Questions About Publishing? I Have A Book I Would Like To Get Published. How Do I Self Publish A Book?

book manuscript publishing





I am writing this blog post in response to several emails that I get each week. These emails usually start like: How do I get published? How to self-publish my book? How to publish my poetry book? In this blog post I am going to attempt to make book-publishing simple for all of you aspiring writers.

Just so as you know from the very beginning, [in this post] there are no secrets. I hope most of you already know something about publishing. In case, if you are a beginner in the publishing game, by the end of this blog post, I hope you will graduate as a publishing champ. On the other hand, even if you have self-published before, this blog post will add some new information to your existing knowledge base.
 

The unique value add of this blog post is going to be my own self-publishing story. Like all of my other blogs, I am going to be as detailed here as much possible (without getting distracted from our topic here). Many of you might have heard of “less is more” adage before. Therefore, for the sake of clarity we are also going to leave many of the tangential topics. I will cover them separately in other blog posts based on your comments.

Let’s begin. If you are someone having a question similar to this one, “I have my manuscript ready, now how do I publish my book?”, you are going to be very happy. I have been asked this questions so many times. This is a very good questions (and it should not be mistaken for a generic question). What the questioner is really asking is “How did you do it? Where to publish? And why? Tell me more about it from an insider’s perspective? How much will it cost me? How the publishing process works? What are the challenges that you had to face? How much does it really cost? Is book publishing really for me? What are the steps that you had to take?
how the publishing process works? What are the challenges that you’ll have to face? How much does it really cost? Is book publishing really for me? What are the steps that you had to take?
I self-published my debut poetry book “Naked Soul: The Erotic Love Poems” under my own Publishing house “Naked Soul Press”. My Print-On-Demand service was CreateSpace (owned by Amazon).
I had $2000 budget and a finished second-draft manuscript. This is what I did.
 
1. I bought my own ISBN (through CreateSpace, $99). There are many benefit to owning your own ISBN but the primary one is it allows you the freedom to utilize this ISBN with another publisher should you choose to do so.
2. I created a publishing name (I created Naked Soul Press, $0). I have not registered the name yet but will do in future. Cost: $250 annually.
3) I hired the best editor(s) to do copy & line edit (I teamed up with two good editors on elance, $175 + $130)
4) I did third full length line editing, $210
5) I hired the best cover designer (I used CreateSpace service, $599)
6) I hired someone to format (interior) of the print book (I used CreateSpace service, $349)
7) Kindle Conversion, $79
8) LCCN Assignment, $25
9) I hired the best artist to create 30 original images for my book, $150
10) Insert images into the book (CreateSpace custom interior additional charges), $380
Total production cost: $2196 ($196 over budget). 
 
For my next book, I will be saving my cost on Cover design. I like my cover but I feel $599 is a lot for it. The other place I can save money is by having less images. You can totally save this cost if your book does not contain any pictures or illustrations.
 
Note: People often confuse CreateSpace or Lulu as publishers but they are just print-on-demand (POD) services. Among the top three: CS, Lulu and LighteningSource, CS is the best. CS has its own issues but relatively it is the best.

 

Be Confident. You Can Do It.

If you are seeking an external validation and confirmation of your ability to publish, I am here to tell you, yes, you can do it. If you are reading this blog, you have it in you. Eventually, you will make it.

Also, your feelings and fears are totally human. Even self-confidant people have self-doubts. We all need some motivations at times and especially whenever we enter into an unfamiliar, new territory.

 

The How and Where

Now we are going to cover all the necessary steps and expense associated with each individual step in the book production process.

But, first thing first, you have to decide which route you want to go. You’ve finished your novel, a poetry book, or work of non-fiction – now you need to find someone who will publish it. Or perhaps you want to publish it yourself. You can go traditional way and you’ll have three options in front of you. Or, you can self-publish. In total, you got four choices.

 

You Have A Choice

You have two routes and four choices in front of you.

Route 1. Traditional Route

There are three categories of publisher under the traditional model:

 

R1, Option A: Non-Paid Large Publishers: The term non-paid large publishers refers to those publication houses which do not charge author at all to publish the book. They pay you an advance (usually, a little sum these days). They are your big name New York publishers such as: Hachette, Penguin, HarperCollins, Random House, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan.

Word of caution: Many book publishing companies around the world maintain a strict “no unsolicited submissions” policy and will only accept submissions via a literary agent. This shifts the burden of assessing and developing writers out of the publishing company and onto the literary agents. At these companies, unsolicited manuscripts are are often thrown out, or sometimes returned if the author has provided prepaid postage.

