Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Self Publishing, The balls to go it alone

First of all, being a woman, we know that anatomically I do not have balls, however by finding the nerve, guts, faith, whatever you want to call it, I decided to self publish my own work but it was no easy task.

With traditional publishing, the author may reap an estimated whopping 8% of the profits from their work. If you are not a celebrity or someone knowledgeable and well known in your industry, then you are just another writer turned author proud of a manuscript that is seeking publication. You have to be accepted into this elite class of individuals. If the publisher does not accept your work as it is presented, they will expect you to write the story that they feel will sell, not the one you are trying to tell. You lose most of the creative control of your work. The cover, the layout the rights and all are now the ownership of the publisher.

On the average it takes 2 years to complete a manuscript. You will be asked to give up all rights to what’s been “your baby”. I know there are many out there who only want the thrill and satisfaction of know that they have written a book. But for those of us who have a passion for writing and a desire to maintain possession of their work, then maybe traditional publishing is not for us.

There are many things to consider when deciding to self publish, provided that you have a completed and edited manuscript. Here is where you check your .. uhmm .. balls?

First of all, know that writing the book was the easy part. Now you get into the selling and marketing of you product. Yes, it is now a product and you must represent your product in a professional manner. If you are mostly creative and rather leave all that to the publishing company, well you are highly mistaken. Most often, the author is responsible for marketing their product as well.

Along with the selling your product, there are promotions, book signings, trade shows, speaking engagements on the topic of your book or inspiring others to write, television and radio show appearances and all the other non-glamorous duties that fall under marketing. You become the author/publisher that wears many hats.

Here is a check list to consider:
Your book title:
The title is a strong representation of your product. When you think in terms of marketing and sales appeal, choose a title that is eye catching and provokes curiosity. Ask yourself this question; When my book is on a shelf with various others on the same topic, what will make it stand out? Besides the cover artwork, the title is what creates the desire for someone to pick it up, open it up and read. Make sure that your title is in line with the topic or story but creative and catchy.
When we refer to editing, we are talking about the checks and balances of your work. Check for continuity, concept, structure, grammar, language, etc. Hire a professional editor. The changes and revisions that they may suggest should be in line with the story or point (s) you are trying to make, however, remember it is being “cleaned up” for sales purposes.
A must. Do it again and again. It resembles the “save and save often” theory. You will receive “blue lines” from your printer for proofing, but do it on your own. Have you ever read a piece of work that was filled with typographical errors? Enough said.
The design process:
This is a very fun but important step to the marketability of the book once it is bound and ready to sell. Besides hiring a typesetter to put the text into a format for the printer to use, you must choose paper type (stock), cover stock, colors, font styles, layout, and the artwork for your cover. Here are some things to consider when preparing your work for print:
• Use page numbers. They help ensure that your book is printed in the correct order and it helps to keep the cost down.
• Using the printer’s floor stock (paper of choice) will give you the best price. You can request samples from the printer. Check for paper thickness as well.
• Decide on the number of books you will have printed. Choosing a standard size for your book also saves you money. Ask your printer for those sizes.
• Inquire as to cost saving adjustments to your order. Delivery extensions etc.
• Make sure your printer provides the specifications required by bookstores for acceptance.
• A spine (the bound end of the book) is required by most bookstores. Make sure you get an approximate spine thickness.
• As a writer, you are aware of the importance of the written word. Get everything in writing. All agreements and changes should be in writing.
• When quoting, the printer will consider the number of books they are printing for you. If they’ve worked with you before, they may overlook some charges on reprints or other work. Let them know how pleased you were with their work if you are and maintain a great relationship for future work.
• Choose a type styles that is easy to read. Some fonts do not reproduce well and are harder to read. For continuity, stick with a couple of fonts and don’t jumble your work with too many typestyles.
• Check your work to make sure it is clean and straight. Your typesetter should know the trim rule, however, allowing margins for trimming on three sides.
• Hire a designer or artist that is familiar with the specifications that your printer requires for your cover. Leave room for the 3-side trim (margin) on the design of your book cover. Remember to get your ISBN# and bar code (see below) to your designer to affix to the cover (cover4) or placed on a white or light-colored background to provide contrast between the bar code and the background. This insures that the scanning can be done without error. Do not scale the size of the bar code to less than 80% of its original size or enlarge it.
• Decide on soft of hard cover, each will need a different ISBN. The designer may offer to obtain your bar code for you.
• Order extra covers for marketing ideas. It will be cheaper to order them while printing is being done than to order them later.
Your work is copyrighted automatically through ownership. You wrote it, you own it and you can get it copyrighted. Your work will be protected for your lifetime plus fifty years after your death under copyright. If you have an estate, they should renew the copyright to continue the protection and keep it from becoming common domain. You can do this now and/or when you have your book printed.
Generally placing a notice such as: © 2000 by Katherine A. Smith. All rights reserved, gives your work some legal protection. The author of a literary work (books, booklets, poems, journals, and databases), can request form “TX” from the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress (Washington, D.C. 20559, (202) 707-9100, To register costs about $20 and two copies of the work within three months of publication or download forms off the internet.
Your business:
Being self-published is a business, so treat it as such and consider creating a business name with your new publishing company. This brings tax saving perks as well. Purchase business stationery and business cards for your business and for promoting your book. Keep good records of your sales and expenses for tax purposes. There are penalties for ignoring this simple reminder.
ISBN’s, LCCN’s and bar codes:
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It identifies your book worldwide. The first digit of an ISBN specifies that the book originates in an English-speaking country. The following three digits identify the publisher, the next group identifies the book itself. Contact the R.R. Bowkers agency’s
ISBN hotline: (800) 521-8110 Fax (908) 665-3502
121 Chanlon Road, New Providence, NJ 07974 or apply for an ISBN online at The Cost is about $225.00 for a set of 10 numbers. If you use all ten of them within 5 years, you get 10 more free. While you’re at it order your Advance Book Information form from Bowkers also. ABI will allow you to get into Books in Print (BIP), which many libraries and bookstores use for ordering books.
The Library of Congress Cataloging or LCCN is issued and recorded in a book similar to the library’s card file. Your book will be catalogued and libraries all over the US use this book to order from.
To obtain Cataloging in Publication or CIP, the publisher requests a “Request for Pre-assignment of Library of Congress Catalog Card Number.” Long title for a form isn’t it? You will need to supply information from the book such as the ISBN, title page, table of contents, a sample chapter, summary, and various other identifying features of your book for categorizing. Contact
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Division
(202) 707-9804, 101 Independence Ave. S. E., Washington, DC 20540-4320 or online at

