Tips for Self Publishing

Rebecca GernonBy Rebecca Gernon

I will start this blog by saying, I think self publishing is a mistake, unless you are a well established author with a huge following. If you aren’t, your path will be difficult and you may become very disappointed with the results.

With that said, if you are determined to self publish, consider doing it like a friend of mine did. She opted to have hands on control of her finished product, something that most e-publishers and print on demand publishers do not offer, at least not without added expense.

  1. Have your writing edited by a professional. Don’t ask friends or family to do this. Pay someone who has credentials to make your book the best it can be.  My friend Judy wrote her book as a series of columns for a newspaper. All were professionally edited by the newspaper staff. She then obtained written permission to assemble them as a book.
  2. Use a local printer. E-publishing sounds great, but if you don’t know how to format an index, table of contents, and the pages, your result will look unprofessional. Uneven printing,  paragraphs that start mid-way on a page, and blank pages scream self published.  The local printer provided my friend with proof copies to read and correct, which is generally not offered by the on-line publishers. What they see is what you get.
  3. Jud's book coverHave a good cover designed.  Simple is better than elaborate. Stick to one font, but you may vary the size of title and the author’s name. A stock cover, or one that is jumbled and confusing is a tip off that your book has been self published. My friend had a local artist design her cover. She paid her and now has the original oil painting of her cover hanging in her home.  Having a local artist design your cover may also help to sell your book.

Here are some other facts to consider:

  • A book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore. For every available bookstore shelf space, there are 100 to 1,000 or more titles competing for that shelf space.  (See the complete article here.)  Be aware that most traditional book stores will not stock self published books because they cannot be returned to the publisher for credit if they are not sold.

self publishing costPromoting a self published book is work, a lot of work. Most book marketing today is done by authors, not by publishers. Publishers have managed to stay afloat in this worsening marketplace only by shifting more and more marketing responsibility to authors, to cut costs and prop up sales. Be prepared to spend you money to promote your book.

Cost? The sky is the limit with self published books. E-books may be free, but generally are the most error prone. Traditional publishing costs you nothing.

Most books today sell only to the authors’ and publishers’ communities. For self published books that means your books will be bought by who you know and who you can contact by speaking about your book at a gathering.  There are hundreds of interesting and useful books to read. Most people only read books that their communities make important or mandatory to read. There is no general audience for most nonfiction books, and chasing after such a mirage is usually far less effective than connecting with one’s communities.

  • The stories of self published authors selling 2000 books on line and being picked up by an agent and a traditional publisher are few and very far between. Read this article which compares  earnings on self published books  to traditional and small press books on Amazon.
  • The book publishing industry is in a state of change. Even though there are many formats  available (e-books, paperbacks, hard cover, etc.), book sales have remained steady or flat for the past 3 years. If you decide to self publish, create a flawless product because the competition is stiff.

If writing is part of who you are, like it is for me, I must keep writing despite the slim prospect of being published. I’ve given up on becoming a world famous author and am thankful for my small successes. Remember, we are Christian writers who are using our God-given talent to create poems, stories, plays, music, novels, memoirs etc. that please and honor God.  Keep writing. And post your successes in the comments.  Let’s boost each other’s confidence with our triumphs.

Philippians 4:13. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  


One comment

  1. For me this was a wonderful learning experience–I learned to typeset, to create an index, etc. I called on a local journalist to write the foreward and the wonderful folk artist, Lorraine Gendron. to create the cover art (I wanted to use an old map from the 1700s, but I would have to pay $$ for the right. I paid Lorraine in copies of the book, then I wrote the intro for her book of art in return for the original painting.) I took the formatted book to a local printer, they sent me the galleys, and we produced the 128 page book, with color cover for $4 per copy. I sold the book for $10. Shell Norco bought 100 copies, I sold copies to local tourist commission, others to people all over the country thanks to reviews by Louisiana columnists, sold them when I spoke to local groups and by word of mouth. My goal was to give everyone I quoted in the book a copy because they did me a favor by sharing their knowledge of local history. The copies I sold paid for printing and I was able to give away 300 copies. So, this was not a money making endeavor. I made mistakes. By self publishing my way, any glory reaped was all mine. But then, so was the blame for those mistakes. Thanks, Rebecca, for sharing your knowledge.


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