Very brief guide to self-publishing

Very brief guide to self-publishing

Dan Holloway




· The most important question of all – what are you writing for?

· Why are you looking to self-publish?


Some very good reasons


You know your readers better than a publisher would (Queensland Orchid



Timing – is there a reason your book needs to come out by a certain date?


You are writing something noncommercial (and have no desire to make it commercial).




If you are trying to be commercial, the simple fact is that some genre readers are more receptive to self-published books than others – crime, romance, erotica. Not so much (yet) young adult or historical fiction


Some reasons you could think about more closely


I want to sell a million.

You won’t. Outliers are never good role models. Amanda Hocking gave an excellent interview once in which she talked about another writer who wrote exactly the same genre she did, as prolifically as she did, at least as well as she did, who sold next to no copies while she sold over a million.


I want to make a career out of writing

You will see from the marketing section that if you are to stand a chance of making a career as a self-published author, you will find yourself boxed into as many corners as you would be with a traditional publisher. For many people, this just isn’t worth it. For others, it’s fabulous. Make sure you are happy with the implications of what you decide, and the fact you are essentially giving yourself a second day job.




The book

The writing

Whether you are self-publishing or looking for a publisher, the alpha and omega of being a writer is writing the best book you can.


A lot of writers use beta readers and swear by this method of trying out their material in its early drafts.


Online writers’ groups/forums can be wonderful places to meet like-minded people, but go in with your eyes open, expectations limited, and editorial resolve fixed

_ Authonomy

_ Youwriteon

_ Wattpad – the most successful of such platforms at actually getting your

work in front of readers.

· Getting help

Self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. Most people won’t – or

can’t – do everything. It just means that you are in control of all those things a publisher

would normally control, and you have the freedom and flexibility to choose the providers of

each service you think will be best for your book, and your budget. Which latter raises a key

point. Remember why you are writing (again), and don’t get carried away with spending on

things you won’t recoup unless you are happy and can afford to do so. As self-publishing

becomes more popular, the number of people looking to make money out of self-publishers

is increasing. They are the only ones who are onto a sure financial thing! Word of mouth is

key when choosing someone to work with. And however impressive what they do, never

overstretch yourself financially.

There are also ethical considerations. Various sites have sprung up offering the potential to

“crowdsource” covers, for example. You say what you want, keen young artists and

designers pitch to you and say what they’d do it for. Often this is very little or “nothing, just

the publicity.” Fine. But a lot of people who avidly recommend these sites are the same

people who absolutely refuse to consider giving their books away for free “because they

should be paid for the hard work.” And that’s not quite right.

· Editing

o Proof – spelling, typos etc

o Copy – consistency

o Structural – the most important and expensive

· Cover

o Consider other similar books

o Where does it need to make an impact – online/in print

· Formatting

o Ebook or paperback or both

_ POD or offset printing?

o Formatting software?

o Formatting ebooks. Lots of people hire specialists to do this. It is actually something

you can learn to do for yourself relatively easily (see Lexi Revellian’s blog)

· Legals

o Plagiarism, defamation – lyrics!

The Other stuff

· Pricing

o Hugely controversial and much talk of a “sweet spot”

· Marketing

o Be prolific

o Blurb

o The best way to sell one book is for your other books to be brilliant

o The dos and don’ts of online marketing

There are lots of places that offer paid promotions or “sponsorships” where you can

have your book appear in the banner of their website. They promise to put your

book in front of thousands of devoted readers. These can be more or less successful,

but I’ve not come across one that really recoups the investment

o Events

o Reviews

· Distribution


o Amazon, Nook, smashwords, Kobo

o Createspace, Lulu, Matador

· Support organisations

o Collectives – Triskele, Authors Electric

o Organisations – Society of Authors, Alliance of Independent Authors

_ Overseas rights etc

Further reading

Ali Cooper – Editing a Better Book

Ros Morris – Nail Your Novel

David Gaughran – Let’s Get Digital

Online resources – my advice blog for self-publishers who want to focus

on the art rather than the marketing – mouthpiece/support group and resource centre for selfpublished

writers – the blog of Roz Morris’s book – one of the big digital publishing evangelists – but very handy

for staying abreast of issues – an archive of resources for self-publishers – the blog of the Alliance of Independent Authors – the blog of a collective of high profile authors who

have gone from to traditional to self-publishing – the blog of one of the most successful UK self-publishers – the best blog out there about the craft of

writing – the official mouthpiece of the publishing industry – so dry but

important – the sister publication of The Bookseller, focusing on digital publishing

Recommendations from my own experience

Kate Madigan – Oxford-based artist and cover designer

Anastasia Sichkarenko, cover designer

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