Val Wineyard Publishing

Val Wineyard Publishing

Self-Publish a Print Book

To many, self-publishing is formatting an e-book and publishing it (in the sense of making it public) on such places as Amazon and Smashwords.  This makes a virtual or electronic book and not a book that you can hold in your hands.  It is happily suitable for novels or light reading, such as people might read in bed or on a train, but is it suitable for other purposes?

   This year (2016) statistics tell us that e-books have dropped from 29% of all published books to 21%, and the majority of them are novels, with crime and violence first and erotic fiction next.

   If you do not publish both an e-book and a print book, you are going to lose readers, for those that prefer e-books rarely buy print books we are told, (although I am not very convinced by this) and many of us have friends who do not actually have an Internet presence (how odd!) and so they buy print books.   If you publish an e-book first, you lose 20% of your print book sales.  The best thing is to do a print book first and en e-book about a year later.

  Print books cost more, but if you want to sell at book-fairs, from the village fête to the Frankfurt Book Fair, you need a print book.   If you want to sell in shops you also need a print-book.

  So if you're considering being an "indie publisher" as opposed to a self-publisher who uses a self-publishing company how do you proceed?

ONE  Well, write it!  Then spell-check it. 

TWO  Then edit it.  There is a lot you can do yourself.  Editing means making sure the story runs coherently and doesn't meander off and get side-tracked and it means not repeating the same incident in different chapters.   Imagine your non-fiction book as a novel.  It must tell a coherent story.  The first chapter must attract, the last chapter must give a sense of satisfaction, like a relay race which has the next-best runner first and the best last.   Editing does not mean cutting out the best bits, but making the flowery and convoluted sentences communicate better!  

THREE    Proof-correcting.  Before you start this, have a house-style, and write it down on a piece of paper.  For example, always use speech-marks for speech, apostrophes for thoughts, italics for direct quotations.  Some say one space after a comma and two after a sentence, which I prefer.  Either indent your paragraphs, or leave a space between them, never both.  Then ask someone who has never seen the manuscript before to just mark in red any "mistakes."  Many of course, are simply typing errors, like a comma for a full-stop.  If the person doing it is a friend, point out that the subject matter is not up for discussion. 

FOUR   It's said that every author must buy a professionally designed cover but I'm not so sure.  Those who sell cover designs say you won't sell the book without one, but what's true is that readers won't buy a second book from you if the professional cover does not reflect the content.  YOU know your book so design your own cover, but keep it simple, just a striking picture, with the text - name of the book and author - centred on the page.  You need your cover picture early in the game for promotional purposes - it can be adjusted later if necessary.

FIVE   Now you need to find a printer.  A good one can help you a great deal in defining your concept and the production of a nicely finished book.  Upright is easier.  A5 for convenience?  A taller thinner shape?  This works for a book with lists.  How many pages?  Work out how many words per page in 9 point or 10 point text, divide that into your finished word-count, add 4 pages at the beginning and two at the end, making sure your total number of pages is divisible by four.   Decide how many pictures. Go and see your printer with your "spex" on a piece of paper, including dimensions, what sort of cover, how the book will be bound, paper weight for interior pages, no of pages, how much colour and so on.  Ask for a quote - you can always print more if need be. "Never print more than you think you can sell" is a good expression. Your printer can help with all these design decisions in which cost plays a factor.  Pay him or her immediately on delivery.  (By expecting your printer to wait to be paid means you are asking him or her to subsidise your efforts, and that's not fair.)  This establishes a good relationship at the start.

SIX  Now you have a concept start your publicity.  Some advise doing it a year in advance but I think six months is enough, or people get tired of hearing about the book that never appears.  From the response you should be able to judge sales, but not everybody who says they will buy, will do so.  Friends buy first, generally 10% of them, so if you have 300 friends you have a guaranteed sale of 30.  Start a blog in the name of the book, making sure the title is right for Google Searches which give priority to the first word.  "Rennes-le-Château, the mystery" will attract more hits than "The Mystery of Rennes-le-Château."

SEVEN  Now you are going to be doing everything at once until publication day;  revising the lay-out, negotiating with the printer, adjusting the amount of colour, posting news on Facebook and so on.  Ask the printer for page proofs, correct your pages, check the page numbers (otherwise your printer's printing machine can get confused), make sure all the technical details are there, like contact e-mail, acknowledgments, ISBN number etc, then ask your printer for a mock-up, exactly as the finished book will be. If you like it, tell him how many copies you would like him to print.

EIGHT   The moment the book is delivered to you is incredible.  Bask in it.  Celebrate.  There is something so powerful about having an idea and translating that idea, through all the steps along the way, to a finished book.  You visualised it virtually - and now it exists in reality.  You did it, you yourself.  You are a publisher.

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