November 25, 2015 - If you are like most right-brained, highly creative people, you are much more interested in the look and feel of your book and its message than you are in the rules of grammar, details of print and digital formatting, or technical specifications for clear, crisp images on the page. In days gone by, publishing houses took care of all these details and even went out of their way to provide their most popular and finicky authors with stipends and secluded retreats to nurture their creative sensibilities. Writers wrote, and the publishers took care of the rest.
These days, as the world of book publishing shifts like sand beneath our feet, many writers are choosing to step into the business of publishing themselves, and even successful mainstream authors are leaving traditional publishing houses in order to self-publish. What does this process of self-publishing mean for the right-brained among us?
There are five main functions performed by the traditional publishing house which self-publishing authors have to pick up – or hire someone to do – themselves: manuscript editing, document formatting, book cover design and formatting, “galley” proofing, and the “business” end of copyright/Library of Congress filing, determining sales channels, financial accounting, and so forth. Book printing and distribution is easily handled by today’s print-on-demand companies, but the author is ultimately responsible for all the pieces that go into this.
Many print-on-demand companies offer these services for a separate, up-front fee. You can also hire an author services firm or, as I like to call myself, a “personal publisher” to carry out these tasks and interface with the print-on-demand company for you. A third option is to hire out each of these tasks independently or call on the help of your left-brained friends.
The process, in a nutshell, usually goes something like this:
- The finished manuscript is edited for grammar, punctuation, spelling, typo’s, etc., as well as content, clarity, or style, if you choose. (Everyone can benefit from an editor who isn’t their mother.)
- The edited manuscript is then formatted for printing or e-book publication. I generally include creation of the copyright page in this step, along with any other front- or back-matter you desire. Print-on-demand companies, as well as traditional printers, have specifications that need to be met, such as paragraph ‘style’ usage and image properties, and you will want margins, headers and footers, fonts, chapter titles, etc. formatted for the look you want. E-book formatting, though different, is simple in principle, but in my experience it always requires at least a step or two into geekdom, if not a little html, to make it come out right.
- Next, both print and e-books require a cover, which is a blend of artistic design, marketing copy, and specific technical requirements.
- At this point, the book and its cover are uploaded to the print-on-demand and/or e-book publishing site, any technical issues are resolved, and the final copy is proofed before it goes on sale.
- Many print-on-demand companies let you set your own list price and royalty. Often, various distribution packages are offered. The print-on-demand company lists your book, fulfills orders, and sends royalty checks to you. You may purchase copies of your book at a discount to sell yourself. Some companies provide a link you can put on your website which allows them to handle purchases directly from your site. You, of course, are responsible for all marketing and promotion, including the book description, reviews, etc. that show up on Amazon and elsewhere.
The good news is, you control your rights, content, and design; you can publish quickly; and you don’t have to mess with shipping, storage, or sales transactions – unless you want to. And while it’s no longer free from the publisher, the option is there to have your book “self-published” for you – while you get down to the business of writing the next one!