When I wrote my first book a few years ago I went through a traditional publisher — John Wiley & Sons. It never occurred to me that I would ever write a book so getting something published was very gratifying and I learned a lot from the experience.
For my new book (shameless self-promotion – GO BUY A COPY), I decided to go the self-publish route. I had a great experience with the team at Wiley for my first book but this time around I wanted to keep the book much shorter and a have little more control over the distribution. I also liked the idea of experimenting with Amazon’s self-publishing service to see if this is something I would like to do again in the future.
I read somewhere recently that the number of new books published each year has risen from something like a little over 120,000 in the year 2000 to well over 3 million annually in recent years. The biggest reason for this increase is the self-publishing industry. There are pros and cons to this growth but it’s never been easier to get your ideas out there.
The whole self-publishing process took longer than I would have expected but I was still able to finish the entire thing in 5-6 months whereas my first book took 15-18 months from start to finish. I leaned on a few authors I know who have self-published in the past for advice, but here are a few things I learned along the way for anyone else considering trying this on their own:
Figure out your own writing process. There are no tricks or shortcuts to the writing process. Some people have rituals every time they write where they listen to the same music or write at the same time of day or channel their inner-Hemingway by drinking a bottle of booze for inspiration. My only routine is to find time to write every single day when the mood hits me. Writing is now simply part of my daily routine. And for this book, I used Google docs for the first time because it allowed me to pick up right where I left off on any device of my choosing when the mood did strike.
You have to hire your own editors. Maybe it’s just me, but no matter how many times I read through my own work there’s almost always a minor error or change needed somewhere. I think we all have internal blind spots so it’s important to have many sets of eyes take a look at these things when you’re through with the draft stage. Without a team of professional editors that you’ll find with a traditional publisher, you need to create your own. I had friends, family members, colleagues, blog readers and fellow-bloggers read this over to offer notes, feedback, edits, check for errors and provide much-needed perspective beyond my own thoughts and ideas. The more people you have read your book over for you before publishing the better. I also found it helpful to have people with a very diverse set of backgrounds on my informal editorial staff. This is also something you could outsource.
The work isn’t over once you’re done writing. I was under the (false) impression that once the book was written and edited the majority of the heavy lifting was over. I was sorely mistaken. There are all sorts of little things you don’t consider that require your attention — formatting, references, sizing charts & tables, creating a cover, deciding where you want to publish and in what formats, writing a book description, pricing, marketing ideas, and much more. Much of this can be outsourced but there’s definitely a lot of work involved in the process beyond simply writing a decent book.
Amazon has a great partner in Createspace. Createspace is a company Amazon acquired a number of years ago that allows you to easily self-publish your book in paperback format. It works as something of a print-on-demand service when people buy your book. This was the first time I’ve ever used them and I found the service to be intuitive as they walked me through the entire process in a step-by-step fashion. Formatting the book definitely took me longer than I would have expected, but they have a Word doc template you can download that was very useful. And once it was finished I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the book. It looks and feels very professional, much more so than I would have expected.
Outsourcing is very helpful if you know where to look. Looking back on it now the one thing I would do differently is outsourcing more of the formatting process the next time around. I probably re-uploaded my book 15-20 times until I was finally able to get it how I wanted it. I did end up outsourcing the cover design and Kindle version formatting to freelancers who do this kind of thing all the time. I used the website Upwork which is a great place to post jobs and find experienced freelancers for very reasonable rates.
For some reason, the paperback version doesn’t translate well when trying to create a Kindle version of the book so I outsourced this to a gentleman in India for about $100. It was well worth it as he did great work with a quick turnaround time. He even corrected a number of errors I found about a week later. I was also really impressed with the guy I hired for the cover design (I believe he was from Serbia). He sent me a portfolio of his previous work and then gave me a number of options based on how I described what I was looking for. I think I paid $250 for the cover. And the best part about the Upwork site is that you don’t pay for their services until you’re completely satisfied with the work. I’ll be using this site again for projects in the future.
Other considerations. You also have to remember that if you choose to self-publish, you’re on your own in terms of marketing and sales. There’s no one else who has your back in terms of getting your book in front of people or make introductions on your behalf to the press. And when you consider the amount of time it takes to research and write a book it’s not exactly a lucrative endeavor. It really is a labor of love so make sure if you decide to go through with it that it’s something you’re very passionate about.