Traditionally, if you wanted to publish a book, you needed to get a contract from a publisher. The publishing company will then print, publish, distribute and sell the book through retailers and sellers. Now, there’s another way and it’s called self-publishing.
When you self-publish a book, you won’t need a publishing house. Instead, as a writer, you’ll complete the entire publishing process yourself. This includes editing, formatting and designing among other parts of the publishing process.
You’ll have to do more work, but you get full creative freedom and higher royalties. A fair trade-off if you’re willing to put in the extra hours. Authors who work with publishing companies often make up to 20 percent royalties on print books, 10-25 percent on audiobooks, and about 25 percent on ebooks.
On the other hand, if you’re a self-published author, you can get much more in terms of royalties. For example, Amazon pays self-published authors up to 70 percent royalty on books that cost $2.99 and $9.99.
Although technology has made it easy for authors to self-publish their books, it still requires a lot of effort. In some instances, it will demand a lot of resources.
But where do you start? And what do you need to do?
1. Have it professionally edited
Just because you’re self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. Editing is one of the most important stages that any published book must go through before going public.
Editing and proofreading will help polish your book. A fresh set of eyes will spot areas that you’ve never noticed before.
Proofreading your work will help you detect errors in language, writing, or grammar that you missed or didn’t recognize while you were writing or proofreading it yourself. You could use AI-writing apps like Grammarly to help you check grammatical and spelling errors.
Online tools can correct spelling, punctuation errors, redundancy and other inconsistencies, but a professional editor has the expertise to turn your manuscript into a publish-ready book.
2. Copyright your book
Protect your intellectual property with copyright.
In 1989, the U.S. copyright laws were revised, which made any written work legally protected the minute it’s set on paper. This makes it so that all literary works are protected by the intellectual property laws, regardless of having a copyright registration or not.
So do you need to copyright your book? Yes. If anyone plagiarizes your work, you can only take legal action if it’s registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Copyright ownership also ensures that future business opportunities for your written work, from producers wanting to license it to companies using one of your characters for their merchandise, are not lost. You never know when you’ve suddenly got a bestseller on your hands.
3. Apply for ISBN
The International Standard Book Number or ISBN refers to the number that identifies the product and is used by publishers, libraries, bookstores, sellers, and internet retailers for ordering, listing, and monitoring stocks.
It contains information about the registrant as well as the title, specific edition, and format of the publication. It’s mostly used for one-off publications rather than newspapers or journals.
Anyone who’s financially responsible for the production of the book should apply for it.
How to Get an ISBN
Every country has its own national ISBN Agency. So if you’re residing in the US. then you should apply to the national ISBN Agency of America.
However, if you’re applying on behalf of a company, then it doesn’t matter where the company is based as the location where the business will be carried out should be the criteria for application.
You can check their guidelines here.
Initially, all publishers must comply with the guidelines and must supply the national ISBN agency with complete information about the publication. This includes giving details like the title, author, and format of the publication that the ISBN will be assigned to.
You need to contact your national ISBN agency as they will guide you through the process.
4. List the distributors you’re targeting
Distributors will handle the logistics, manage billing on your behalf, and in some cases, retailers will be getting your books from them.
Whether you’re thinking about print or ebook, there are a few things you need to keep in mind for both.
Tips when choosing your ebook distributor
When it comes to ebook distributors, you have to check which platforms offer the best advantages.
There are also ebook aggregators or a service that provides your books to other distributors. This will enable your books to be accessible to more retailers. However, aggregators may charge a share of royalties so check the benefits of choosing a particular platform (like Amazon) over aggregators (like Smashwords).
Stay clear of distribution services that try to lock you into exclusive contracts as you would want to be able to use multiple distribution channels to sell your book.
Tips when choosing your print distributor
Print distribution to physical stores won’t be as straightforward as it is with ebooks. Self-published authors have to establish rapport and build a connection with booksellers.
You should also make your books returnable as it will establish trust with the bookseller. Note that this is not a new concept when it comes to booking distribution. The seller would want to make sure that your book will sell and if it doesn’t, then they want to make sure that they won’t be on the losing end.
As a self-published author, you would want to go with print-on-demand services. Print-on-demand means that the book will become available or will be printed once an order has been placed. This means that the bookseller won’t have to return any stocks as they will be ordering books that are expected to sell.
5. Prioritize marketing
People need to know your book exists. Simply having it available in bookstores or ebook stores won’t do.
You have to go the extra mile and update the metadata of your book. This means updating the description to match what people are looking for. Be active in social media, and partner with influential book reviewers.
Plan a promotion strategy before you publish your book, this way, everything will align and work together, giving you the best results.
6. Join writing communities
It’s very important to network and to get your name out there. Writing is a very individualistic job, but you need people to get the word out about your book. This is also a good way to stay connected with other writers who are going through the same experience as you are.
Not only will you be able to promote your book but you will also be able to improve your craft.
Now, Sell Your Self-Published Book
You control the process as the publisher of your work. Although empowering, it’s also daunting because more work lies ahead even after you’ve finished your story.
A successful book isn’t just about brilliant writing, unfortunately. If you’re going to self-publish a book, create a well-devised strategy, from the writing to the design and through to marketing and distribution.