The Ups and Downs of the Self-Publishing Process.
Not that I would consider myself an expert on the subject, but to date I have been involved with, created or edited five self-published books. The majority of these have been done on sites like CreateSpace, an Amazon company, and Kindle Direct Publishing. These are sites that helps writers like myself and others get their work published and out into the multi-media world. I know and understand that there are many other sites out there that deal with similar lines of publishing, but I have been more than willing to use these sites, which offer a vast range of services and assistance for those wishing to walk the path of self-publishing. For the most part, these services are free, taking their cut of the costings for your publication from the sales of your book, or from the add-ons some sites offer for an easier and simpler upload process; leaving you with the remainder and the royalties you receive for publishing your own work. For some this is their first step on the path of publishing their work, and for others that choose it, their only one. But for those that know of it, it is a great place to start, whatever your literary ambition.
In order to give an idea of the task you set yourself when exploring the avenues of self-publishing, I shall walk you through the journey I took while undertaking my latest project.
The concept was simple. Me and a good friend, Lucy Hudson, decided to embark upon writing a collection of poems that had the running theme of Motion. Although most people don’t realise it, the moment of inspiration for a book is the first step you take on the self-publishing journey, and often one of the trickiest. Lucy already had a collection of poems that she had written previously, and after a careful peruse, along with reference to some of my own poems that I had recently written, the running theme was decided.
‘Wheels of Motion’ was decided on as a title for very good reason. Lucy has Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, and as such is wheelchair-bound whilst moving from place to place. This was another of the inspiration points for the book, as Lucy combats her mobility and health issues with such bravery and strength. She attends the same university as myself, and is currently entering her Third year of a Counselling degree. I know from having the pleasure of personally knowing her that it has not been an easy journey for her, but she has fought through these magnificently. It was a little while ago that I found out that one her coping mechanisms was writing, and more specifically, writing poetry. She approached me some months prior to ask for advice about self-publishing, as she knew I had had a moderate success in releasing titles of my own. However, it was only recently that I had the notion to bring out a joint effort collaboration, which not only shows the world our literary efforts, but the determination and enormous potential of those whom would not have otherwise had the chance.
With the understanding of the title of the venture comes the first hurdle of self-publishing. Copyright. Searching the internet, book sites and selling pages for other books or similar publications with the same name. This can be a minefield, especially when there are numerous ones that fit a similar genre and form of writing that you are embarking upon. Fortunately for us, no other such one exists, and those of similar phraseology have pursued other avenues of writing.
With a title comes the design of the front cover, which hits upon another copyright aspect. A simple overcoming of this is by using your own pictures and images, but you have to ensure that no brand recognition is visible in the edit without prior approval from the companies, which can be tricky to impossible for most writers of our calibre. Editing the picture with the facilities of a university student can be tricky as well, but a simple understanding of particular computer programs and a small amount of imagination can go a long way in creating the effect you are looking for. With Lucy’s inspirational story and a title such as ‘Wheels of Motion’, our front cover choice was simple: a photograph of the back wheel of her wheelchair with a small bit of editing, overlaid with the text of the title, subtitle and out names. Sometimes the simplest things are the best things to do.
With this all decided, and the other pieces that we needed for the book coming along nicely, it was time to start thinking of what I like to call the ‘Additions’. One of the things with any self-published title is that you have to do all the jobs that editors, agents and proof-readers usually do for the properly published authors. In this case, the Additions include the Foreword, order of the Contents, Quotes, Author Bios, and the Blurb. Many of these, such as the Contents and some of the more intricate writing pieces cannot be done until after all the pieces of the book have been written and proof-read a few times. This is in order to get a feel for the styles of writing and the works going into the book, and to adequately summarise the book in such a relatively small space. This can often be trickier than writing the actual pieces of the collection, as one thing most writers dislike is a specific word count. Unless that’s just me…
However, once all this is done and dusted, the pieces are written and fine-tuned, the Additions are all finished and finalised, and the covers are up to scratch, the assembly of the book can begin. For this, you often need to have begun the creation process on the self-publishing site that you have selected for the venture, as you need certain information, such as selecting page sizes, ISBN numbers that can either be selected for you or you can choose your own for a fee, and other such information as designated in the walk-through procedure that the websites supply you with. I would go into further details about the procedures and such forth, but this post would probably be several thousand words long, become very boring, and if I’m honest, the walk through is fairly simple to follow in what it asks for, even if the edits aren’t as much.
