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15 Things You Need to Know Before You Decide to Self-Publish

best-sellerI specialize in helping people self-publish. I’ve self-published more than a few of my own titles, and I’ve helped more than a half-dozen people self-publish theirs. It’s hard work, it’s a lot of work, and there are a lot of working parts that go into it. Tiny details that most people would neither think of nor look at. That’s why I’m writing this post.

1. Size Matters

There are many different sizes. The size you chose for your finished book impacts everything else. It will determine your page count, dictate the size of the elements of your cover, and whether or not your book is eligible for bookstores. It matters. It is one of the first decisions you need to make, because everything else will flow from that decision.

2. Page Count Matters

Your book’s spine will be sized to fit the number of pages in the book. Go over, and your spine won’t fit. Go under, and your spine will be too large. The more pages, the more expensive it will be to produce the book. Too few pages and you won’t be eligible to be stocked in most bookstores because you won’t have enough content for the title to appear on the spine.

3. The Spine Matters

The spine of your book is valuable real estate. It needs to be as eye-catching and attractive as the rest of the cover. That’s because if your book does end up in a bookstore, chances are very good that it will be placed with the spine facing out so that your spine is the only thing that consumers have to use to judge whether or not they want to purchase your book.

4. Covers Sell Books

Your cover is your audition. It’s your opportunity to catch the eye of a potential reader and convince them to buy the book. Your spine is what is usually first seen by the buyer. They then look at the front cover to see if they want to look any further. They will then flip it over to the backside and read to see whether it’s something they are interested in pursuing further. If you are putting out an ebook and they don’t have a back cover to use, they will rely on the book’s description to make that decision. If they don’t like what they see on the cover, they will put it down. They won’t look any further.

5. Formatting Is Tough

If you thought writing your book was tough, formatting the manuscript is tougher. Every header, every footer, every chapter heading, every section heading, it all has to make sense for the book. This is not just a matter of setting the manuscript size to match the book size you’ve chosen. It’s painstaking attention to detail work that can take hours and hours to get exactly right. When mistakes are made in the formatting, people notice. The book looks unprofessional and is less likely to be purchased. Multiple pairs of eyes should be looking over this work. It is not something you want rushed. You want it exactly right.

6. Uploading a Book Isn’t Just Click-and-Go

When you upload your book to CreateSpace, you get a chance to review, page-by-page, what the book will look like when it is printed. Take advantage of this opportunity. Go through it page-by-page. Make sure everything is EXACTLY how you want it to be. Yes, you can alter things later, but your best chance is to do it right the first time so you don’t interrupt the flow of sales from your book. It may take you 100 times of uploading and adjusting, so give yourself the time it will take to do all of that work. You’ll thank yourself later.

7. Give Yourself LOTS of Time

From the point where you THINK your book is ready to be printed, give yourself at least 27 business days. This is because it takes at least 9 days to receive your proof copy once you order it. The proof copy is an exact replica of what the real version will look like. Once you’ve reviewed that proof copy – IF there are no changes that need to be made or if the changes are not to the cover, you can then go ahead and release it. However, what will often happen is that you notice defects once that proof copy is in hand. You notice formatting issues that wouldn’t have shown up otherwise. You need to be prepared for that reality. You may need to order another set of proof copies to be sure that everything is exactly the way you would want it if it were in a customers hands. Allow yourself enough time for two major revisions.

7. Be Sure You Get Beta Readers

Before you even think about ordering your first proof copy, get beta readers for your book. Ideally, these are people whose opinions you respect but who have never laid eyes on your book. They do not know what they are getting going into it. They will be able to tell you where the flaws are in your plot, where the problems are in your non-fiction book, and to recommend a path that you may never have considered before. Ask your beta readers to help you out by leaving a review of your book for you on Amazon when it’s released.

8. Have a Plan for Launch Day

Do not just put your book out there and expect that it will sell. Have a genuine plan of attack for launching your book, and follow through with it. Recruit as many bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, and people you can to talk about your book, share the details of your book, and help you spread the word about its existence. The more people whom you can get to talk about the book, the more likely the book is to be found and to be sold.

9. Don’t Expect Your Money to Come From the Book

No matter how much money and time you’ve put into your book, do not expect the bulk of your money to come from the book. Expect it to come from everything you can do because of the book. Expect it to come from talks you give, from webinars you hold, and from other sources. Just not the book.

10. Pricing Is A Balancing Act

You want to earn money, but you don’t want to price yourself so high y our books won’t sell. Pricing on books is very tight. Pricing it too high in comparison to other books on the market makes it less likely to sell. Pricing it too low makes it look cheap and people are less likely to read it even if they do buy it. Keep that in mind. Aim for making enough money to cover your costs and be competitive in the marketplace.

11. Pre- Orders Are the Key

Getting pre-orders is essential to the success of your book. The more pre-orders you can get on that first day, the higher your rankings will go on Amazon. The higher your rankings, the more likely it is for Amazon itself to promote your book to people who have bought similar titles.

12. Being a Best Seller Does Not Just Happen

I do not care how hard you have worked on your title or how long it took you to write it. Getting your book to become a New York Times Best Seller requires you to sell 10,000 copies in ONE week. That’s the size of a small town all going out and buying copies of your book in that first week of your launch. It takes a lot of hard work and marketing savvy to get that kind of buying power going.

13. When It Comes to Covers, Being an Experienced Designer Is NOT Enough

Every single book publisher out there uses their own unique templates for their covers. You have to use their templates or the book cover won’t print right. Guessing at the dimensions is not going to work. There are very specific details that must be paid attention to in order for the book to turn out the way you want it to turn out.

14. Don’t Expect to Get Paid Right Away

No matter which publishing house you use, payments do not come into your account as the books are purchased. Every publisher has a distribution schedule for payments. Amazon, for example, will hold onto your payments for 60 days after the end of the first period where buying takes place. That means you may not see money for 60 to 90 days. Other publishers may take even longer. Each one operates on their own schedule. Know the schedule, know the details, and plan accordingly.

15. Expect to Need to Continue Promoting Your Book

Don’t lose momentum on your book promotion because you got it out the door and you think it will now sell itself. It won’t. Strong sales help, but you still have to do the work of promoting it.

That’s Enough for Now…

I hope this helps. If you have any questions about self-publishing or want to know more details and examples, just let me know.

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