These days, many authors are venturing into the world of self-publishing, now often referred to as independent publishing.
It can be a great thing to do for so many reasons. But it can also make you vulnerable to being ripped off.
I’ve recently been approached by a number of people who have fallen into this trap and are seeking advice.
They have paid thousands of dollars to have their book published and haven’t yet seen a copy of it.
Unfortunately, it’s often too late by the time this has happened.
So, in this post I’m hoping to provide practical tips to help you avoid these perils and others.
BEWARE SHINY PUBLISHING COMPANIES WHO PROMISE YOU THE WORLD
Self-publishing should not cost you thousands. Companies are preying on the elderly, and people in rural areas who don’t have the knowledge to know that they are being charged way too much.
If a company doesn’t have cost indications on their website then be wary.
Check out the company you plan to publish with.
- Ask them for references – and always follow these references up.
- Also do Google searches for online reviews and feedback about the company.
- Contact your local writer’s centre or organisation to see if they have any experience dealing with these companies. You can even ask the question on social media.
- Join Facebook Groups or pages like The e-book experiment and Self publishing questions where you’ll have a forum to ask questions as you follow the path to publishing your own book.
- Beware of fake testimonials and awards on websites. If a company states, “We are the nation’s leading independent publisher”, investigate this statement. Make sure it’s not just something they are saying about themselves to make them look better.
- If you decide to self-publish through a company, it can be good to use someone who has been personally referred to you by an author who has had a great experience with them.
I’m not going to delve into the stages of self-publishing here. But yes, your book should be properly edited before you publish it, it should have a well designed cover, and you should ‘tag’ it so that readers who search for your book will be able to find it.
And if you intend to publish online then you should spend time online familiarising yourself with the self-publishing world and learning about other people’s experiences.
THE PUBLISHING PART
You can publish your book as an e-book through Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Pubit (Barnes and Noble) or Kobo’s Writing Life.
You don’t have to pay thousands to get someone to do this for you. It’s something you can do yourself. It takes patience, but it’s worth the time and effort to do it properly.
Publishers provide free guides on how to do it:
Amazon – Free book, Building Your Book for Kindle
Smashwords – Free Style Guide
PubIt – Not quite as straightforward but they have FAQs that can help you – and generally the formatting will be the same or similar for all online publishers. You might also find this article helpful.
Kobo – You’ll find formatting information on the Kobo Content Conversion guide.
I’m not advocating for any particular publishing system, but I have published on both Amazon and Smashwords with some success. I haven’t tried Pubit or Kobo but I’m sure their formatting and marketing would be similar.
Print Books – POD (Print on Demand)
Print on Demand can be a way to publish small numbers of print books, making it more affordable. What this means is that you only publish the number you want.
Lightning Source, Lulu and Createspace all provide these services.
Lightning Source has a print and shipping calculator so you can work out exactly how much you’ll have to pay to get your print books published and shipped.
Lulu Books also has a cost calculator on their site.
If there is no cost calculator on site then I would be wary. Don’t let any high pressure sales person talk you into paying more than you can afford or more than you want to pay.
Those shiny companies I mentioned earlier often ask for thousands of dollars to market your book and they don’t do anything you can’t do yourself. They don’t increase your Amazon or your search engine ranking significantly. These are things you have to do yourself by having a regular presence in the online world and getting yourself out there.
Some companies charge around $2,000 to set up your website, get you on Facebook and Twitter etc – but these are all things you can do yourself for little or no cost.
- Set up your own website/blog – you can do this for free through Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, LiveJournal, Weebly and others. Read more here.
- You will find articles and guides on the internet about how to set up your platform through these mediums. Try to stick with sites that are linked to the actual platform itself. It might sound like a lot of work, but you could be saving yourself thousands of dollars by doing setting up your own blog or website.
- To set up your own Facebook account is not hard. Facebook will tell you how.
- Same with Twitter.
Marketing an e-book is hard.
For readers, it’s not like walking into a bookshop and being able to choose from what’s available. There are millions of books online so people have to ‘search’ to find yours. That’s why it’s important to have a strong online presence so people will hear about your books.
The Kobo Publishing guide has some extra tips on marketing. There may be other free guides in the marketplace too. Online resources are also available. Some reputable sites are The Creative Penn and Writer’s Digest.
My rule of thumb is ‘don’t pay for anything you can do yourself’. You’ll find the end result more satisfying and you’ll learn more about what you’re doing so that you can avoid the pitfalls.
I hope you found this piece helpful.
If you have any other independent publishing tips to share, please feel free to do this in the comments section of this post.