Self-Publishing: A Primer for Authors

Regardless of whether you're trying to publish your first book or are an established author seeking to expand his audience, digital distribution is one of the most attractive methods of distributing your work. It is a relatively young market, but it develops and evolves rapidly, especially when it comes to eBooks. Where people would once buy a book at a bookstore, they now frequent Amazon and its sizable online catalog of titles. However, what are the hurdles associated with self-publishing?

Quality is Key
The first and most basic problem is quality, not only of the content, but of the entire eBook. Even if you have written the next Great American Novel, you're not going to achieve success if your book is badly formatted or has a poor quality cover.  To get around this, consider hiring an editor to proofread your text and help you correct errors in punctuation, awkward sentences, and improve formatting. To ensure a good quality cover, consider commissioning a graphic designer to create it from scratch. While hiring outside help may conflict with the concept of creating a book all on your own, it will benefit you in the long run.

Publishing the Book
Before anyone can buy book, you need a platform through which to distribute it. The biggest eBook distributor currently is Amazon.com, which also has its own dedicated reader, the Kindle. Publishing an eBook through Amazon can be done yourself, via Kindle Direct Publishing. By doing it yourself, you have full control over data related to the book and its price. An alternative is Smashwords, one of the pioneers of the eBook market, or Lulu, the official Apple eBook aggregator. There are dozens of other websites dedicated to self publishing. Your best bet is simply checking out them all and seeing which offer the best terms and reach. People buy book, but only if they can actually find them in a store.

Setting the Price
Once you upload the book, you have to set a price (avoid all distribution services that do not allow you to set your own price). The consensus is that an eBook price between $2.99 and $5.99 is optimal, as it generates the most sales. Going lower than $2.99 will usually increase downloads even further, but may be too little to generate noticeable income. This becomes evident when you factor in the royalties paid to the distribution service, which can get quite high. Amazon, for instance, takes a 30% cut from sales of books priced between $2.99 and $9.99.

Promoting the Book
Finally, once the book is out there and available for purchase, the hardest part begins: promoting your work. This is by far the most consuming part of self-publishing, as you have to raise reader awareness, commit to marketing, and engage your readers, activities typically handled by publishers.

However, although it can be a demanding business, self-publishing works is incredibly satisfying and can generate real benefits in the future. For example, Dmitry Glukhovsky, author of the highly rated Metro 2033 and Metro 2034, had trouble finding a publisher, as they were unwilling to publish his book. Finally, he published it by himself, making it available for free on his personal website. Readers flocked to his work, prompting publishers to offer Glukhovsky a publishing deal and allowing readers worldwide to buy book. Keep that in mind when starting your work on self-publishing.


Ari T said...

I had no idea about the details regarding self-publishing in the online market. This post really brought me up to speed. I did not know about the top self-publishing companies that authors use to their benefit before reading and now I'm aware that there are many more to be found but it requires some digging and research. The other steps were also aspects that I was unfamiliar with but now I feel I have an idea of how this entire process works. Thanks for sharing these tips and steps for publishing your own work. It's definitely a new emerging field and seems to be getting more and more popular as time goes by.

Denise Taylor-Dennis said...

I didn't know you could publish a book by yourself. I've always thought it would be cool to write your own book. I have no idea what I would write but it would be cool to say you did it.

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