8 Simple (but False) Steps to Self-Publishing Success

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1106 Design

January 31, 2011

I recently came across the web site of yet another “POD Publisher” that listed eight steps to successful self-publishing. Here’s some of the text (including the original typos and grammatical errors).

Does it sound overwhelming to learn how to publish a book?) It doesnt have to be! Remember, a journey of one thousand steps begins with one. Book publishing and marketing them online is a wonderful job and moreover, it has consistent revenue potential, if done in the right way.

Whether you are a high powered executive self publishing books for a corporate organization or a stay at home mom self publishing books for family, xxx.com has resources to help you. There are many options for self publishing.

8 Simple Steps to Self Publishing Books with No Upfront Costs:

1. Choose a topic of the book, preferably one that audience would like to read about

2. Write book in a word processor (i.e. Microsoft Word) and format it as per the book size

3. Covert the Book into readable PDF format

4. Design your book cover

5. Choose a self publishing company

6. Upload files and approve the proof copies, if applicable with self publishing company

7. Market book and start selling copies online and/or at events.

8. Last of all, Format book into an ebook, Kindle book, and audio book to sell online.

To get started self publishing books today, download the free templates available at xxx.com for both your interior book template as well as your book cover: http://www.xxx.com

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Problem is, this list is almost entirely wrong. With minor variations, this advice can be found at most of the so-called self-publishing companies, who have co-opted true self-publishing and turned many an author’s dream into a nightmare. With advice like this, is it any wonder that the average book published by a subsidy publisher sells 50 copies?

As you might imagine, the process described above bears no resemblance at all to the procedure followed by professional (and successful) publishers. The truth is, you don’t need a self-publishing company at all. The real steps to publishing success (after, and sometimes even before, the book is written) look more like this:

1. Research the current market for your book. Who is your target audience? Will your book fill an unmet need for this audience, or will it be one of hundreds or thousands of similar titles? If your book is not particularly unique, how will you convince your prospective buyer that they should spend money on your book?

2. Compare printing methods and estimate costs. How will you sell your book? Online? At the back of the room? Do you know you will sell a certain number of books in the coming year? The answers to these questions will help you determine the printing method (print-on-demand or offset) that delivers the lowest financial risk per unit cost.

3. Interview editors and designers to determine the most qualified candidates for this particular book. Do-it-yourself editing and design are not going to cut it. Subsidy publishers know you are desperate for an “easy” way to publish, and they’re willing to lie to you to provide it. If your goal is a professional book, review editor and artist portfolios to evaluate skills and styles. Set a budget for these services only after you have narrowed the field to a few qualified candidates. Never set a budget first and then hunt for someone who is willing to work for that amount of money. If you do,  you’ll surely find someone, but probably not the best person for the job.

4. Investigate typical online and physical distribution expenses (discounts and returns) and determine how these expenses will impact your bottom line. Also investigate options for bulk sales to special markets, which are typically non-returnable (we recommend Brian Jud).

5. Research traditional and non-traditional marketing options and estimate costs. Social media is free, and is perhaps beginning to replace other forms of marketing, especially print ads. If you enjoy blogging and tweeting, this type of marketing costs only your time. Book marketing firms charge more, of course, and they usually have contacts unavailable to individuals, but nobody can guarantee results. Beware of anyone who guarantees media interviews or promises that your book will become a best-seller.

6. Write a preliminary budget that includes all of the above expenses, as well as overhead, and determine how many books must be sold, at what price, to break even. Make sure this price point is comparable to titles that directly compete with your own. You don’t want to be the cheapest, or the most expensive, book in your category. Aim for a price point somewhere in the middle. For pricing help, see Dan Poynter‘s book, The Self Publishing Manual.

7. Set a production schedule in consultation with your editor and designer that allows enough time for the various tasks to be completed before your desired release date. Allow time for unexpected delays and multiple reviews. If you finish early, you can celebrate. Working at 3:00 a.m. to meet a deadline is not only stressful, it’s a sure-fire way to miss errors.

8. Begin work with your chosen editor and book cover designer. The front cover can be designed while the editor is working, and the cover image can be used to begin pre-marketing your title.

9. Begin work with your interior designer and line up the proofreader who will read the formatted pages. Yes,  you must have a proofreader, even if your manuscript was carefully edited. You won’t believe the errors that magically show up after the text is formatted.

10. Choose a printer. For print-on-demand, we recommend LightningSource.com, the largest POD printer in the country, which is owned by Ingram. LSI is NOT a “POD Publisher” but many POD Publishers actually print books there and mark up the price to you. With offset (ink-on-paper) book printing, paper prices change all the time, so once the page count of the book is known, request a firm quote and lock in the price by signing a contract.

11. Monitor sales and returns (if applicable). Your sales figures will tell you if you should continue moving forward in the same direction, or change course. Changing course isn’t difficult if you have prepared a quality book in the first place; you may just have to tweak your marketing methods. If, on the other hand, you followed the advice of the POD Publisher above, and your homemade book now has a long list of negative reviews on Amazon and in the blogosphere, then changing course may be all but impossible.

This list is not exhaustive. Some steps may not be necessary in your situation, and other steps not shown may be essential. Regardless, if all of the above suggestions sound like a lot more work than the simple list offered by the POD Publishers, that’s because crafting a quality book IS a lot of work.

If your book is your hobby, then by all means use a POD Publisher; they do offer the cheapest way to produce a small quantity of books for friends and family. But if your publishing goals are more substantial, or the purpose of your book is to promote yourself or your business, then it’s important to “go pro” right from the start. The good news is that many experts (including us) are ready, willing, and able to help you produce a terrific book. Isn’t that what you set out to do in the first place?

1106 Design works with authors, publishers, business pros, coaches, consultants, speakers . . . anyone who wants a beautiful book, meticulously prepared to industry standards. Top-quality cover design, beautifully designed and typeset interiors, manuscript editing, indexing, title consulting, and expert advice. All offered with our most important service, hand-holding. Attractive pricing, prompt, personalized service, satisfaction guaranteed. We’ll take better care of you and your book than any “self-publishing company.” How may we help you? Post your comment here or email us using the Contact Us page.

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