So you’ve been tinkering away on a novel of your own and would like to dabble in the art of self publishing but don’t know where to start? Well my friend, read on for some hopefully useful advice from someone who managed to master the art of formatting (yes, that other ‘f’ word :P).
At the time when I began the process of self publishing my novel Beneath the Sleepless Stars, I spent hours scouring the internet for tips and advice, only to discover there is not a lot of quality information out there, particularly for Australian would-be authors. Which has prompted me to start sharing my experiences in the self publishing realm, to hopefully assist other budding authors who like me did not know their gutter margins from their Garamond!
If you are thinking of DIY publishing, the first thing you must realise is that whilst it is ‘free’ in a money sense, you will need to invest a substantial amount of time in perfecting your craft. But if like me you’ve spent many moons forging your finished manuscript and can’t wait to share it with the world, then the rewards are worth it!
I became disillusioned with the ‘traditional’ approach to publishing, whereby industry etiquette prevents you from submitting to more than one publisher or agent at a time, yet expects you to wait up to 6 months to even receive a reply of any sort. In the face of the online publishing paradigm shift, many publishing houses do now offer services where on a particular day of the week or month, you can feel free to submit your manuscript to their “slush piles” (technical term!). But when you think about the fact many of them receive 600+ submissions a year and choose to publish 2-3 new titles, well chances are less than 1%. But that’s where the interwebs comes into play!
These days, we’ve come a long way from the humble typewriter. Amateur authors have all the elements of a traditional supply chain – formatting, cover design, printing, distribution, marketing – at their fingertips thanks to the digital print revolution.
Your first step it to choose a platform. This is the site you will use to upload your document to, which will also supply you with a free ISBN (the long number you see below a barcode on the back of all books, it’s a unique code that registers the title and pen name of your work of fiction within international book databases – I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was when I received my first one! I may or may not have animatedly told people I HAVE A BARCODE NUMBER over and over haha 😉 ). The site you use will also help you manage everything from formatting to printing and distribution.
I chose to use Lulu. You can check out my Lulu book page here. One of the reasons I avoided CreateSpace is because it is affiliated with Amazon, and I did not want to limit my distribution network (read as: yes I’m an Apple devotee and always dreamt of one day seeing my novel on sale in iBooks :D).
The main reason was I also wanted to be able to see my novel in print – a dream of many fellow aspiring authors I’m sure. Lulu would enable me to create a paperback version as well as an eBook version. The paperback version is print-on-demand – namely you don’t have to spend oodles of money upfront to buy boxes of copies to sit in your garage until you sell them. In a nutshell, they only print copies as they are ordered. Lulu is an American site but it works with partner printing companies in each country – so if you order it from within Australia the book is printed in Melbourne and ships to you within about 5 days (express) – I was very impressed with how fast my first copy arrived, looking like a fully fledged professionally printed book straight out of a bookstore!
Lulu sells your paperback directly from their own site, but also distributes your paperback into Amazon, Nook, and the global Ingram catalogue (which means any bookstore in the world can order in a copy of your work!).
On the eBook front, Lulu also enables you to upload and sell an eBook version on their site (this is a whole other formatting learning curve!!) and distributes you into Apple’s iBookstore within iTunes.
If, however, you have friends who use Kindles and wish to expand your distribution beyond Apple devices to include all other kinds of eReaders – well then the platform Smashwords is the way to go. It offers free distribution of your eBook in every possible format.
Hopefully some of this information you have found useful – I’ll continue to blog more about the ins and outs of self publishing in coming months. Good luck – and feel free to drop me a line if you’d like any DIY advice that doesn’t involve a spanner (though I am pretty nifty with Ikea flatpack assembly haha :P).