Young authors, please also note that if you’re under 18, publishers tend not to bother with all the legal hassle. Since you are not of age to sign the contract, and need parental consent, this brings further problems, and publishers tend to avoid young authors for that reason.

Established authors are often represented by a literary agent to market their work to publishers and negotiate contracts. Literary agents take a percentage of author earnings (varying between 10% to 15%) to pay for their services.

Once you have decided on a few publishers (the more the better), start researching about them. Some choose to publish for adults only selected genres, but all information should be available on their websites. Some have different guidelines and word limits, or whether it need be solicited or not. Some also require a summary. However, almost all publishers require a hard copy (printed) version of your story. Usually they don’t tend to return them, so keep your original with you.Also, keep in mind their specifications.

 

R1, Option B: Non-Paid Tiny Publishers: The term non-paid  tiny publishers refers to those hundreds of small publication houses which do not charge author at all to publish the book but they also do not pay you anything because they can’t. They are too small and they are usually publish books in a niche. Some examples of these publishers are: eLectio Publishing (a Christian publisher), Little Red Tree Publishing (poetry and fiction), etc.

 

R1, Option C: Paid Publishers or Vanity Publishing: The author has to meet with the total expense to get the book published and author has full right to set up marketing policies. This is also known as vanity publishing. This is the worst of all in this route. You not only pay to publish your own books but you also share your rights of your work. Plus, like option B above, they are usually tiny and they are business model to make money from authors and not the book buyers. 

Word of caution: Some big publishers such as Penguin also operates Vanity presses. The Penguin sponsored Vanity Press is no better than a true Vanity Press. Also, notice the use (or misuse) of the word “vanity”. Ironic, isn’t it?

 

Route 2. Self-Publishing (Modern, Revolutionary, DIY)

If you want to self-publish (which I think you should) then you’ll have many options to choose from. The big ones are, CreateSpace (owned by Amazon) and Lulu. Many popular authors have self-published their books from Lulu. I self-published under Naked Soul Press using CreateSpace as my print-on-demand printer.

 

R2, Option D. Self-Publishing

Self-publishing is the publication of any book or other media by the author of the work, without the involvement of an established third-party publisher. A self-published physical book is said to be privately printed. The author is responsible for and in control of the entire process, including, in the case of a book, the design of the cover and interior, formats, price, distribution, marketing and public relations. The authors can do it all themselves or outsource all or part of the process to companies that offer these services.

Some writers follow a non-standard route to publication. For example, this may include bloggers who have attracted large readerships producing a book based on their website’s content.

Self-publishing is not limited to physical books. You can self-publish your book only as an ebook. There are a variety of eBook formats and tools that can be used to create them. The most popular formats are epub, .mobi, PDF, HTML, and Amazon’s .azw format.

Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords all offer online tools for creating and converting files from other formats to formats that can be sold on their websites. Because it is possible to create eBooks with no up-front or per-book costs, eBook publishing is an extremely popular option for self-publishers. Some recent bestsellers, such as Hugh Howey’s Wool series, began as digital-only books.

 

Did you know?

Between the Acts (1941), Virginia Woolf’s final novel, was self-published by her Hogarth Press. Ezra Pound self-published and sold A Lume Spento (With Tapers Quenched) (1908) for six pence each.

Eleven-year-old John Ruskin sold a book of poetry he self-published with his father. Other authors who self-published include Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Martin Luther, Marcel Proust, Derek Walcott, and Walt Whitman.

Many contemporary authors have also self-published. James Altucher’s Choose Yourself (2013) sold 44,294 copies in its first month, debuted at #1 on Amazon’s top non-fiction list, and is a Wall Street Journal bestseller.

J. K. Rowling sold the e-book versions of the Harry Potter series directly from her website, Pottermore.

James Redfield originally self-published The Celestine Prophecy, selling 100,000 copies out of the trunk of his Honda before Warner Books agreed to publish it. As of May 2005 the book had sold over 20 million copies worldwide, with translations into 34 languages. Celestine Films LLC released a film adaptation titled The Celestine Prophecy (Film) in 2006.

E. L. James first self published her Fifty Shades of Grey novels as an eBook and print-on-demand. Later when the book got viral, the publishing rights were acquired by Vintage Books in March 2012.

 

Conclusion: 

Research different publishers. You may choose to self publish, but getting published by a big time publisher is better for getting a larger audience. Most publishers only choose to publish or even read solicited material (that is, manuscripts gone through an agent.)

