Self-publishing takes work, and even money, but it can be rewarding — personally, professionally and even financially. Let’s take a look at the potential rewards and then at the work and potential costs involved in self-publishing a book
If you want to publish a book for friends and family, then self-publishing is the way to go. This can be personally rewarding and doesn’t have to cost you and arm and a leg to have books printed and shipped to you so that you can give to friends and family. (Although see below for work and costs associated with getting the book ready for self-publication.) Using print on demand (POD) companies like CreateSpace or Lulu will let you do this. You can have the books shipped to you or directly to the people to whom you want to give books. You can, if so inclined, even sell direct to the public via the sites or through the sites via Amazon. But you don’t have to if getting the books into the hands of particular people is all you want to do.
If books sales are part of what you want, then consider IngramSpark as that will get your book into wider distribution. Of course if you want electronic versions of your book available, you can use Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and Kobo Writing Life. KDP makes your Kindle electronic book (ebook) available through Amazon; Kobo Writing Life makes your epub ebook available through Kobo and Chapters.ca in Canada.
Self-publishing a book can help you professionally. Do you conduct workshops, seminars or webinars? Do you teach? Do you do public speaking, or do you want to? Having a book on a particular topic can enhance your credibility and professional profile and help you obtain more speaking or teaching engagements. Of course, you can sell books at events too, so having a book can also enhance your income. While this applies to authors of non-fiction work, fiction writers can also benefit from self-publishing as it can lead to readings or speaking at conferences.
Not every self-published author is going to sell like 50 Shades of Grey sold. But if you have a well written book targeted at a specific audience, then you can sell books and make money doing so. I’ve sold 10,000 books over nine years and make about $9,000 a year selling my books. Suits me just fine. Having said that, I know authors who sell 10,000 books a year. They work at it full time — writing books, self-publishing them, and promoting them. How targeted will your book be? Is there an audience for it? How hard are you willing to work promoting it? If income from writing is important to you, you’d better be willing to bust your buns–writing, publishing and promoting. In other words, you need to treat self-publishing as you would your own full-time business. Because seldom, if ever, is it a case of if you write it they (readers) will come and buy it.
There is work involved in self-publishing. Excuse me for stating the obvious: first you have to write the book. Then you should edit it, and then proofread it or have it edited and proofread. In short, you want the writing to be as strong and as error-free as possible. Then you get to the self-publishing part. The first question to ask is where and how do you want the book distributed? That will help you determine the company (companies) you use to distribute your book.
Want print only? Look at POD companies like Ingram Spark and CreateSpace. Want to make an ebook available? Look at KDP to get a Kindle in Amazon and Kobo Writing Life to sell epubs from Kobo and Chapters. You may also want to look at other ebook distribution channels such as Nook (Barnes & Noble) and the iBookstore (Apple) or aggregate distributors like Lulu or Smashwords.
Picking your distribution channels first lets you determine how to format your book — the interior and cover (front, back and spine if you are going print). Formatting your book takes work, and a few technical tools — all of that goes beyond the scope of this post. However, all me to say that it is unwise to format your book before you pick your distribution channels as each channel has different technical specs you must meet when formatting your book and cover.
The big question is: Can you do the formatting yourself or do you need to hire someone to do it? That brings us to potential costs…
Costs – potential
You can learn how to do things yourself, you can get knowledgeable friends to help you, or you can pay someone. A lot depends on you — if you are a do-it-yourselfer or if you need assistance. No matter the case, here are the things you have to consider, and that you might spend money on:
Copy editing your book. This is important because you want the writing to be as strong as possible.
Proofreading your book. This is important because you want the writing to be as error-free as possible.
Formatting your book. You can use Word, InDesign or several other programs to do this. Whatever you choose, you have to meet the technical specs of the company that will be printing your book. For instance, for my print books, I have to meet the technical specks of Lightning Source (now IngramSpark for most self-published authors, KDP and Kobo. That’s because I sell most of my books as print on demand books, Kindles and epubs. This applies to the interior of your book as well as the cover (front, back and spine for print books).
Speaking of the cover, if you are not a designer you may want to hire one to create the best cover possible — something that reflects the content of your book and appeals to your target audience (there are hunks and often scantily clad women in the cover of romance novels fir a reason!).
Promotion. I suggest you have website for your book(s), and perhaps a blog, with links to the pages where people can buy them. In addition, you may want to engage in social media and use other means of promotion. This can take time. If you are not sure how to go about it, it can take money too.
Paul Lima is a freelance writer and self-publishing consultant. You can read about him or contact him at www.paullima.com. Read about his book Produce, Price and Promote Your Self-Published Fiction or Non-fiction Book and eBook. – www.paullima.com/books/