It’s a steep learning curve publishing your first book, so make it manageable. Do a checklist and timeline to avoid nasty surprises. If you try to do too much you will be overwhelmed.
Okay, so I’m assuming you are most likely going to start along the Amazon route. This is the path I’m on simply because it seems to be the most accessible. With so much new information to be learnt, especially if you are doing most of it yourself, we want to keep it as simple as possible. You can branch out to other publishers once you know the basics.
As with everything in life, how much you can outsource will depend on your budget. Two things I think are important are the proofread and the cover. There are so many grammar nazis out there who will mark you down because a comma is in the wrong place and people do judge a book by its cover. Most other things you can learn to do. It may be that because of your budget you can only publish with a basic cover and proofread. In that case, do it and be proud. You’ve written it and that’s something to celebrate.
The first thing is to finish the book. You can, of course, do some of the other steps whilst you are doing this.
Edit and Proofread
You smile smugly to yourself as you type, ‘The End’ little realising that was the easy part.
You cannot edit and proofread your own work. You cannot edit and proofread your own work… so important I said it twice. Especially the proofreading. If we knew the mistakes we were making we wouldn’t make them. By all means, use beta testers for some polishing to get it as good as you can but it will still need that professional finish. No, I don’t care if your best friend teaches English, they still aren’t a proofreader. Proofreaders and editors can be found everywhere for various prices. I had a 75,000 word book with quotes ranging from £250 to £1200 for a proofread. Try and get a sample first to see how good the proofreaders are and use recommendations, especially if you are going somewhere like Fivver. Each of these processes may take several weeks so make sure they are carried out well in advance of your publication date.
This should be undertaken five months prior to publication. I will probably cover this in more detail later. But the more you want your book to be taken seriously, the better the cover design has to be. Books are judged by their cover. This will mean bespoke and can be expensive. If you don’t like the results you are being shown then say so, redesigns should be part of any agreement you make. If stock photos are being used make sure the correct rights have been purchased. You don’t want to get sued or have to withdraw your book the day after its launch date. Another problem with stock photos is they could turn up on someone else’s front cover. Also, don’t forget taglines and the blurb for the back.
Unless you have a flair for design and the time, don’t do your own cover. Advice that I may regret not taking myself.
The rear cover isn’t as time-sensitive as the front because you need the front for promotional purposes long before you need the rear. A wraparound cover always looks more sophisticated.
Set Up A Publishing Company
It’s just more professional to have a unique logo and name on the book rather than CreateSpace. Also, remember that the logo will need to go inside the book, on the spine and the rear cover. So this will have to be ready for formatting interior and final cover design.
You know it’s serious when you buy these. If you are using your own company name (even if it’s your own name) then you will need an ISBN. Amazon will give you one for free but they then become the publisher and this will lead to problems farther down the line if you want to publish it elsewhere and expand your empire.
You will need one ISBN for each format; e-book, paperback, hardback etc. You can buy them in batches of ten which makes them much cheaper.
ISBNs can be bought from Neilsen’s Books in the UK. In America it’s Bowker. Once bought, you then register the book to the code. Make sure you have these a few weeks prior to final full cover and interior formatting. The ISBN needs to go on the rear of the book and inside.
Publicity and Advertising
Have an author webpage with direct links to where your book is sold. Also, this will give your fans somewhere to subscribe and allow you to build up a mailing list. I will be using Mailchimp for this. They supply that annoying pop-up that asks you to subscribe, this then keeps a record of subscribers and through Mailchimp you can send e-mails to promote future work. Mailing lists are important but to build one without a product is difficult and time-consuming. Use your first book to build the list, have a link in the book to your site.
Mailchimp is free until you reach a certain amount of subscribers. Websites can be free unless you want a domain name. I use WordPress which is only £3 a month.
Book promotion sites – there are loads of these, some are free and some aren’t. These are sites that will publicise your book to its members either by email or by putting your book on their site. The paid for ones are the best, prices can start from a few pounds. BookBub is probably the best paid site but this means it costs more. Price depends on several factors including the genre of the book. But if you are on a budget use the free ones.
Amazon and Facebook advertising can both be used to target your readership, but these deserve a blog of their own so I won’t go into them here. Don’t forget you will need to create the advert graphics which will also cost money.
Timeline Before Publication Date
This is a basic outline just to give you an idea. Each one of these stages can contain multiple tasks. The more time you have the better. Ideally, a year before publication would be best.
6 Months Plus – Create a website and try to build some interest and start a mailing list.
5 Months – Create or source a cover which could take a long time and you’ll want it early for promotion.
3 Months – Proofread and edit.
3 Months – Sort out advertising and book promotions. You may need to book your release date slot.
2 Months – Company name/logo.
2 Months – Purchase ISBN.
2 Months – Final proofread
2 Months – Finalise the wraparound cover. The ISBN and logo will need to have been done earlier depending on your designer’s turnaround.
Upload to Amazon.
Proofread a proof copy.