Until a few years ago you had to be very wealthy to even think of having your own work produced in print. The only other option was to hawk your manuscript around to various publishers in the slight hope that one may show some interest and invest in it. However, even then you had to comply with their company’s practices and the chances of earning anything worthwhile were small. Nowadays it is much easier to publish a book, whether for commercial purposes, or as a personal memento. So, how do you go about it?
Publish a book — Write, check and design
It is important not too rush it once you have finished writing. You may have put months or even years into your book. Once it is out there in print, it is too late to make changes. Do your research carefully to find out what each company offers. Take your time, even though you are excited about seeing the ‘finished product’.
Whether the book is to be available in print, digitally, or both, invest in a reputable editor and proof reader. It is tempting to cut corners in order to save production costs but scrimping on these elements is a false economy. Check out their references and maybe ask for a small section or chapter to be worked on first. A good editor will make a huge difference to the quality of the final product, no matter how good a writer you may be.
These days everyone is a designer. We can all add text and images using a simple desktop publishing programme. However, I have seen many examples of interesting, well written books that are let down by poor design and artwork. This is particularly noticeable when the publication contains photographs and illustrations. Your holiday snaps may look great to you, and even on the screen. But good photography, combined with a professional eye for cropping, colour adjustment and picture placement makes a huge difference. Of course, there are costs to these services but generally, unless your book is date specific, taking your time to allocate extra funds to these parts of the process will give you much better, long-term satisfaction. If you believe you have something worthwhile to say, that people will be interested in and may even buy, make sure it is presented in the best possible light.
I have worked with many authors who have undertaken motorcycle journeys, often around the world or under challenging conditions, and many have a story to tell and a book in them. Some of the stories are interesting and are well written and presented and others, quite honestly, are not. The presentation of a book, particularly at a show or a trade fair, makes a big difference as to whether a potential buyer picks it up or not. The front cover is a major factor in drawing readers towards the book. Does it encourage a potential customer to pick it up? We are told not to judge a book by its cover. But if you browse in a book shop, or even through a display of magazines, it is the covers that first catch the eye.
Promote you book
If you have managed to arrive at the stage of a well written, proofed and designed book, the next step is to ensure you have your technicalities in place. You will need unique ISBN numbers to identify your product and generate barcodes for libraries and outlets such as Amazon and Waterstones. Royalties can be generated from library use via Public Lending Rights. If you register with ALCS Author Licensing they will collect royalties on your behalf.
Deciding your marketing plan and methods of selling and distribution are as important as the book itself. It may be a masterpiece, but if it is not promoted correctly it may never be found. Give plenty of thought as to how potential readers will find out about it. Will it be via a search engine, reviews, physical stores or at shows? I know plenty of travel authors who make their sales at specialist shows, where they can talk to potential customers and sign each individual copy. It’s hard work, but does pay off if the product is good. This also works well if you plan to publish a book. You develop a following amongst readers. Make sure you have extra copies to send out for reviews and competitions; word of mouth (or social media these days) is a powerful tool.
Print your book
If you are in the fortunate position of choosing your own printer, again do plenty of research. Ask for samples, references and what equipment and processes they use.
Although print quality has improved immensely over the last few years, it can still vary widely. You want to be able to pick up your book when it is finished and be happy with the product. The size and format of the book needs to be decided before layout and artwork is commenced. This will depend on your target market and production budget, and the printer will advise on the most cost-effective format. If you are after a ‘coffee table’ type product that is a very different undertaking from a cheaper, pocket sized novel. These are decisions that need to be made early in the process to save costs further down the line. The printer will be able to offer you a range of paper stock, weight and finish to suit your budget and product requirements. The all important cover will be on a different material again. It may even be a hardback! Again, choosing how to produce this vital component will depend upon the style of the book and the target market. The cover may have all sorts of fancy finishes applied, from embossing and spot varnishing to metallic foiling and special colours.
When costing out your self-published book remember there are essentially two ways to print it. Print on Demand means you have lower up-front costs as each book is produced to order. However, the unit costs are considerably higher, depending on volume. Traditional printing produces a pre-arranged quantity; the higher the run, the lower the unit cost. In theory, much better profit margins are available if the book sells well.
The key to publish a book is doing your research, pre-planning every aspect and budgeting for it. Above all, take your time over it. You will regret rushing the process rather than ending up with a book that does your work justice.