How to self-publish

I’ve done a fair bit of public speaking in my time so when I was offered the chance to speak in front of 600 people I thought to myself, I really should have something to offer the audience that would give value and wouldn’t cost very much to buy. The event was four weeks away. In that moment I thought, is it possible to write a book and get it published in that time? I called a local printer I knew and asked if they could print me 100 copies of a book in a week. Yes, I was told, as long as we have it by this deadline. The deadline was three weeks away. Ok, I decided. It’s possible and I’m going to do it. I set to the task.

Every day I wrote and researched as I went along. Within eighteen days I had my first draft. The book was 23,500 words. I added some photos I found on the internet and some of my own; this would pad the book out a little. Each morning I would read over the words I’d written the day before and then set to writing again. When the manuscript was finished I read it through once and, in my mind, the manuscript was done. A friend designed the cover and then it was ready. Three week deadline met. It went off to the printers and on Friday afternoon I collected my first copies of my first book. I did the talk on Monday and sold about forty of that first batch. Within a short time that first hundred was sold. What next, I thought.

There will be many of you reading this with a few questions. Number one should be, what happened to the proof-reading and editing? There wasn’t any. What about the build up to launch and developing your readership? There wasn’t any. What about the ebook version? There wasn’t one. In fact, you could probably ask a hundred questions and I wouldn’t have an answer to any of them, but what I did have was my first book. I’d tried five times to complete a manuscript and hadn’t managed it, but with a definite goal in mind I wrote like a demon and the book was done.

To be clear. This is a terrible way to launch your writing career. That first book, called ‘The Magic Number’ was full of typos and grammatical errors, the cover was awful, there was no ISBN, the paper quality wasn’t the best and a lot of the photos could have got me sued as I didn’t check the copyright. What this example does show is that you can self-publish in this way and plenty of people do. Amazon have made it very easy to self-publish. Use their tools and you’ll be an ‘author’ in short time with very little outlay. The problem with this, and ‘The Magic Number’, is that you will have an awful product.

We have seen many examples of poorly produced books and all of them would harm your career as an author. Having written my first book, my mind turned to the second one. This would be done properly. The process took fourteen months, but when it came out it was a very different product to that first effort. I took time to build an audience, I planned a lavish book launch, the cover was great, my book had an ISBN, there was an ebook version, the metadata was done and I had a marketing campaign in place. Two days before the launch the book was featured on Radio 4’s ‘You And Yours’ and it went onto be featured in most of the daily newspapers, the Huffington Post, the Daily Mail website and from there around the world. So how to self-publish? There are many different routes.

Obviously, you can do all the work yourself, that’s one way. You can use Lulu or Amazon, that’s another way. You can use a company like ours that will make your life much easier for a fee or you could go to a company that promises the earth and charges accordingly. I saw a company recently that has a package that they charge $150,000 for. It does come with a guarantee! Which brings us back to our question. How to self-publish? I hope the story of my two experiences demonstrate that there’s a right way and a wrong way of doing things. I would also add that ‘The Magic Number’ has since overgone a complete overall and the edit and proof-read it needed has been done. The cover was also changed. In fact, I went back over it as a new book and it is at the standard it should be.

That needs to be your first concern. It’s good to write but ultimately you are asking a reader for £7.99 (or whatever price you decide) of their money so the product they receive should be indistinguishable from anything that Random House or Faber and Faber would put in front of them. If the book is of poor quality, watch those one-star reviews pile up on Amazon and see your book sales sink into the abyss.

These are the things I think you need to do to self-publish: Write a good book. It sounds obvious, but some authors do seem to miss this. Know your audience. Research the ways to reach that audience. Do everything you can to reach them. This means plan your marketing. Get the book edited and proof-read. Have the book well laid out. Get your cover professionally designed. Your mate that knows a bit of Photoshop won’t cut it. Make sure you have an ISBN – if you want the book to ever be sold in a shop. Unless you understand Kindle, outsource the formatting to someone who does. Send your metadata to Nielsen. Speak to your local bookshops about stocking your book and agree the discount for them to sell it for you.

There is a lot to be done. It’s one of the reasons that businesses like 3P Publishing exist, but you can do it on your own if you have the time and patience to learn how to do it. If you decide to go with a company, make sure they have your best interests at heart and want you to succeed.

As always if this has inspired more questions contact us at 3P Publishing on 01536 560410 or email andy@3ppublishing.co.uk. We look forward to hearing from you.

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