Agents usually also choose to read only material that they are acquainted with or the authors they know. Prices range. However, there are quite a few publishers that do publish unsolicited material, such as Penguin or Allen & Unwin.

But, with the recent changes in the publishing landscape it is easy to predict that the future of publishing is self-publishing. Most of the large bookstore chains are out of the business or operating on loss. A few remaining ones might not be around in next 5 years. eBook sales are almost 30% of the total book sales. There is enough evidence to support that people’s buying choices are not related to whether a book is self-published or published by a New York publishers. Lastly, at the end of the day, do what is in your control. If you want to pitch your book to an agent and your book is accepted, cool, if that’s what you want. If not, you can always self-publish.

 

The Path of Self-Publishing

Assuming, you are going to take the path of self-publishing. Let’s start with the types of self-publishing.

Unless a book is to be sold directly from the author to the public, an ISBN number is required to uniquely identify the title. ISBN is a global standard used for all titles worldwide. Most self-publishing companies either provide their own ISBN to a title or can provide direction.

As a self-published author, I recommend retaining ownership of ISBN ($99 to $125) and copyright instead of using a number owned by a vanity press or POD company such as Lulu or CreateSpace.

 

Print On Demand

Print-On-Demand (POD) publishing refers to the ability to print high-quality books as needed. For self-published books, this is often a more economical option than conducting a print run of hundreds or thousands of books. Many companies, such as CreateSpace (owned by Amazon.com), Lulu and Lightning Source allow printing single books at per-book costs not much higher than those paid by publishing companies for large print runs.

Most POD companies also offer distribution through Amazon.com and other online and brick-and-mortar retailers, most often as “special order” or “web-only” as retail outlets are usually unwilling to stock physical books that cannot be returned if they do not sell. As a general rule of thumb, if you self-publish with Lulu or CS, there is close to 0% chance that you book will be kept in a B&N store. (Do not worry, you will be on their online store)

 

CreateSpace vs Lulu vs Lightning Source

These are bog three of Self-publishing. They are similar businesses. CreateSpace cream paper is yellowish. So white paper is the only option. With Lightning Source (even though it’s more work) it has best options. Lulu is the most easiest or as east to work with as much as CS but they charge a little more than CS for per unit cost per book.

Just so as you know, CreateSpace gets their book printed from lightning source. One example could be a book for $3.80 with Lulu can be $2.15 with Lightning Source. Whereas with CreateSpace your unit can be $2.91. For the most part, the quality is same between the three. Besides these three there are ton of other POD companies out there which you can find out by google search.

Read a very detailed article on CS vs Lulu vs LSI here.

 

Publishing Stages (Crash Course 101)

Publishing includes the stages of the development, acquisition, copy editing, graphic design, printing (and its electronic version), and marketing & distribution.

 

Pre-production Stages

As editing of manuscript progresses, front cover design and initial layout takes place and marketing of the book begins. This is the time you get on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, et al. if you are not already there. For me personally, this was time I started a Indiegogo campaign, roughly 8 months before my came out. I also started a Facebook page and Instagram page. I leveraged my existing Twitter, Tumblr and Youtube account. I created a Google+ page for my book. I created this blog.

 

Editorial Stage

The author works with editors (one or several) and is often asked to improve the quality of the work through rewriting or smaller changes. The editors often edit the work in two rounds. In round one, they correct the grammar and punctuations. In the second round, they look for the overall flow of the text and coherence. I highly recommend doing two rounds of editing with any editor.

From my experience, editors often choose or refine titles and headlines. The real benefit comes when you take their suggestion seriously and consider improving your manuscript. You do not have to accept all of their changes or suggestions but most of the time they are pointing to a hole in your work.

Editing also involve structural changes and requests for more information. Sometimes you may want to hire an editor to do fact checking for you, particularly for a non-fiction work.

 

Design Stage

After the editing is done, you submit your final manuscript for design. You need to have the book’s interior designed and book cover designed. Design phase consists of laying out how the page looks, how chapters begin and end, colors, typography, cover design and ancillary materials such as posters, catalogue images and other sales materials.

Since my book also had a lot of illustrations, the design phase was more expensive and longer. Non-fiction illustrated titles are the most design intensive books, requiring extensive use of images and illustrations, captions, typography and a deep involvement and consideration of the reader experience.

