Monday, July 31, 2017

Five Things a Self-Publisher Needs

As an avid reader of indie books, I often follow self-published authors asking questions about what they need. So, as your biggest fan, I'm going to be honest and say these are things that, yes, I would like you to have.

1. A website.

Even with Facebook as a pretty viable option, websites are a cleaner, more accessible means to allow readers to look through your works. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited an author’s page to have no idea what she’d written. She had no website, no advertisements, and statuses filled with gushing about other books. I knew she was a published writer through experience, but she made it hell of a time figuring out what books were hers.

2. A print option.

Ebooks took off. They’re outselling prints and you don’t need some snooty bookstore owner looking down his nose while you humiliate yourself in attempts to get him to buy it. You don’t need a print version to be successful, I just highly recommend having one.

Why? Well, for one thing, what author hasn’t fantasized about having his novel on his bookshelf? For another, I like them. I much prefer to read print books for a lot reasons, most importantly that looking at artificial light too gives me a headache, and I genuinely feel my comprehension is better. Plus, I like visualizing progress.

But also it’s not that difficult to offer a print-on-demand version. Sure, it’ll need to be formatted differently than Kindle, but it’s actually really easy to do. I’ve done it myself for the One in the Hole literary journal I edited for local authors. You could easily hire someone for cheap to do it (doesn’t take long if you’re remotely good with Word and have an eye for detail) and then, after that, it only costs you something if you buy a copy.

And most print-on-demand sites are pretty cheap for authors to buy their own novel. I mean, you’re probably not going to be making bank—your cost of production per book will be higher than what publishers can do, and you really can’t/shouldn’t sell it for more than market value less you look like an idiot—but you actually will be marking more per book each time you sell it than an e-version. More importantly, it helps spread word of mouth. People take the hardcopy more seriously, more likely to read a freebie than forget about it. I give a lot of my read books away to libraries and friends, spreading the word.

At the very least, it couldn’t hurt.

3. Yes, an editor.

I’m including this on here because it does get asked a lot, about as much as it gets pushed down indies’ throats. You absolutely need to have another pair of eyes go through to question your assumptions. There are definitely incorrect assumptions every person has, never even thinking to question.

For, instance hen I first started writing I thought the saying was “little lone” not “let alone.” We all have something like this—misused words, incorrect spelling, or misheard phrases, facts that we’d only gained through hearsay.

Plus, outside that you might be confusing ‘passed’ and ‘past’ without even realizing it, that it never hurts to have someone go over the little details, there are some more abstract things that are normal in your life but totally foreign to even your neighbor. Even, or especially, the subjective elements of your book need to be viewed by another party to be told, “Um… I think you might have grown up in a cult.”

On a positive note, editors also help you to understand your unique insights and your strengths better than anyone else and help you to take productive risks.

It’s important to remember no one can automatically recognize the difference between genius and insanity and, by self-publishing, you’re in a nuthouse. I love ‘m, but the vast majority of indie books are severely half-assed. You can’t demand people recognize that yours isn’t while simultaneously preaching “grammar shouldn’t matter if the story’s good!” Don’t expect people to understand that you’re speaking in poetry and not gibberish without showing some investment in clearly communicating. Excessive only errors occur because a writer is inexperienced, lazy, or arrogant and there’s enough alternative options that readers don’t need to risk burning themselves on a writer who doesn’t care enough about cleaning up his art form.

4. An official copyright from the U.S. copyright office (or your country’s counterpart).

Indie publishers rarely have the money to battle people legally, so protect yourself with at least the bare minimum. Self-publishers are huge targets; there are many scams about stealing someone else’s work, either for profit or to actually just get it taken down.

All writing is copyrighted, but you have to prove ownership. An official copyright can streamline issues, especially through the bureaucracy of Amazon.

5. A logo.


You know, I think it’s weird too and had I not gotten one, I wouldn’t have ever thought of it. But because I do have one, it comes in handy. A LOT.

Getting a professional looking, 2x2 inch image that you love will come in handy when you realize the graphic appeal of a project is missing. Making a new web header? Need a profile picture for Facebook? Someone asked you for a link they can share with the world?

It doesn’t need to be logo looking, just some sort of pretty picture that puts the final touch on something.
It’s extremely nice to have an image that you can just grab whenever you need one.

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