Successful Self-Publishing

Over the years I have taught many classes on self-publishing to a huge range of people with dozens of different book projects. These included poetry and short story collections, children’s books, family and local histories, books to teach students everything from Lithuanian to guitar playing, how-to guides, general histories and photographic essays.

The advances in technology came thick and fast in the 1990s but today, in 2010, things have slowed down a little. Computers may be faster and do wonderful things (if you know how to make them obey you!) but the best way to produce a economic short-run book is by using a Docutech or similar high-speed, high-quality copier (often digital now). You can then take your choice of how to print your cover, either by offset or perhaps with a digital colour photocopier, and have your book perfect bound. All for a very affordable price.

What many people call POD or print on demand is just more of the same - the ability to print short runs from computer files. Many printers now will ask you for a PDF file to make sure changes don't happen in your book inadvertently. Of course, the 'new kid on the block' now is ebooks, but the same rules apply - you won't sell unless the content is worth buying. However, it will become easier to prepare a PDF file as an ebook rather than physically printing.

Self-publishing remains an avenue whereby authors can get their books out into a niche market and not go broke, providing they do their homework and don’t get carried away by dreams of best sellers. What is a best seller anyway? Commercial publishers need to print 5000 copies to make it worthwhile, and this means many books get overlooked. We need small publishers for variety, for new ideas and for the preservation of valuable stories and materials.
If you are contemplating self-publishing, research the options, answer the hard questions and have fun!

If you're interested in an on-line course on self-publishing, I have written one which is being offered by the NSW Writers' Centre (along with a variety of other on-line courses). I've condensed my book so this is a great course if you have some experience and are champing at the bit to get going on your book.

NSW Writers' Centre courses here. Click on E-tutorials link on their page.

Read a sample from my book on self-publishing.

Contents of ‘Successful Self-Publishing’

1. The pros and cons of self publishing
Taking over where commercial publishers leave off - niche audiences - personal contact and sales - control over production - new technologies - book making as a craft - over estimating sales - bad budgeting - poor quality production values - the problems of distribution

2. Why are you doing it?
Head, heart or wallet? - self satisfaction - you have something to say - writing in areas which are not commercially viable - special knowledge (how-to) - making money

3. Making initial decisions - the end before the beginning
What kind of book is it? - who will read it? - realism vs dreams - are you a seller or a writer? - what will it need to look like? - how much money do you have? - how much time do you have? - how many will you print? - how will you produce?

4. Writing and editing
It must be better than average - professional help - putting ego and vanity aside

5. Some technicalities
Copyright - illustrations, photos and maps - ISBNs - bar codes - quotes - plagiarism - permissions

6. Typesetting and Proof reading
Computers and printers - commercial typesetters - desktop publishing - who does what jobs? - spelling and grammar and punctuation - style guides - who should proof read? - how many times?

7. Saving money and keeping quality
Alternatives to commercial printers - photocopying quality - covers and insides - new technologies - lateral thinking - learning from other people’s experiences - doing things by hand - the craft aspect and its pros and cons - finding more money

8. The look of the book
Subject and style - where it will be sold - how it will be read - book design (what
works and what doesn’t) - parts of a book - consistency vs. experimenting - the cover - the spine - the typefaces - methods of binding

9. What are your parameters?
Money - time - book size - number of pages - complicated extras

10. What else apart from text?
Illustrations - using artists - reproduction quality - photographs - bromides and
scanning - colour separations - maps - diagrams - tables - reminder about copyright

11. The cover
Importance - cost - design - colour - trends - getting it printed - hand made - the bio and the blurb - what else goes on it?

12. Methods of printing
Traditional commercial printing - new industry in fast books - quick printers -
searching out other avenues - covers and insides separate - photocopying -
new technologies - special requirements

13. Getting quotes
Approaching printers - knowing and explaining what you want - co-operation -
book printing experience - flexibility - understanding costs - choosing paper and cover stock - ink - print runs and extras - the disk vs. hard copy - camera ready art

14. Costing and final decisions
How to cost your book - unit cost - selling price - covering your costs - making a profit - are you getting what you want? - cutting costs - time vs money

15. Preparation and printing
The value of a mockup - preparing artwork - preparing for quick copying vs preparing for commercial printing - printing from disk - black vs grey - professional help - working with your printer - providing what is required for top quality - by what day?

16. Pre publicity and the launch
Starting publicity - order forms and mail order - mailing lists - launches mean sales - getting in the news - spreading the word - using the blurb - launch venue and catering - who will launch it and why? - help at the launch - signing the book - having the book there on time - displays and readings

17. Distribution and marketing
Making buying easier - more publicity - the bookshops - the distributors - reviews - in the marketplace with stalls and other shops - teachers and libraries - keeping up with the paperwork - community outlets - advertising - mail order - readings and talks - special offers and incentives - not being shy - co-operatives

18.What have you learned?
Taking a rest - evaluation - keeping up with technology and other people’s
experiences - what went wrong? - what could be improved? - would you do it
again? - have you covered your costs?

© Sherryl Clark, 1997

Successful Self-Publishing is published by Hale & Iremonger and is available through any bookshop by ordering (or it could even be on the shelf!)
If you have trouble getting hold of it, you can order it here.