For eBook conversion, the final files are saved as formats appropriate to the target operating systems of the hardware used for reading. These may include PDF files, mobi files or similar file types. I had CreateSpace do this for me for $79.

 

Author’s Proof

The first step involves the production of a pre-press proof, which the printers send for final checking and sign-off by the publisher. In case of self-publishing, this is you. The author’s proof (or the final proof) shows the book precisely as it will appear once printed and represents the final opportunity for the publisher to find and correct any errors. Some printing companies use electronic proofs rather than printed proofs. Once you have approved the proofs, printing begins.

 

Printing and Binding Stage

After the end of editing and design work the printing phase begins. Binding follows upon the printing process. It involves folding the printed sheets, securing them together, affixing boards or sides thereto, and covering the whole with leather or soft or hard cover.

In case of printing-on-demand the book is not printed until you receive an order for the book from a customer. This procedure ensures low costs for storage, and reduces the likelihood of printing more books than will be sold. Whenever someone orders your book, your book is printed and shipped.

 

Sales and Marketing Stage

The sales and marketing stage actually starts from the pre-production stage itself. But you need your book cover to really create a buzz. As front cover images are produced or chapters are edited, you may want to start talking about your book with your ideal readers to build early interest.

I personally tested my poems from Naked Soul: The Erotic Love Poems on Instagram and Facebook. My original manuscript had almost 150 poems and depending on the feedback from my readers, I would often discuss with my editors. We removed a lot of poems and got down to 97. I added 12 new poems which were not part of my early editing but were part of the final line editing. The final book came out with 1o9 poems in total.

It is crucial to capture this early interest and also it will help you if you measure your engagement. I also used my reader’s feedback to design my book cover.

The sales and marketing is totally on you. You have got Google ads, Social media, your Blog and Goodreads. You work is to create a buzz around your book and get some early reviews.

For step by step information on how to do this, read my blogs here:

1. How I Am Growing My Author’s Platform | How To Find Your 1000 True Fans | Cultivating Your Tribe

2. How I Am Marketing My Self Published Book | Book Marketing & Promotion Plan for Poetry and Fiction

 

Distribution Stage

The final stage in publication and during Sales and Marketing involves making the product available to the public. The goal is to make your book available to as many places as much possible.

 

Once a book is printed (or available as POD), you may use a variety of channels to distribute it. You may want to do the following here:

1. Have your book available on Amazon and Kindle store. If you are a first time author, consider enrolling in Kindle Select.

2. Order some Author’s copy and send to anyone (mainly book bloggers) who would be interested in reviewing your book on Amazon and Goodreads.

3. Try to talk to foreign distributors if you have readers in Australia, New Zealand, and Asian countries. Amazon distributes to USA, Canada, UK and European markets.

4. Talk to local booksellers in your area and offer them the book an a commision basis. Offer them 100% return guarantee if the books are not sold.

Resources
Before we jump into some more Q&A, let me suggest two great books that will really help you. I enjoyed both of them and learned a lot. These both are must read for anyone interested in Self-publishing and future of eBooks.
1. Write. Publish. Repeat.: The No-Luck-Required, Guide to Self-Publishing Success (paperback) (However, I would suggest, a better investment would be to get the eBook from Kindle, here). Kindle version.
2. Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should (paperback) (Again, get the second updated edition of the book as an eBook from Kindle and learn just as much. Here.)
 
Questions & Answers
 
1. Does CreateSpace, Lulu, LSI, etc publish poetry books? Children’s books? Non-fiction books? Comics? Fiction?
Technically, CreateSpace or Lulu doesn’t “publish” anything. You publish and they print and distribute your books when a customer orders a copy of your book. CS or Lulu is a printing service. That said CS or LSI will print just about anything as long as it meets their formatting guidelines.
Note: CreateSpace can print full colour, perfect bound, soft cover books. They can do hardcover too, but as author copies only, not for distribution to Amazon or via EDC. If you’re wanting to do your book as a hardcover to sell online, I would suggest looking at Lulu.
 
2. Should I use the free ISBN? Or $10 ISBN or $99 ISBN?
If you use CS’s free ISBN, CS will be listed as the publisher of record. You may not say, “Published by CreateSpace,” but you may say, “Printed by CreateSpace.”
 
