If you haven't heard it by now, self-publishing is a viable publishing option today. Once thought of as a passing fad, this publishing method has solidified into a successful publication route for many authors. Even large publishers like Random House, Harper Collins, and others are embracing self-publishing by picking up great titles that have previously been independently published.
Recent statistics promise independent publishers an exciting future too. Analysis of 2007-2012 U.S. ISBN data by ProQuest affiliate Bowker reports that self-published titles in 2012 jumped to more than 391,000, up 422% from 2007. And e-books are gaining on print books, with 40% of ISBN usage coming from this electronic form of publishing, up from 11% in 2007 (See www.bowker.com/assets/downloads/products/selfpublishingpubcounts2007-2012.pdf).
I'm a big believer in independent publishing, because my own self-published Christian books have done alright. But not all self-publishers fare so well. I can tell you right now that it's not just about luck, but about doing the right things at the right time to get your book the attention it deserves, both before publication and after your book reaches the market.
Following are five things you will definitely need to do if you want to succeed at self-publishing.
(1) Recognizable Subject
You will need to focus on writing books that fall within a recognized category or niche. If your book is too broad or obscure, it might have a difficult time resonating with a target audience. You will need to fine tune your angle or focus for a particular group of the public. For instance, my self-help books are directed toward the needs of parents who are grieving the loss of a child.
(2) High Quality Material
Self-publishers sometimes take shortcuts when preparing to get their books into print. An independent author needs instead to plan for a high quality end product by taking the time and effort to make sure that the writing is tight and the editing, proofing, and layout are well done. If there are areas where you can't do a good job on your own, you will need to hand those off to an expert. It's vitally important that you produce a book that reads and looks professional.
(3) Professional Cover
The cover is an area where you will need to either hire a pro or train yourself to create print-ready files in Adobe Photoshop or another good brand of software. If you use a print-on-demand company (POD) such as LightningSource, you will be able to use one of their templates in your own software to design your cover. These templates contain the proper dimensions, layout, and bleed for the trim size and page count you select.
If you use a POD company such as CreateSpace, you will be able to use their cover creator which is an interactive online tool that allows you to easily create a professional cover for your book. You will need to choose one of their template designs and then customize it by adding cover images and details until you have created a nice cover image ready for submission. In addition, CreateSpace has an interior creator for use in creating your book interior formatting and design. So if your budget won't allow for expensive software, you can just use the creator features from CreateSpace to design not only your cover, but also your interior.
(4) Appropriate Price
You will need to price your book within the range of similar titles. You don't want your book priced too high because readers want a competitive price, yet you don't want your book priced too low either, since you will need to make a decent profit. Pricing a book can be a difficult task, but you will need to give your pricing considerable thought, especially if you are a new author. If you do make a pricing mistake though, you can always change the price later if you do POD. Just remember to leave the price off the book cover so you can change it if you need to in the future.
(5) Long-Term Commitment
At the outset of self-publishing a book, an author/publisher may throw him or herself into all aspects of production with lots of energy and enthusiasm and may aggressively promote the title for a time. But then suddently they may lose steam to the point where they either stall or completely stop their marketing efforts.
You will need to realize, however, that book marketing is an ongoing effort, a long-term commitment to creating awareness and interest in your book. So you won't be able to give in to your frustration if you're not meeting your expectations as quickly as hoped. Success doesn't happen overnight, so you will need to just stick with it and go forward.
Self-publishing is not for everyone, so if you feel you can't follow the above recommendations, you may not want to take on the self-publishing challenge. However, if you do feel up to the challenge and want to continue on the route toward independent publishing, you will be taking on a difficult but rewarding task that will most likely give you much fulfillment.
My four October blogs will focus on "Generating a Book on a Subject You Love."
Do you self-publish? Please tell us about your own experiences.