Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Seven Truths For Self-Publishing

Every serious writer wants eventually to be published. Most dream of a big contract from one of the New York publishing houses, but sadly many are called and few are chosen. The normal process is to write a book, make submittals to agents, never hear from them, try to tackle one at a writer’s conference to no avail they are slippery devils (they are nice and smile a lot but eventually it’s still no). You push your manuscript for years until you want to scream and give up. Many sadly do and some very good stories are lost. There is another way, one that only recently has opened up to any writer or poet than can string-a-long a creative sentence and dabble in iambic pentameter. And that is to self-publish. Too hard you say, too confusing, too, too, well just too.

“Phooey,” as Nero Wolfe would say. “Phooey.”

You too can be a successful writer (sounds like a lame commercial I know but it’s true and there are a lot of people out there that can help). So here are at least seven true things that can help you get your words out to the people

Truth 1:
Manuscripts are easier than ever to write (it’s the stories that are hard).
Using all the various software out there such as Microsoft Word, Scrivener, Pages, and a few others, formatting and handling the initial editing are so much easier. Most come with spell check and even punctuation checks as you construct your story. Even using Dragon, an excellent dictation software package, works to help flesh out scenes without the nastiness of typing on a keyboard.

Truth 2:
Research is much easier and even more verifiable.
Lord all mighty, what did we do before Google, Bing, Wikipedia and the internet? It has become very true that more data is at your fingertips than any thousand novels can use. I write historical novels, with the selection of a URL I can get calendars, time lines, factual characters, multiple histories, and when needed, instant access to books at online bookstore – even those out of print. Days and weeks of time are saved. And with Google Earth I can even walk the streets in my story making very real my imagination.

Truth 3:
Finding an editor is less complicated and checking their references easier.
I’m in a number of writers groups through LinkedIn some are focused on the craft of writing, ask for some references and you will get a dozen good editors. Find the specialty you want: content, story, grammar, proof edit, etc. Ask their rates, find your comfort zone, and check their references. Most work through Word’s Track Changes but some do it the old fashion way through a paper manuscript, but it comes down you making the final changes.

Truth 4:
You can get your own International Standard Book Number (ISBN) from www.bowker.com.  
This will identify your book as a one of a kind and it’s your book’s identification forever (but you will need a separate one for every editing, ebook, and paper version – just saying). Buy them in blocks of ten, you will be surprised by the other editions you will want to add.

Truth 5:
You can do your own ebook formatting, it’s easy - really.
All it takes is a little experience working with various software formats. Don’t get all concerned about metadata or ebook formatting and fonts, leave them to the experts. You go to www.smashwords.com , Mark Cokers’ genius site for publishing ebooks, download his style and format book, follow the directions, download your manuscript, and suddenly you are a published writer on Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and a host of others. Then do the same thing at Amazon.

Truth 6:
You can have CreateSpace even print your book for you and distribute it through Amazon.
I was stunned how easy it is to have a printed book made after working with difficult and expensive independent Print On Demand (POD) shops. There is come complexity in formatting and book design but a friend, Joel Friedlander, at his site www.bookdesigner.com
offers prepackaged formats for book publishing. Find the one you like and load in your polished manuscript and you are most of the way there. Use CreateSpace’s guidelines and within a week you will have a galley proof – nothing better I tell you than holding your first book.

Truth 7:
Using Amazon and Smashwords as your distributor saves you time and money.
All orders go directly through these online retailers and your ebooks is sent directly to the buyer – simple and easy. They keep a fair percentage for what they offer – access to the whole world. Payments are direct to you and you can watch the weekly tally as your sales go through the roof or sit alone in the basement. There are great stories out there about writer who did very well through Amazon, Hugh Howey’s Wool is a good example.

Many fellow writers have told me the writing is the easy and fun part, most even enjoyed the editing – all, almost without exception, hate the marketing. The daily shilling of your name and your work to find readers annoyed them, it wasn’t even about the money (which isn’t bad if you’re lucky and the product's good), it’s really about recognition. There more than seven truths about book marketing that maybe someday, when I find the answers, I’ll write them down too.

More later . . . . . . .


  1. Nice roundup, Greg, it should be useful to readers, and thanks very much for linking to my Word template site. Hundreds of authors have published with these templates and saved themselves a lot of time and aggravation.

  2. Thanks Joel, Self publishing is easy and hard, but it is fellows like you that make it a lot easier. Thanks for the comment.

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