I’m on a panel at Book Passage today on self-publishing. The two main ways to go about this are: produce a print book or publishing an e-book. Both have their advantages. For an art or photography book, there’s no substitute for print. But e-books have the potential to reach all corners of the globe without a physical distribution network. You don’t have to chop down trees, secure warehouse space, or take returns. But here’s the thing: whenever I write a book I want to support the bookstores that have nurtured my career, most of all Book Passage – so my goal is to find a way to do e-books that include independent stores.
Following are some links that could be useful for those interested in self-publishing.
1. For inspiration, read this account in WaPo about Nyree Bellville. She’s a friend of my wife and hit bottom professionally a couple of years ago when her publisher cut her loose. So she self-published and hasn’t looked back.
2. For nuts and bolts, this guide from CNET has 25 tips on self-publishing both bound and e-books. Among the overarching suggestions: have a clear goal for your book. Niche books “with a well-defined topic and a nice hook” do best. There’s practical advice here too, such as create your own ISBNs and become your own publishing house. You can buy sets of 10 ISBNs at a discount; buying in bulk saves money. And hire a copy editor and possibly a book doctor, nothing turns away readers like a poorly edited book. Finally design a cover with a central graphic element so it looks good small.
3. CNET’s guide to the leading publishing platforms, including Smashwords, Bookbaby and Scribd, can help you decide which platform is best for your book. Naturally you can place the book on several platforms.
And here are some general tips about e-publishing:
Study the market: Know who your competitors are. See who’s at the top of your niche and figure out how they got there. Did they do promos?
Know your strengths: Are you good at social media, graphics, uploading? Figure out what you can do and where you need to hire help.
Series work: Self-publishing builds on itself. One book may or may not do well, but you can build momentum with a series.
Distinguish yourself: It’s a crowded field – your book needs to stand out, either for it originality, writing quality, or approach.
Covers are key: E-books are judged by their covers – you want to stand out and make it look good when it’s the size of a postage stamp.
Keep evolving: Unlike in print, e-books can be updated. If a book isn’t selling well, try a new cover or add updated text.
Have fun with it: This is a brave new world and offers unprecendented opportunities to share your work. So produce the best work you can and keep promoting it so others can enjoy it.