For anyone interested, this is a short primer on self publishing a book. Made shorter yet, because I undoubtedly skipped a few steps. All I can relate though is my experience. I equate self-publishing with acting as your own general contractor on a large home improvement project. You can hire out any task that a traditional publisher would do for you, or you can choose to do it yourself, or some tasks you can choose to skip. You don’t need no stinking permit.
My first step was to write a first draft. This was more than an outline, it was a cover-to-cover story, and it made me confident that I could continue the writing and publishing process. Near the end of my first draft, I began peppering a writer friend with questions on what my next steps should be. The key step I missed already was that I should have been participating in a writer’s critique group, eliciting feedback on my manuscript as well as providing others my critiques. This process not only helps to progress your story, it forms a network of contacts in the industry. This is something I’ll do earlier on my next book. In fact, I’m already in one group and plan to start up another.
My next key step was to attend a writer’s conference in Denver, sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. This turbo-charged my progress, providing me with invaluable information on both the industry and writing itself. The cost was in the $500 range, so it was my first real financial commitment, but so worth it. You can only learn so much googling information online. There is nothing more powerful than attending sessions with real people and networking. I learned here that I needed business cards, which I then purchased for $15.
The business cards led me to license what would become my cover art. I bought a graphic from Dreamstime for $15, which I later increased my usage rights for $69. The initial license allowed me to use the graphic for my blog and websites and business cards, as well as 500,000 copies of my book. This would have been fine but I was nervous that I didn’t fully understand the license terms and increased my digital rights to be safe. I think many writers spend a few hundred dollars having something original created. I believe you want your cover art well before you actually publish to use for early marketing.
Marketing should start early. I could argue that I began to relate my efforts in my blog after my first draft was complete. That’s something. I still have not created a website. I plan to over the Christmas Holidays but I did purchase a couple of URLs for about the price of my business cards. One for my story title and another for my publishing firm. You don’t need to establish a publishing firm but I was advised to and did it even though I wasn’t clear I understood its importance. Turns out it is nice for other steps in the process like registering a limited liability corporation. Also not necessary but if I make any real money it will be good for financial record keeping. It cost $35 to register an LLC with the State of Colorado online.
Along with establishing a business entity, you should register with the IRS for an EIN, an employee identification number that is the business equivalent of a social security number. This isn’t necessary either but again is wise. The EIN, LLC and publishing firm were all good to have for when I opened up a checking account at the bank. With these things in hand, I was able to register an account with a publisher. I went with Ingram Spark. Their role is essentially a distributor. You could register directly with Amazon or Apple iBooks. You will want these financial items in any case as you’ll need to setup an electronic bank transfer for your expenses and royalties with these publisher/distributors.
I took care of these business tasks while my book was with an editor for three or four weeks. This included spending another $100 plus on ISBN codes. As an indie publisher, I didn’t need to hire an editor. I already had my second draft by this time and I was gaining confidence that it was readable. I am so glad I hired an editor. My third draft, based on her suggestions, is a thousand times better. This cost me $800, which was very reasonable for my number of pages. I could have hired additional editing services, like someone to check for typos or someone to design my cover and book layout before publishing. I had help from friends on correcting typos.
Sort of wish I’d have paid what is called a book coder to design my book layout. Might have cost me a few hundred dollars, but I still had to spend money buying a copy of Adobe InDesign. I’m actually subscribing to an online version for $29 per month. Having to learn how to use this software was harder than I anticipated. The really difficult part is not knowing the format expected by publishers. The print versions were straightforward but designing the eBook took me a full week to get right. Actually two weeks if I count the time it took to fix an issue I discovered after reading the iBooks sample. I could write another blog on just that process. I probably will. Ping me if you have questions on self-publishing. Happy to share my experience.