Idiots Guide to Self-Publishing… Part Two

In Part One, I explained what I wanted to achieve – to self-publish my second novel – why and how I was going to go about it.  I talked about why, for most unpublished authors, paying a freelance editor to edit your manuscript is likely to be a waste of money, and how, with limited design skills, and the use of free guidance and software, you can design a passable cover yourself (again, saving money most of us can ill afford to spend).  In this post, I’ll go through the next stages and the various options that are available.

It’s been over two months since I posted Part One. I’m ashamed. Why has it taken so long? There are a number of reasons. Life, as ever, has got in the way. I said in Part One that I was going to save some money by designing the cover myself. As usual, rather than making it simple, I’ve been working on something a bit more elaborate. I’m confident it will turn out well eventually, but it’s taking some time.
A rough mood board for my cover design

I said there was a great deal of work involved in self-publishing. There are an enormous number of companies offering self-publishing services, from straight forward book printers, to those that will do pretty much everything (except write the book for you). The process (or rather, processes – there are various stages to go through) is quite complicated.

Some companies over-simplify things to make it understandable to those who are new to publishing (but in doing so, don’t give you all the information you need). Websites are badly designed, so that finding individual pieces of information or guidance takes far longer than it should. Some companies seem intent on making an already complex procedure seem even more complicated than it is. I’m inclined to think this is deliberate obfuscation.

One thing I’ve discovered, and I don’t know why I should have been surprised, is that there are a lot of sharks out there. You need to be very careful. Do your research before handing over any money. The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook lists self-publishing providers, and is a good place to start. But don’t assume that because a company is in Writers’ & Artists’, it must be trustworthy. The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) has a list of self-publishing companies they consider to be fair, and those that may be questionable. There are an awful lot of red lines in the list.

As an example, one of the companies I took from the Writers’ & Artists’ list seemed to have a very reasonable offering,  the website was professional, and they came across as helpful and personable. But when I did some digging, I discovered a lot of bad feedback about them, particularly on the Kindle Users’ Forum.

Once you’ve got your finished manuscript ready, there are a number of things you need, and stages to go through.

Your document will need to be typeset, so that the text lines up, new chapters start on a fresh page, etc. You can buy this service, either from a company who specialise in typesetting, or from one who handle all of the self-publishing processes. Many of the later have guidance notes and instructions to take you through typesetting your manuscript yourself. I did this when I published my first novel as an e-book on Amazon (Novel One). It took a while, but was straight-forward – simply a case of working through a series of instructions. Ingram Spark come highly recommended, and are one of the main self-publishing companies. But one look at their typesetting guidance notes sent me running for the hills – talk about unintelligible!
Completely Novel, another of the companies I’m considering using, give simple, easy to follow instructions.

Cover Design
Again, there are companies who will design a cover for you and provide a fully formatted file containing the design that you can pass direct to the printer. But if you want to save money, many self publishing companies provide an easy to use cover generator, with full instructions and a database of photos you can use. With a bit of care on your part, you’ll get a cover of similar type and quality to that which a design company would provide (unless you’re prepared to spend big money). Or maybe someone you know is studying graphic design and would be happy to knock something up for you for the price of a few beers.

If you want to be able to sell your book via a distribution network, or even through a local bookshop, you’ll need an ISBN number. These are issued by the Nielsen ISBN Agency. They cost £89 each, but if you intend to publish your book as an e-book as well as a paperback, you’ll need a separate ISBN for each, so will need to buy a block of ten for £159. Alternatively, if you choose to use a company who provide a full self-publishing package, this will be included in the price.

There is software available (free, as far as I’m advised) that will allow you to generate a barcode based on your ISBN number. This will then need to be included on your book cover. Again, a self-publishing package will most likely include this as part of the price.

Depositing copies with national libraries
It’s a legal requirement to deposit a copy of your book, within one month of publication, with the British Library. Five other prestigious national libraries are entitled to request a free copy too, should they wish to.

Unless you are spectacularly successful in marketing your book so that, for instance, it gets national coverage in the media, your chances of getting your book into Waterstones and the like are practically nil. But you can make it available through a countrywide distribution network, so that bookshops can order your book should someone ask for it (whether anyone will go into a bookshop and ask for your book will depend on your marketing efforts!)

Many self-publishing companies will arrange this for you, included within the price they charge. Grosvenor House Publishing say they will do this through Bertrams, Gardners & Nielsons. Looking at the websites for these companies it seems that you could, in theory, set this up yourself (and it looks as though it may not cost anything) but you would be setting yourself up as a retailer, and would have to manage and fulfil orders, if and when they come through, and I think that could become rather onerous!

Sending out press releases, trying to get local, or even national media interested, getting yourself on the radio or even TV… It’s all rather daunting and I suspect that unless you happen to be in with the right people, you stand little chance of making much headway. Many self-publishing companies offer marketing packages (at extra cost), but the general consensus, which makes sense if you think about it, is that they have no more leverage than you do. In other words, don’t waste your money.
I’ll cover this topic further in later posts.

All of the above refers to getting a physical copy of your book published. Most self- publishing companies also allow you to put out an e-book. Sometimes this is included in the price as part of the package, sometimes there’s a separate fee. Bear in mind that if you don’t want to go to the trouble and expense of publishing physical books, it isn’t difficult to publish your book electronically through Amazon, Smashwords, or possibly others. And it needn’t cost you anything.

Jerico Writers say you can get everything you need to get your book published by Googling (is this a word?) ‘typesetting’, ‘cover design’ and ‘book printing’. Having tried this, I’m inclined to disagree. There are other issues to consider, and things you need, like distribution, ISBNs, a barcode, and the depositing of copies with the relevant authorities like The British Library (if you’re in the UK). There’s a lot you can miss, and while it may be possible to put everything you need together yourself, it’s a lot safer and easier to go through a self-publishing company. Provided you can find one that is reputable, doesn’t charge too much, and will work in a way that suits you.

I’ll deal with that in Part Three…

words & images ©Graham Wright 2018

About literarylad

Graham Wright is a freelance writer and author. His first novel, Single Point Perspective, is set in and around the city of Manchester, where he lived and worked for more than fifteen years. His second, Moojara, is set in and around the world, but mostly centres on Perth, Western Australia. Both are works of dramatic literary fiction - imaginative, serious and thoughtful, but with a sense of humour. Graham is currently living in north Shropshire, where he is busy working on novel number three.
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2 Responses to Idiots Guide to Self-Publishing… Part Two

  1. floatinggold says:

    It’s curious to know that you need a separate ISBN for a hard copy and an e-book.
    Having to send your book to the library is pretty neat. At least SOMEONE wants it. Right?

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