Real self-publishing is when you actually do act as your own publisher and hire all the services you need to get your book produced and marketed. It can be quite the task (or set of tasks), but it depends on your publishing goals. If you just want to have your poetry book laid out and bound to sell at readings, then maybe doing it yourself isn’t such a big deal, but if you really want to sell a professional book (and build an audience for more stories, fiction or nonfiction), then the following process may help you set up your own to-do list. If you find this incredibly intimidating, you can make the process easier by working a package offered by one of the publishing services organizations like CreateSpace.com (run by Amazon.com).
To do it all yourself, you need to have independent access to quality production and distribution services. Unless you are already an expert (and even if you are), get professional editing, proofreading, design, and printing resources lined up. Otherwise, your wondrous message may be completely ignored.
If you really want to control all the steps along the path yourself, here’s the drill from the inside (and the beginning) out (text to cover):
- Writing: Some folks actually still write first drafts on legal pads and such, so, don’t feel like you have to start with a computer screen and keyboard. Typing in a hand-written draft can be a good opportunity to begin your own editing of the content. You are the storyteller, so give yourself permission and time to actually write and compose in your head the way that best suits you. If you have this great idea but think you need major help with story construction or composition, you can hire a ghost writer to help you out. This is not one of my skill sets, and your choice will depend on your subject matter, but asking for help can make a big difference in the value of the final product to readers. I can provide you with an initial manuscript evaluation based on a chapter or three and a rough table of contents to give you an idea of where to go with your story. Also, in the spirit of social and community building/support, you can benefit from joining a writer’s collective either in the physical world or online. Take a look at Jordan Rosenfeld’s post over at The Book Designer for more information.
- Editing: You will need different types of editing at different points in your process. For example, you may figure you don’t want a ghost writer per se, but still need help with more than just grammar and spelling. A developmental editor will take a look at your manuscript to see how your story flows and provide in-depth advice on plot construction and character development for fiction, or basic organization of material for nonfiction. Once you have a coherent manuscript and need it polished, then you can look into line or copy editing where the emphasis will be on basic linguistic understanding, grammatical structure, etc. This copy editing process usually includes a first pass, and then a second pass to check that corrections were made and to resolve any queries for the writer. Proofreading comes after book design, so, see below. I’m not the only editor out there. Other editors on my serious respect list:
- Design: You might be able to get away with a Word design using this program’s Style features, but don’t assume that your manuscript in a word processor will translate into a professional book by itself. Word has some idiosyncrasies that can mess up the layout that you intend. Best option is to have a layout done in InDesign or some other real book design program. If you want to work with me on a simple design, I’d love to help out. If you have a book with lots of pictures or really want some serious design experience, I also recommend these folks:
—Joshua Tallent (ebook architect–converts your book to work in ebook form)
Yes, you will likely need to consider an ebook version (either using the epub standard or Kindle’s MOBI standard). I’m also learning a bit about exporting to epub, but Joshua and his team are experts in this if you want to access his services. Design also includes the cover, at a separate cost because it takes extra time and layout effort. Particularly if serious artwork or Photoshop work is involved, you’ll want to contact a specialized cover designer. When I get some recommendations together, I’ll put them here. You can also ask for recommendations from whichever interior designer you choose.
- Copyright page, ISBN and other legal stuff: While the designer is busy laying out your book, or if you are a real go-getter, during the writing phase, you’ll need to obtain the ISBN (that long number) for your book and grab a template for how the copyright page should look so this info can be added. Joel Friedlander also has a copyright page template on his site, here. You can buy your ISBN directly from the source here. For more general information on this page and the ISBN, Joel also has both free stuff and guidebooks of his to buy at his The Book Designer site. Seriously, this guy has pulled all the relevant information together in one place and has a great quality blog to keep up with self-publishing issues. And he doesn’t pay me to say that. 🙂
- Proofreading: After your book is laid out (after!), then it’s time for proofreading. This way another set of eyes can look for not only spelling mistakes missed by spell-checkers, but also any layout issues with inconsistent typeface for headings or spacing weirdnesses, or running header and footer mistakes, etc. This should be your final clean-up of your text prior to printing, and should not include any major rewriting. I can do this part, although I may recommend another person if I’ve already done the copy edit. Another set of eyes always sees the text better. On the other hand, if I have done the copy edit, I can charge less for the proofreading pass. So, it’s up to you.
- Printing: Lightning Source is the POD (print on demand) provider that is geared toward serving traditional publishers, but they’ve recently launched a service focused more on individual self-publishing authors. It’s called Ingram Spark. Ingram is the biggest independent book distributor to bookstores. So, if distributing to bookstores is important to you, you can check them out. Amazon.com’s CreateSpace publishing services division also provides printing services as part of their package. From what I gather, Ingram Spark is a better quality printer, but they are still working the kinks out of their customer support. CreateSpace seems to be easier to work with. For more information on comparing these services, I recommend Joel Friedlander’s The Book Designer blog, and this article from 2010 comparing Lightning Source with CreateSpace in particular. Although Ingram Spark has made this comparison a bit closer, it still gives you an idea of how these different systems work. For an update on Ingram Spark itself, try this article.
- Indexing?: Well, most new nonfiction authors probably won’t want to pay for professional indexing. It can be a time-consuming task without the right tools and weird brain that we indexers have. If you have a book of 100 pages or more that covers a variety of topics and subtopics where you’d like people to be able to go back and track material that’s scattered in the text, then indexing would be a good idea. Let me know, and I’ll be happy to help out.
- Marketing/Website Design: Lots of aspects to marketing, from social networking to traditional advertising. I still haven’t figured out the magic formula, although regular blogging and (not annoyingly regular) participation in the back and forth in the social networks seems to enhance success by helping you build an audience over the long term (read that long-term thing again). You can invest in a promotional platform like the one my friend, Jacob Nordby runs at his Author Success Platform. Or, you can do your own thing with advice from experienced marketers and social media mavens like Lynn Serafinn or Pamela Wilson (two people whose blogs I actually read regularly). And if you’d just like a simple WordPress website set up, I can do that. I use WordPress for all my sites and blogs and am savvy enough to tweak and add plug-ins that are valuable, etc.