Self-publishing involves many steps, and leaving one out, or doing them in the wrong order, can be detrimental to a book’s success. Authors can easily become overwhelmed by all there is to do or put the proverbial cart before the horse, such as printing a book before it is properly edited, or building a website before you know who your audience will be. Here is a step-by-step guide for what needs to be done during the creation and marketing of a book, and what you should not overlook in the process of bringing your book to the public.
- Concept: First, come up with the idea for your book. Ideas can come from anywhere. Keep a journal or notebook and scribble them down until you have one that you think will make a good story or be of interest to a large number of readers.
- Consider Audience: Ask yourself who is going to read your book and how easy it will be to reach your audience. You have to write the book before you can sell it but brainstorming ideas for how you can sell it and planning as you write will put you ahead of the game.
- Write the First Draft: This step is probably the hardest one in the entire book production process. Everyone thinks he can write a book, but the hours spent putting words on paper separates the true authors from the dreamers. The key is to schedule your time so you can do it. Many people wait until they have a vacation or numerous free days before sitting down to write. However, more than an hour or two of writing can be exhausting and lonely. You are better off to set aside time every day, no matter how little, and give yourself a goal, even if it’s something small like fifteen minutes per day or five hundred words. Doing a little everyday will keep your book fresh in your mind and easy to return to, whereas writing it during your vacation and then waiting until you have a three day weekend two months later to work on it will be largely self-defeating. The key is persistence and regular daily practice.
- Rewrite the Rough Draft: Once you finish the rough draft, I suggest you take a break from working on the book for at least a few weeks. Then go back and reread your work. Focus on the content. Look for holes in the storyline or the argument, places where it needs more development, scenes that go nowhere and should be developed further or completely removed, check the organization of key concepts, and ask for feedback on sections from potential readers or other writers.
- Rewrite the Rough Draft: To save repeating myself, I suggest you rewrite no less than three times so your book goes through at least four drafts. By the last rewrite, you should be able to read through it fairly quickly, making only minor changes or double-checking minor things you missed before. Remember, I said four drafts minimum-nothing is wrong with doing ten or twelve, or….
- Proofread: Look for spelling and grammar issues, as well as making sure that chapter titles match up with the Table of Content, names of characters are spelled consistently, and you check anything else you might have changed halfway through and need to make sure is now consistent.
- Editing: You’ve already edited your manuscript when you continually revised it, but now it’s time to turn it over to a professional editor. A lot of authors have given self-publishing a bad name because they have skipped this step and not realized that their grasp of the English language and the written word is not what they thought they were. Do not just hire your neighbor or the schoolteacher down the street. Find someone qualified who has experience with editing books and is knowledgeable about the publishing industry. (While you wait for your editor’s revisions, you can skip ahead to Step 9 and start with preparing to launch the book).
- Proofreading: Your editor will go through your book and make changes and then send it back to you to do rewrites or at least approve of the editorial changes. You may do another rewrite at this point or simply go through and make small changes. Then send the manuscript back to the editor to do a final proofread. You might even hire someone separate at this point, equally qualified, to proofread since both you and the editor are now so familiar with the book that it’s possible you could miss small details.
- Seek Out a Reliable Layout Person and a Printer: Often a printer will also have someone on staff who does layout, or you can find a layout person independent of the printer. You should contact this person a few weeks before the manuscript is finished so you can get into his or her schedule. Layout does not usually take long, but if you have a manuscript with photographs or illustrations, it can be time-consuming so plan ahead.
- Cover Design: Your layout person might also do your cover design, or you might hire someone else. Be sure to ask the person to see samples of his or her work, and come up with several ideas of what you would like your cover to look like so the artist has something to work with. The more concrete idea you have for a cover, the easier it will be. Remember that your cover has to reflect your book’s concept and communicate to a potential reader what the book is about. People do judge a book by its cover.
- Print Quotes: Once the book is laid out, you’ll have a page count and know what basic size (height, length, width) the book is so you can start to get price quotes from printers as well as decide on the kind of paper and whether you want a hard or paperback book.
- Website: Once the book goes to the printer, you generally have about four weeks while you wait for it to be printed. Now is a good time to have your website built and to start advertising your book. Again, find a professional, preferably someone who has done author websites before. Besides making the website pretty, make it pull in readers so it is engaging-remember, your goal is to sell books. Ask your website designer about Search Engine Optimization and how you will get the Internet to direct traffic to your website. I suggest you take a class or read some books about websites and the Internet so you learn all you can.
- Proofread Your Proofs: Your printer will send you a proof copy of the book to look over. A lot can go wrong at the printers, so make sure when you get the proof that you look it over carefully. Check that the cover fits the book (it will usually be separate from the bound pages). Count all the pages and make sure none are missing, out of place, or upside down. Make sure the paper and the print quality are what you want. Look for any possible mistake before approving it and allowing that truckload of books to arrive.
- Accounting and Taxes: Talk to your accountant and find out what you have to keep track of, such as mileage and printing costs, for your taxes, and find an accounting program or develop a system to keep track of your book sales, your expenses, and your sales tax. Here is where it would also be a good idea to take a course or read a little about accounting-specifically, there are some accounting books for authors that are helpful.
- Placement: Contact local bookstores, gift shops, book distributors, whoever you think would be a good outlet for your book. Be prepared for rejection by having answers to all objections and a good way of describing your book and why people will want it. You need to sell your book to stores so they can sell it to readers, but don’t forget to sell it out right yourself at book festivals, craft shows, and other events.
- Reviews: Send out review copies of the book to reviewers. Once you receive the reviews, advertise them to people and send them out to the next group of reviewers to encourage review of the book.
- Market: Send out press releases about your book’s publication. Schedule and advertise your book signings. Find events you can participate in where you can sell your book. Find book clubs or groups where you can talk about your book. Spread the word in any way possible. Don’t forget social networking as a word-of-mouth and promotion tool.
- Balance: Once the marketing begins, many authors can find themselves overwhelmed and unable to find time to write the next book, but there’s no point in writing a second book if the first book doesn’t sell. Focus on your marketing, but if writing is what you love to do, make sure you honor that fifteen minutes or hour a day writing schedule. Eventually, you’ll become a master at balancing out your marketing and writing (and your day job or other commitments). It will take stamina and determination but you can do it.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.