Tips for Successful Self-Publishing
Your research and writing are over. Next up, publishing the book. Gone are the days when you had to send your book to several agents or major publishing houses, wait six months for rejection letters and then send it out some more. Self-publishing indeed is easy, whether you go to a vanity press, a small print-on-demand publisher, or the e-book route. Your audience and the goal you have with your text will determine how to publish, but some tips are universal no matter the format of your book. Basically, you want to present a professional product. You didn't go through all that research, writing, and revising to get sloppy with the end result.
• Start a business. Selling your book is a business. There will be expenses, one way or another. Whether you choose a vanity press, a print-on-demand publisher, or a local printer, there will be expenses to produce the book. Even if you decide to sell it solely as an e-book and not have printing costs, you'll still want a professional designer, editor, and proofreader to make your cover beautiful and your copy clean and professional. You'll have marketing expenses, too, because writing it is only the beginning. If people don't know about it, they surely can't purchase it. Even a few promotional copies will need to go to your local newspaper's editor and local library.
• Get an ISBN—or not. As a publishing house, you'll be able to get an ISBN for your book, which means that copies will be able to be ordered through bookstores, not just your website or online e-book retailers, and the book will be registered to you, not some other publisher, in case you want to reprint it down the line. If you don't anticipate that you will be selling it in physical stores, just online yourself, you may not need to purchase an ISBN. Amazon assigns its own ASIN to your book for it to be ordered through its site.
• Have it professionally designed. If you have photos, tables, charts, or other graphics in your book, an experienced designer or typesetter will give it that extra bit of polish. It won't look cheap, rushed, hackneyed, or indecipherable. These professionals will also be able to produce print-quality files for you to take to a printer or upload as an e-book. Even if you don't have graphics, a cohesively designed look to your table of contents, index, folios, and chapter headers will set your book apart from your competition's Times New Roman, generic-looking, smushed-together text. Present your words with polish for greater impact.
• Hire an editor or proofer. Having a professional editor or proofreader look over your text will also help. These pros can spot typos, incorrect numbers and math, misused words, grammar problems, flaws in logic, dropped words, broken timelines, organizational issues, plot holes, factual errors, misspelled names, and so much more. Experienced, knowledgeable editors can catch what you can't because they're fresh, objective readers. You've been inside the text for months or maybe even years, developing the manuscript. If something is missing from the text, as the author, you're no longer able to see it because it's all clear in your head. But is it clear on the page? Clean text will ensure that your message gets across the way you intended, with nothing to get in the way of reaching your target audience, and it will only aid your credibility.
• Test, test, test your digital file. The main file types for e-books are MOBI (Kindle) and EPUB (iPad and more). But not only can people read e-books on e-readers, they can also read files on their phones, computers, and tablets. So after you convert that word-processing or PDF document to MOBI and EPUB, look at it in every format and on every device you can to make sure everything translated in the conversion. Look for stray lines of code floating among your text, and check that the text formatting looks good (bold, sizing), that the charts and images flowed correctly, and that the page breaks make sense. If you're sending a file to the printer for hard-copy books, you'll want to give that one last look as well. Anything you catch before you go to press will only save you money.
After you upload the completed book file to your printer or e-book publisher, then the real work begins—marketing and selling it! But that's another topic entirely, and it takes as much (if not more) work than writing it in the first place.
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