot easier for you if you went with Print on Demand, and then ordered x number of books yourself. That way, your book may go up the Amazon chart (if you are selling on Amazon), you still only have to buy five or twenty of the books, and you again don’t have the hassle of posting them. I personally always have a couple of my paperbacks lying around the house in case someone wants one, or so I can do exciting giveaways.
What about epublishing?
Well that’s rather easy actually. Many Print on Demand services now offer you the opportunity to also sell your book as an ebook on sites such as Amazon and Smashwords. This allows you to reach another totally different audience, and you are able to more quickly get your book out there.
How long does it take?
How long is a piece of string I’m afraid. For me, it took six weeks from starting the process to getting my paperback on Amazon. That took about three weeks longer than it should because there was a slight hiccough with my cover design. Be aware of this: every single aspect of self-publishing is down to you. No one else is going to do it for you.
What about down payments?
Personally, I would say steer clear. It is perfectly possible to print on demand AND publish as an ebook without having to pay a penny. If you can do that, then why on earth would you pay someone else a stack of cash to do it?
Who would you recommend?
I promise I’m not being paid to say this: I’m only going to recommend the company that I use, because I’ve found them to be marvellous. Createspace is a company that does both print on demand and can publish you as an ebook, and doesn’t charge you a penny. Be aware that there are optional extras that do cost money, but I did the entire thing without paying anything, and I think my paperback book looks rather good, though I say so myself. I did have the benefit of my book already being published as an ebook by my publishers, and they graciously allowed me to use the cover design that they made for me. This may be the one thing that you do decide to spend money on: book covers can make or break how your readers see you.
I hope that helps you as you decide whether or not to self-publish. It’s definitely helped me publicise my ebook by having a paperback, and they make great Christmas presents!