On the face of it this seems like a pretty obvious question, but it isn’t and requires further investigation. The uneducated will say that it means you couldn’t get your book published by a ‘real’ publisher. The slightly educated will tell you it means you have to pay to get your book published. The smart person will tell you that you’ve made a wise decision. Why?

Because you now have all the control of how your book looks, what the title will be, you retain all the copyright and you get all the profits. Although digital publishing has transformed the self-publishing world over the past ten years by self-publishing your book you’ll be in hallowed company. Charles Dickens self-published ‘A Christmas Carol’ in 1843, Beatrix Potter self-published her first book before being taken on by a traditional publisher, Alfred Wainwright self-published all of his guides to walking in the Lake District and the most recent self-publishing smash-hit has been by David Goggins. His book ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ has sold 820,000 copies in six months. Do it well and it can make you some serious money. However, if you don’t work hard you will be spending a wedge of your hard-earned cash on something that might look good but doesn’t sell.

This is the good news. First of all, let’s investigate what does self-publishing mean? It means that you (the author) take on the responsibility of seeing your manuscript become a book.

If it’s a novel, this will involve sizing the book, getting the cover designed, writing the cover blurb, sourcing an ISBN number and producing a barcode. You will also have to design the layout of the book, choose the font (almost certainly not Times New Roman), edit the book and proof-read it. You will also need to source a printer (anything from print-on-demand to a litho-printer that can print thousands of copies) that will produce your book that makes it worth doing on a cost per sale basis. When you get your book then you will need to sell it. This means looking at bookshops (doesn’t everyone want to see their book in Waterstones?), supermarkets, a website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Which, of course, means converting your book to an ebook for Kindle (a MOBI file) or all other ebook sellers (an EPUB file). To sell it you will have to market it. That means social media, a publicity campaign and probable PR, produce bookmarks, business cards and flyers, set up your website and organise a book launch.

If your book has pictures in it you can add to the tasks above the layout of the photographs, the resolution of the photos, whether to have the photos in colour or greyscale and how many to have. If it’s a cookbook the book will almost certainly be in colour and colour adds massively to the print cost of a book. If it’s a children’s book the illustrations may well be in colour or you may need to source an illustrator.

So what does self-publishing mean? It means you could be taking on a whole heap of work. It is the reason that self-publishing companies exist as they will take away all of the pain, but that means cost. Read my article ‘What does self-publishing cost?’ for a full understanding of this area. In short to be an author is to set yourself up as a business. You have a product that you are proud of and you want the world to see. That means telling the world about it and then having a product that you can be proud to see on someone else’s bookcase. And you thought writing the book was the hard bit.

The key is to have a plan. If you’re going to do it all yourself then be prepared for a lot of frustration, but also all the rewards when they come. If you start to work with a publisher then find someone you get on with. Don’t go just on price and that goes for the high-end and the low-end of price. Your publisher can create your book exactly as you want it. They should care about you as an author and the book you produce. Get value for money and make sure you are getting the full rewards you deserve. Treat self-publishing with respect and it can be every bit as rewarding as getting a contract with Hachette or Random House. That’s what self-publishing means.

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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