If you’ve always wanted to write a book, and your mind is just bursting with stories to tell, then it’s about time you give the world the gift of your voice. The problem is, it can be intimidating to write a book, and it can be really intimidating to try and get a book published. Where do you even start? How to self-publish a book is not something we’re taught in school. Who do you reach out to? How likely is it that your manuscript will even get read or passed along? If it seems like a long, exhausting road that will most likely end in frustration and failure, we have good news. Traditional publishing methods are not your only option, not since self-publishing became a thing of the literature world. Finally, you can bypass the agents and publishing companies and emails, and drafts, and cover letters and instead of dragging this process out over the course of what could be years, you can get your own book published right now.
So what exactly does it mean to self-publish? Basically it means that instead of working with traditional publishing houses (which involve a lot of red tape, a lot of politics, a lot of formal submission processes etc.) to get your story released to the public, you do it yourself through a variety of channels and companies/websites. The beauty of self-publishing a book is that, because you aren’t using a publishing house that will be heavily involved in the creation of your work, from editing to marketing to cover art, you will be in total control of the creative process. According to Morris Publishing, a company that specialized in self-publishing, “as a self-published author, you pay the full cost of producing your work and are responsible for marketing and distribution. Therefore, the finished copies, the copyright, all subsidiary rights, and all profits are exclusively yours.”
As to what you will actually produce, you might publish a physical book, you might release an e-book (aka a digital version of your book), or you might create a book on a print-to-order basis, where you print copies as they are ordered as opposed to producing a pre-set amount before you even release your work. You have a lot of options if you’re looking to self-publish and a lot of creative freedom, which is a huge perk for writers.
As far as how common or successful self-published books are, the numbers don’t lie. According to 2014 statistics from Publisher’s Weekly, “self-published books now represent 31% of e-book sales on Amazon’s Kindle Store,” and beyond that, “self-published authors are “dominating traditionally published authors” in sci-fi/fantasy, mystery/thriller, and romance genres but—and here is the surprise—they are also taking “significant market share in all genres.”
So how to self-publish a book? Where do you even begin? There are a lot of companies, and a lot of names you know, that are dabbling in the self-publishing industry. Amazon, for example, is a big player. Through Amazon you can create a print book using CreateSpace, a digital book using Kindle Direct Publishing or an audiobook with ACX. The rules are pretty simple—you publish your work for free, but Amazing earns royalties on each book sold.
As far as what you’ll need to actually get to work self-publishing your book, you’ll first need actual content to release. Imagine you already wrote a book, you’re in the process of editing it, and you really don’t want to deal with all the BS that can come along with publishing companies. You can take your work and design a book online. According to CNET‘s David Carnoy, the process is as follows: “You choose a size for your book, format your Word manuscript to fit that size, turn your Word doc into a PDF, create some cover art in Photoshop, turn that into a PDF, and upload it all to the self-publisher of your choice and get a book proof back within a couple of weeks (or sooner) if you succeeded in formatting everything correctly. You can then make changes and swap in new PDFs.” Sounds pretty simple, especially compared to what publishing a book used to entail.
Another website called Lulu.com makes self-publishing really easy—literally you can publish a book at the click of a few buttons. You select everything from the type of cover you want to the size of the book and the format. The website offers a series of tools to help you work through the details and decide what kind of book is best for you. They also provide “book making kits to encourage creative learning, and tools to transform digital imagery into art. [They] do all of this with print-on-demand technology that reduces waste and preserves our natural resources.” Sounds like a win-win opportunity to us.