3. Is it possible to publish a book with traditional publisher without ending my contract with CreateSpace or Lulu or LSI?”
This will depend on the exclusivity of the publishing contract being offered. If they want exclusive rights which most mainstream publishers will insist on, then you will have to retire the CS/Lulu/LSI copy of your book
 
4. Will a publishing company take on a book that was previously self-published in CS?
A book once published (even self-published) cannot be automaticallly re-published elsewhere. Any new version would have to have significant edits and be promoted as a ‘revised and updated’ version of the original. But truth be told, unless you are a bestselling author, most publishing houses would not want to do this. In essence, a book once self-published is not going to be re-published by a publisher later. Also, the interesting point is why did you self-publish at all if your only goal was to be later picked up by a traditional publisher. So, let me repeat — if you are only trying to be picked up a big publisher you better become a best seller first.
Alternatively, if your first self-published book is a big hit, your second book can be picked up by a publisher for a good advance. Example, Amanda Hocking was being picked up by St. Martin’s Press, part of Macmillan (one of the big five, based on the performance of her previous self-published books. As a self-published author she has sold more than 1 million copies of her book before this deal came to her.
 
5. What are the chances of me getting published by a New York Publisher?
It solely depends on your books sales or your potential for getting book sales. publishing companies are businesses and will take advantage of any opportunity to make a profit. once you can establish yourself as marketable, they”re usually a lot more attentive and responsive to you as an author.

But most likely, it will be hard for new writers starting out to get the attention of a publisher — small, medium or large — but there are small presses around who will working with emerging writers, as well as literary agents who can spot the diamond in the slush pile and will represent them to larger publishers. If you have a strong platform (eg. a frequently updated blog with a decent following and active on social networks) publishers will be more likely to take a chance because the author is already familiar with some of the work they will be required to do to promote their book.

 

6. After self-publishing with CreateSpace for my personal copies, can I edit my book and publishing and sell through to another publisher or POD?  

Yes, you can (with $99 ISBN). Many authors do proof copy with CreateSpace and later print and distribute through LSI. 

 

7. Can I just order the proof copies without publishing my books at all?

 Yes, you can. You can decide not to publish for public.

 

8. I am considering publishing someone else’s book under my imprint (with their permission). Is this allowed at Create Space, Lulu, LSI?

Yes. There are several such publishers using CreateSpace and LSI in this way. CreateSpace is setup to accommodate small to medium publishers as well as single authors. However, a few things to keep in mind. If you have your own ISBNs ($99) and registered imprint name (eg. Naked Soul Press), CreateSpace will not question your right to publish another person’s work, as there is an expectation you will have formal contracts in place. But, if you are using the free or $10 ISBN, CreateSpace might ask you for proof that the author has granted you permission. You would want to get an email from the author explicitly granting me permission to publish.

 

9. Can a (self-published) writers make their living by just selling their books? Is it possible or it is just extra source of income?

The short answer is “No” to both questions. No one can predict if the book will sell enough to supplement a side income. (Even if it is a great book). To provide a decent income, a book must sell consistently. And this is very difficult. There are millions of books out there and ~ 3500 new books are published each day (in English language alone). Your competition is fierce.

But what you can do is look at writing as a side-business. You should consider writing more books and the combined sales from all of your books can become your extra source if income if your books are really good and if you have a good fan base. You may one day be able to earn your living from writing. But, in the beginning keep the expectations low and work hard.

You’re running a business when you get published, your business is selling your own book to others. Depending on your book and the market, you can also create other merchandise.  

Summary: As a whole, most serious writers don’t earn enough to make a living, but earn enough to add to their income. The mediocre writers won’t make much though.

 

10. In the Copyright pages is it OK to put something like: “Published by XYZ or Naked Soul Press?” and does the publishing company mentioned have to be incorporated?

Yes, it is okay to put that. You are the publisher of your book. You can put the name of your publishing company. It always looks more professional. However, you do not have to register a company. As a single author, your income from your books are taxed. Also, if you do choose to  register your publishing company then you can show your book production expenses and other expenses. If you are thinking long term, I would suggest, it is always a good idea to register your own publishing company and run your writing career as a business.

You do not have to establish and register the company (and the imprint name) before publishing the book. But in that case, anyone can claim that business name (by registering it) and can later legally ask you to not use their trade name or logo or whatsoever.

If you are not very serious about writing and may want to publish just one or two books, I guess, you can simply use the Free ISBN or $10 ISBN and mention, Printed by CreateSpace.

 

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Was this post helpful to you in deciding which route you may want to go? Do you have suggestions, tips or your story to share? Do you have questions on publishing or need more clarification on any specific aspect of publishing stage? If yes, please feel free to share your experience or question(s) with us? Please leave your thoughts and input in the comments below.

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