Self-Publishing - My First Forty-Five Days
When I commit myself to something - anything, really - I have a habit of going all-in on that commitment. All of my being is directed toward the cause and seeing it succeed. This was true of aiming to be traditionally published and it’s true for my new goal of being self-published. You could say that both of those things - and the change from one direction to the other - are part of the same ultimate goal: to be published. At first I wasn’t thinking of it in that light, but it makes sense. In the end, one of my lifetime goals is to be published - how that happens is in my hands.
Of course, just because I’m now self-publishing doesn’t mean I’m taking the easy way out, nor does it mean I’m any less committed to seeing my book appear as a paperback on your shelf or an ebook on your Kindle.
There is much to do when you decide to strike out on your own. Let’s explore what I’ve done so far in the month-and-a-half since I’ve shifted gears.
My Book Cover was Designed
One of the first major decisions I committed myself toward was the creation of my book cover. I viewed this as a big deal for a few reasons, the biggest of which was that once I dropped money on the cover, there was no going back in my mind. They say that you aren’t really invested in a project until you’ve committed one of two things into it: your blood or your wallet. Since my novel took a decent amount of blood out of me, my wallet stood tall as the remaining holdout. It was time to knock that pillar down.
Using 99designs, I created a contest page to advertise my desire for a book cover, a brief describing in great detail my goals, wants, and needs in detail. The website was great because it allowed me to compare lots of different design concepts by those that interpreted my brief in different ways. It was a fascinating process, though my wife was quick to point out that anyone that doesn’t win my business effectively work for free. Her being in the design world, sites like 99designs aren’t viewed too favorably by her because of business practices like this, a subject certainly worth exploring in greater detail. However, we both agreed that we would’ve never encountered my winning designer without it.
It took about three weeks, but in the end I chose my top designer - Anamaria Stefan - and her cover which was beyond amazing. You all will see it soon enough!
My Typesetting was Designed
Upon the completion of my cover I quickly hired Anamaria to also handle my novel’s typesetting. A novel’s typesetting, for those that don’t know the term, is the book’s interior - which fonts are used, how chapters and scenes are formatted, and so on. It’s as critical as the cover for it impacts the readability of your book.
Much like my book cover, the typesetting went through many iterations before I settled on something that was simply beautiful. Beautiful and functional, the unicorn of design experiences. There are many ways a writer can design their typesetting without spending much money, but after seeing what Anamaria delivered my way… well, you know the saying: “You get what you pay for.”
If you’d like to learn the finer details of typesetting, I highly recommend this article for future reading!
All Sorts of Book Registration Business
One aspect of self-publishing that many authors don’t always think about is what I’d call the “back-end” of the process. More specifically, I’m talking about ISBNs, barcodes, and optional stacks of paperwork like getting your book entered into the Library of Congress.
While I made decisions on my book cover design I also focused on submitting for various book registration forms which I’d have to complete in order to sell my book in multiple outlets. The first of these was getting a block of ISBNs - “International Standard Book Numbers.” An ISBN is used to identify a book’s specific format and version as well as the publisher. Having an ISBN is beneficial if you intend on selling and efficiently marketing your novel to not just readers but businesses that sell, loan, or distribute books. During this same process I purchased a barcode which is all but required if you intend on selling your book in physical bookstores or similar businesses.
As of today I have three unique ISBNs and a single barcode, covering the paperback version along with two different ebook versions - one for Kindle and the other for Nook.
Check out this very detailed article on ISBNs and barcodes if you wish to really dive deep.
The second order of business was optional, but something I just had to do: obtain a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN). The LCCN is needed if you want your book to be integrated with the book coding system in libraries across the United States. To put it another way, if you want your book to be freely available to library-goers you must have an LCCN. To begin the submission process, click here (it’s free, believe it or not).
Finally, I’ve set up project pages on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IngramSpark in preparation for selling my novel across those platforms. Of course, I couldn’t complete the process in all cases because as of this article’s posting I still don’t have my finalized typesetting. I still could complete the vast majority of product pages without it, however. I’ll be selling the ebook version of my novel via Amazon and B&N while IngramSpark was chosen to handle all paperback printing and distribution.
Created a Press Kit
I hadn’t considered the possibility of needing a press kit for my novel - or myself as a writer. My non-opinion on the matter quickly flipped when I realized the benefits of having a digital press kit outweighed the time it would take to make it. In summary, a press kit is designed to make it very easy for those I want to market my book to understand who I am and what my book’s about on a single page - whether it’s for promotional purposes or to convince them to buy my book in bulk. As I near the monumental task of running my own marketing campaigns for my book, the press kit will be a lifesaver when I start approaching bloggers, YouTubers, and other prominent book reviewers.
Are you in the process of self-publishing your novel? Share your experiences and advice in the comments below.