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What It Means to Be a Self-Publisher

You may not realize that when you decide to self-publish you become a publishers as well as a writer. This is particularly true if you decide to produce your book alone without an author services company that offers editing, design, printing, and distribution services. True self-publishing happens when you find individual experts to do these tasks as you oversee the production of your book. Today, Sue Collier, self-publishing expert and coauthor of  The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to Write, Publish, Promote and Sell Your Own Book, explains the role of an indie publisher in more detail. NA

It’s no secret that self-publishing has gained in popularity over the past several years. Although this is a good thing for authors, too many jump into self-publishing without realizing what it all entails. It is certainly easier to self-publish today than it was back when I got started in this business (1996), but there are still basics to the process that all authors need to consider.

Since most self-publishers start out alone, they will soon discover they will need to play many different roles in the process. And just because they may be amateurs, doesn’t mean they have to produce a low-quality book. Although many prefer to work alone, others hire professionals. Regardless of how an author chooses to proceed, he or she will be forced to don several different hats as they go through the process.

  • Writer. This, of course, is the foundation for your entire enterprise. Practice your craft and continue to improve your skills.
  • Editor. This is one area where many self-publishers miss the mark in their eagerness to get their book out. I have had numerous authors tell me they’ve enlisted the assistance of a friend or relative—and it usually results in a poorly edited book. Unless your neighbor is a pro, I recommend authors hire a professional editor.
  • Designer/Artist. This is another area where too many authors miss the mark in their desire to save money. Almost every self-published book I’ve seen where the author has designed the cover looks like it was designed by an amateur. If there is one area self-publishers almost always need to budget for it is the cover design.
  • Typesetter/Compositor. Don’t try to design your book in Word; it seldom looks good and the files frequently cannot be used by book manufacturers. It’s best to use a program such as InDesign to prepare your interior. If you don’t know the program—or if you don’t want to invest the money in purchasing it (it’s expensive!), hire a pro.
  • Printer. Educate yourself on the difference between print on demand and offset printing, as well as ebooks. Educate yourself on printer specs and other requirements.
  • Shipper/Warehouser. It doesn’t do any good to get book orders unless you can fill and ship them. Although this is a routine job, it takes time, space, and energy. Fulfillment houses exist if you don’t want to do this yourself.
  • Bookkeeper. You are the chief accountant, bookkeeper, and company representative to your banker, so make sure you keep good records for yourself as well as the IRS.
  • Marketeer. This comes last on the list, but it’s certainly not least. It’s often been said that the hard part of producing a book isn’t the writing but rather it’s the marketing. Even the best book won’t sell if no one knows about it. And authors need to remember that it’s never too early to start planning and marketing.

Be prepared to fall and skin your knees occasionally. No one has all the answers; certainly not a new self-publisher. There are tons of resources online available to authors—blogs, forums, articles, and so on. Authors who use them are much more likely to succeed.

About the Author

Self-publishing expert Sue Collier is coauthor of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to Write, Publish, Promote and Sell Your Own Book and the forthcoming Jump Start Your Books Sales, 2nd Edition. Her expertise has been featured on such places as ABCNews.com, Martha Stewart Living Radio, and Bottom Line Personal. Visit her blog at Self-Publishing Resources. 

Note: This post is part of the 2012 Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) challenge, which takes place during National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo). You can find out more at www.writenonfictioninnovember.com. To participate in the challenge, simply “sign in” by commenting and leaving a description of the nonfiction project you'll be completing during November. Come back and report in if on the status updates page, and comment on the various blog posts or on the WNFIN Facebook page.

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Thanks for a very informative, insightful piece!