A bar code is a must in order to sell your book to any large chain and on-line bookstores, suppliers like Ingram or Baker & Taylor or wholesale distributor like Crown. Once you have obtained your ISBN, decide on the price of your book by considering all your cost to putting it together, then divide by the number of books you printed then increase that price to reflect your profit. There are many agencies that supply bar codes, just choose one or you can get a list of bar code providers from Bowkers, the ISBN reference above.
Request the “Bookland EAN/13 with add on/price extension” bar code from the company of choice and give them your ISBN, title and price of your book. Check with your book designer for his/her preference of receiving this information via film or disk. This cost will range from $20-$50. If you already have a book without a bar code, order a bar code printed on self-adhesive labels from Complete Reproduction Services, Inc., 411 North Sullivan St., Santa Ana, CA 92703, 714-953-9300, Fax 714-953-0807.

Off to the printer:

Make sure that all the work is per the printer’s specifications and confirm your prices and delivery date. Then sit back and rest up for the real work. Oh yeah, proof your “bluelines” from the printer. This is your last check before the finished product. Do not take for granted that everything is fine. You may see a printing error due to the disk or electronic mailing can screw up your work. Be on the safe side and check it. You’ll be glad you did.

Release party:

Invite your friends and family, business associates, casual acquaintances, church members, children’s teachers, neighbors, your dentist, doctors, etc. Let everyone know that you have a book to sell and let them support your business. Keep it simple. Host it at a venue that will not require you to spend any money (your home, clubhouse, library meeting room). If you can work it out with a bookstore, ask to host a book signing there and sell the books on consignment, so that they share in the profits. This is a great way to create a retail account.

Marketing materials:

You are embarking on a wonderful journey of public relations and marketing in this business venture. You will wear many hats, but you have total control. You need a few tools to begin this journey. Here’s a list:
• Your book product
• Press release / Media Kit
• Brochure / Mail piece / Bookmarks
• A professional photograph of yourself
• Business cards & company stationery
• Order forms and receipts
• Mailing supplies
• Fax Machine
• Website
• Copy of the book “Self Published, Now What?” which lists over 5000 resources for selling your book ( and a copy of Dan Poynter’s book, “The Self Publishing Manual”.

Press Release / Media Kit:

Send a press release to all the newspaper and magazines that you can. This will be a great way to introduce your new book for a review. Actually up to 300 of your books (according to the number you print) may go to promotions. In order for reviews to be written on your book and serve as free publicity, you must send a complimentary copy for their reading pleasure. Do not send out your work blindly. Do your homework and contact those who you are sending your work to.

Your press release should be eye catching and informative enough to invite the reader for more, the entire book. You can fax this to several media entities and include it in your kit. Your kit should also include clippings from other publicity that you may have received, your bio, business card, marketing piece on your book (brochure/mail piece) and ordering information. All this information should be placed inside a presentation folder for a professional appearance and mailing ease.

Brochures / Mail pieces / Bookmarks:

A brochure is a quick and easy way to promote you business and your book. It should include a photo of you as well as your book. Also, a brief description of the book that is inviting and captivating. Ask about three credible people to read your book and submit a comment about it that can be published. Include these in your brochure. Design your brochure so that it can be used as a mail piece as well.
You can mail the brochures to bookstores and/or give them along with the bookmarks away at book signings and events when promoting your book.

Be creative with your extra book covers that you had printed. Create a large sign to sit on a easel at book signings and events. Add your photo to the sign for a more professional presentation.

Now that you have an idea of what kind of balls, stamina, perseverance, faith and courage you have to have to make you dream come true, are you up to the challenge?


Tawa30nRalNC said...

Ms. "Kat" Smith,
I would love to thank you on your very imformative, and helpful ideas. Balls; something you truely lack, but strength in telling it how it is; apparently something that others may lack is devine.
Not deceptive in nature to hide behind the tasks at hand, like a writer will be facing as myself. To put it in a way that will challenge and quite often discourage us from dreams that we would love to meet.
I thank you for the words that will not detour me from my progression of being a success at my love for writing, nor detour me for what I know I have and need to do. waht I have to do is learn more about the business before trying to let the world see and enjoy the passion.
Night after night and many cups of coffee that often lead into the afternoons of the next day, I took "everyword" to heart. I would like to extend my graditude and many thanks to you on self publishing and the right way to go. Thank you Ms. Kat... Your friend Tawayne "Tawa" 2-2-09