Monday, 25 August 2014

Tips for Writing a Book - How to Self Publish

This route is challenging and the author needs to have knowledge to do these tasks themselves or pay for the following services; book editing, copy editing, a cover design, writing a blurb for the covers, writing press releases, web design, marketing and web promotion (including SEO). I previously advised to try to get published rather than self-published for this reason. How to get published

An advantage of self publishing is all of the profit is your own. Many literary agents with want between 10-20% of the profit. You would also be surprised how little profit there is on a book as most of the cost goes into the manufacture of the book (paper) and also a colour cover.

I have used Lulu and Createspace. I originally used Lulu, but found their prices in the US were very limiting. LULU have now improved and books published by a UK author are more competitive now. I have not found much difference between these two companies. I think Createspace comes across more professional and books appear on Amazon etc more swiftly than Lulu. Lulu can be very picky several months after publishing, alerting you that the line spacing is incorrect. (At this stage, I am not discussing e-publishing. I shall cover that separately. However, both companies offering some form of encryption so your book simply can't be copied to other easily.)

You will need an ISBN bar code as that is the reference book shops use to sell books. You can get your own, or you can have Lulu or Createspace supply one. In any event you need to get an image of the ISBN bar code to put on your books and some sites exist that will do this for you. You simply type in the ISBN number and they generate the image. With Createspace they add the image for you. With Lulu, it depends whether you upload a one-piece book cover or not, from memory.

To self publish on either companies, you need to have as a minimum a word document, although I preferred to create my own PDF file. That gives you more control on the layout of the book. When Lulu etc create a PDF file for you, the layout may change on each time that you run the PDF converter. That means you have to buy a book just to check it is formatted correctly. Createspace have a useful tool that lets you check teh formatting after it has run the converter. Warning, you need to be certain of the page layout requirements before you start. I pushed these to the limit as you or your reader pay for every page and also for postage. It is an advantage therefore to have fewer pages to save you and your readers costs. I used CutePDF which was a free download. There are other free PDF converters. Guidance on how to create a PDF is given here.

You must look at the book layout template -- e.g. for Createspace  click here. This has to be perfect, otherwise it will be rejected. An example of the cover requirement is here. My books are generally about 80,000 words in length (200 pages).

Once you have PDF versions (or if you want, a word document) both Createspace and Lulu are quite good when it comes to uploading these. it takes some practice and both sites have help lines in their forums.

My advice is to get a good book cover that is eye-catching and matches your content. Both Lulu and Createspace have adverts for cover designers but I would suggest getting a recommendation from the forums. Check what the artist can do though, before committing to them. They should be prepared to send a first draft and to let you talk through the cover design to make any amendments. You also need a cover that looks good when it is shrunk down for use on websites. Book covers are too large generally and some websites require a thumbnail image of only about 200 kbytes.

Both Lulu and Createspace offer extended reach type distribution where your book will be available all over the world. You have to pay for this and it is usually not too expensive. However, without marketing, that is not very helpful. That is a subject for another discussion.

Be warned - self publishing can be expensive and so you have to be astute as to what you pay for. The market for advice and general help is huge and also costly. The following are typical costs -- in my experience. You may be able to find better deals.

Book editing - I have been quoted anything up to £1000 per book
Copy editing - Generally about £1 per page
Cover design - Anywhere between £100-300. However, some folk will charge a lot more
Distribution charge (paid to Lulu etc) - £40
Paying for a domain name (eg - .coms are expensive £80 per year, .uk are cheaper at about £20 per year
Paying for a host site - £40 per year (sometimes including in the cost of a domain name)
The cost of a webdesign package - I use Webplus and that was about £90. It is sometimes on offer and you can get the older versions more cheaply. There are free web design packages!
Marketing - you pay as much as you want! Most people do this for themselves 9not successfully in many cases)
Paying for draft books to check the quality - probably need to buy 3-4 copies and postage (total of about £50)

This is not a cheap business and there are a lot of sharks out there that will fleece you. You can take short cuts and rely on friends and family, but then the quality may not be sufficient to sell books, if that's your aim. I usually put a profit on a book of about £0.7 per book so that the overall cost is not off-putting. I therefore need to sell a lot of books to recover the initial costs.

Please feel free to ask questions.

Best wishes, David

My previous articles are:

Read How to Get Self Published
Should You Pay for a Review -- yes or no?
Making Your Writing Interesting
My top tips
Choosing a genre
How to Start writing a Book?
Creating a Plot for Your Book

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