With all this information in place, the formatting of your book can begin. By this point, you should have a fairly rough idea about how you want your book to look and how it should appear on paper and on Kindle. Doing this on a Word document is easy enough for those familiar with the program, as Word is easy to navigate and allows for most options to be used and included. Grammar and spell-check is an integral part of this process as you are your own proof-reader and any mistakes can only be attributed to you. Getting the right fonts and sizes of your words is also something to be considered, as well as border sizes and justification of text. Try to keep in mind where the pages are going to appear in the paperback version, if this is an option you are publishing in, as putting page breaks and title pages in the wrong place can mess up the entire flow of the book. For anthologies and collections such as ‘Wheels of Motion’ and my own book ‘Angles of Reflection’, keeping each new piece starting on the odd numbered pages, which is usually the left hand page as you open the book, is always a good idea. Trying to avoid having two lines of text on a page of its own is also something to avoid as it can look out of place on its own and a bit of a waste of a page. Adjusting font or border size minutely can have an enormous effect and can make a great amount of difference on the amount of pages per piece and the amount of pages the book has in total.
The amount of pages in turn effects the amount your book will sell for. The more pages there are, the higher the minimum book price will be required. The site will have a well defined page count pricing system, which compares the printing costs against how much is being charged, and ultimately how much in royalties you get after the printing costs have been deducted. A word to the wise however. Don’t be suckered into the idea that selling your book for a higher price will get around the deductions. For many self-publishing authors, the more important thing is getting your work out there, being shared with the world and read. At this point in your literary career, money is not as important as spreading your work to the masses.
Once the Word document, or whichever typing program you prefer, has been completed, the next important step is PDF conversion. This keeps the format you require in its required place, and the upload process to the website won’t interfere with the organisation and the order of your work. Only upload your work when all the pieces of your document have been inserted and everything has been checked thoroughly. It is perfectly normal for somethings to have been missed or missing from the finished product, and the sites will always allow for the re-uploading of your work for as many times as is necessary. Throughout the upload process, it will show you what the internal view of the book will look like once it is sent off for review, and you will always have the opportunity to go back and make any amendments as required, even after the publication has been put on sale. Note though that this will remove your book from sale until such time that you have resubmitted it to the service provider and they have re-reviewed and re-approved your publication.
The process of self-publication is lengthy, and can often be time consuming. You are publishing it yourself, and are often not afforded the luxury of having anyone else look over your work and make sure that no errors have occurred in the creation of your book. If you can find someone experienced enough in the laws of grammar and spelling, and sufficiently versed in the manners of tone and style, then it is always a very good idea to have them look over it first, well before approaching the submission stage. Sharing it amongst your friends and family is also a good idea, as you can gather feedback on your work, and edit and improve on your work as it goes into the final stages.
Even once all this is done, the writing, the editing, the submission and the confirmation; your work is not done. Publicising your work and advertising its presence is your own responsibility, and getting your work noticed by your target audience. With the ease and accessibility of social media, this has become an easier task. However, gathering an audience and keeping it are quite another thing. You have to maintain your following on all platforms of social media, and not be afraid of utilising multiple sites in order to share your work and the news of your book’s publication. Repeated postings about your news is always good but not too many as to annoy your followers enough to unfollow. Post when you need to, not when you want to. This can be done in your leisure, but keeping an eye on it is always a good idea. Especially with comments and reviews of your work.
And there you have it. It may have been simplified, and a little bit of a personal tour, but I hope that the idea of the journey has been conveyed. I hope that this has been informative and am always glad to answer any questions should they arise. Equally, I am open to comments about my posts and glad to hear of any critiques or suggestions you may have.
My thanks to my Awesome lady Sophie, who has helped myself and my ‘Wheels of Motion’ co-author before, during, and I hope to presume, after the publication of our book, and whom has been my supportive right arm throughout the writing and publishing of the other titles that have my name to them. Also, to all the co-authors of the Canterbury Christ Church Creative Writing Society anthologies, without whom we would never have had such amazing publication.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I hope it was enlightening.
Wheels of Motion - http://amzn.eu/gfVs2hg Angles of Reflection - amzn.eu/8M0SwgI Letters of Reflection - http://amzn.eu/ddqXJzA Senses - An Anthology - http://amzn.eu/8lFxqJX Echoes of Infinity - http://amzn.eu/42qWZGi