Caroline Goldsmith: Publishing Consultant

Everything you need to publish

Independent/self-publishing: Where do I start? 

This is the question I get asked the most by clients when they first contact me about self-publishing. It often leads to a number of other follow-up questions. So, I decided to try to answer some of these questions in a series of blog posts. I hope they are useful as you decide which direction to take with your book. 

Firstly, a few words of advice: 

When you choose to self-publish, you become the publisher.

A lot of writers find it hard to see themselves as anything other than the writer. When you decide to take charge of bringing your finished manuscript to an audience of readers, you are not only the author, you are the publisher. That means that the decisions that would have been made by a trade publisher are yours to make. Some writers understandably find this daunting but I invite you to see it as an exciting opportunity to really take charge of your own work. 

If you are published by a company, decisions about design, marketing and editorial are ultimately made by your publisher. Good publishers will consult the writer and reach compromises where disagreements occur, but the final decision lies with the people who will be selling your book. How your book looks and how it is marketed to readers will be in the control of your publisher – which is great, if it fits with your own vision, but frustrating when it doesn’t. When you publish your own work, the decisions that define the shape your book takes are in your hands. Whilst you can, of course, get help, guidance and advice from friends, colleagues and professionals, the final call is yours. Many writers find this sense of control over their own work not only empowering but exciting.

With this in mind, it’s important that you make every decision carefully and take your time to make them. This leads us to my next point of crucial advice…

Do some research.

Look at books which you think are in the same or a similar genre. Look at the cover designs and how they are presented. Ask yourself where your book might sit in a bookshop and what might be around it. What other writers might your target audience already be reading? What keywords would readers searching for your book use? What does your reader look like? What age are they? What will draw them to your book? These questions are important regardless of whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction. They will help you get a clear idea of who you reader is and how best to reach them. 

Start exploring the journeys other writers have taken – there are countless blogs where writers share their experiences. What went wrong? What went right? What would they do differently next time? Find their books in the online stores and look at how they’ve crafted their blurbs and what sort of information they have added to their listing. You don’t need to copy anyone else but you can learn a lot just by paying attention to what people have already tried and had success with.

Finally, spend some time on the publishing platforms available to you (more on this in a later post), familiarise yourself with them, experiment with the online tools they offer and read through their FAQs.

Start thinking about the package of your book as early as you can.

Start building up ideas of what your book is going to look like to readers. Start piecing together a blurb, even if you just start noting down the odd sentence or some keywords  – believe me that the first draft of your blurb will not be the one you eventually use. Consider taglines if they are appropriate. Start thinking about cover ideas – colours, themes, motifs and typefaces. Build a Pinterest page of visuals you can refer to or simply go old school with magazine cuttings. Like the text itself, the design of a book is something that takes a few drafts and this process usually happens in the background as a book is being produced and sometimes written. A cover designer might be briefed by a publishing house as the copy editor is working on honing the text. What you’re building is a strategy for how to sell your book to readers. By starting this process as early as possible you won’t arrive at crucial decisions, like cover and book design, with a blank slate and no ideas. You’ll thank yourself for starting this process early as it won’t just make the process run a whole lot smoother but it will also mean that you avoid making rushed decisions. 

Follow the trade publishing process as closely as you can

Trade publishers have warehouses, an established distribution network and they will invest in substantial print runs of the books they publish. They will have teams of people handling each stage of production and a marketing machine behind every title. It isn’t generally possible for an indie author to achieve this but there are aspects of the publishing process that you can emulate as closely as you can. You can perfect your text; build a strategy for your book and select printers and platforms to reach readers that work best for you. The following links will take you through these practical stages of getting a finished manuscript to the final stage and publishing your book like a pro.

Editorial: Perfecting your text

Sales Strategy: Choosing your printing and distribution platforms

ISBNs and metadata: Everything everyone needs to know about your book

Production: What do you need in order to make a manuscript into a book? 

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This entry was posted on February 4, 2022 by in Publishing, Self-publishing.
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