Our editors explain the self-publishing process in detail
In the past, the only way to become a published author was to send your completed manuscript, along with a query letter, to publishing houses and hope to receive an offer. If you didn't hear back from a publishing company, your book would likely never be published.
Although publishing houses are still the most desirable option for many authors, they are no longer the be-all and end-all of book publishing. Many modern authors choose to self-publish their writing. As a self-publisher, one must know how to hire freelancers to do the work that publishing houses would normally provide, including editing, proofreading, design, printing, and marketing.
How do you choose the right companies to self-publish with?
While you could self-publish by photocopying your book in your garage, it likely wouldn't sell very well. But you're in luck: there are many companies that can help you self-publish a professional-looking piece of work. Unfortunately, however, there are companies with business models based on taking advantage of new, inexperienced writers. These scams will have you sign a contract in which you pay money for work that is either never provided or highly marked-up. Many legitimate companies may also be a bad choice, as they may not be a good fit for you or your book. So how will you find a company that is right for you?
Questions you should ask
Are you a good writer? Many people become writers because it's their passion. Unfortunately, just because you love something doesn’t mean you're good at it. When self-publishing, it's nearly impossible to honestly evaluate your own writing.
Is self-publishing a wise investment for this manuscript? If you're considering self-publishing, you've likely already been rejected by at least one publishing house. If you're not sure why, have a book editor evaluate your manuscript. It may not be publishable for a number of reasons: perhaps there are already too many similar books in print; maybe you have few credentials as an author on the subject matter; or perhaps there is no interest in the market on the subject. These are issues you should know before investing in self-publishing. If your manuscript has no chance of making a profit, you are better off having your ego bruised than your wallet.
Are you able to invest a lot of time and effort into promoting your work? Once you get the printed books back from the printer or complete the ebook, you'll naturally want them to sell. Even if you hire freelancers to help, you will still need to put a lot of effort into promoting and distributing your book. Ask yourself if you truly have the skills to promote your book and get it sold. If you don't think you do, you could begin a blog, submit short stories to magazines to build a name for yourself, take marketing classes, or anything else that will help you build an audience. To learn more about blogging, check out Scribendi.com's ebook How to Write a Blog. This ebook is a useful guide for anyone interested in writing a blog.
Knowing who to work with
As we mentioned above, the cost of self-publishing comes from the need to hire outside help. In order to pick the best companies or freelancers to work with, you need to know what to look for. Here are five tips to help in this decision:
- Don't work with an inexperienced company or freelancer. Never hire anyone who does not have at least five years' experience in the publishing industry or who hasn't worked on more than a handful of successful books in that time.
- Find third-party evaluations of their business. Find out who they've worked with and get an accurate public opinion of their business practices.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never trust a company who says they will do everything for you. They're likely just trying to separate you and your hard earned money.
- Price isn't everything. You should be more concerned about the quality of your investment than the amount of money you pay to have your book published. Don't be too concerned with picking the cheapest option.
- Never work with anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable. If anything about them seems out of place, they probably aren't the right fit for you.