by Cat Agonis, author of Chicken on the Hudson
It’s no wonder self-publishing is appealing to the boss-free, independent workforce: you have total control over how your book is marketed and designed, you don’t have to share profits with an agent, and you have creative liberty on the contents of your manuscript.
There are many successful e-books, and many not so successful. But self-publishing can be beneficial to you in non-financial ways: it demonstrates your mastery of your trade (impressing prospective clients), and it feels like a huge achievement personally -- you can’t beat the look of your name on your shelf.
The only problem is that self-publishing can cost some major dinero. Here are some tips to maximize your visibility and profit if you’re just getting started on the indie route:
Hire an Independent Editor
Since you’ve worked so long and hard on your book, you want to make sure it’s your best before putting it out in the world. Talking to a freelance editor and hiring them to read your manuscript will help perfect the masterpiece. If you don’t have the money upfront, you can consider offering them a royalty. You can also offer to edit some of their work in return. Remember -- it’s your first debut as a writer, so no matter what, you don’t want to skip this step!
Work with a designer for your book cover
Most writers want a book cover that’s visually representative of this amazing text they wrote. Unfortunately, not all writers can also be designers, which is why you should talk to fellow freelancers who specialize in this field. Do a search for one in your area or Freelancers Union’s Member Profiles page. Finding a designer with like-minded values and interests will create the perfect collaboration for your debut book.
Start an LLC
In the writing world, there’s plenty of room for liabilities. Perhaps you got a little lazy on fact-checking your anthology of city-history essays. Your partying friend may not appreciate your portrayal of his crazy ways in your latest memoir. Publishing under an LLC is the best way to protect your personal assets.
File your own paperwork
Lawyers cost hundreds of dollars on top of filing fees just to put the right words on a few dotted lines. Most people don’t know that setting up an LLC for your indie publishing company can take literally minutes and is super simple. It may seem intimidating, but it’s really something you can do on your own.
Every state has its own system, so just google “How to set up LLC in [your state]” and find a .us or .gov link. All of the steps are clearly outlined there, and they always warn you of what your filing fees are. (Filing fees usually cost about $200, which for some may be a setback, but it's better than $400+ you’d spend getting someone else to do it).
Set up a business bank account
In order to do your taxes and keep track of your finances, it may be a good idea to set up a bank account for your business. If you already have a personal account with them, they may be able to open a business account for free as long as you keep a certain minimum.
Having a business account will also allow you to have a business credit card. (Be sure to make your payments on time!) Putting costs associated with the e-book production on the credit card can help you can itemize all of your expenses for quarterly taxes or at the end of the year.
Don’t forget your ISBN!
Really important. Super important. An ISBN is your International Standard Book Number, and it’s necessary because most retailers cannot sell your book without it. Having an ISBN will allow you to expand your opportunity to sell internationally and online.
You can learn more about how to get one through Bowker here. Bowker is the exclusive U.S. agent that manages and sells ISBN numbers. If you're wondering if you should obtain your own ISBN through Bowker, or use a freebie offered through your book printer, the answer is probably Bowker. If you plan on selling your publication in retail you'll need your very own ISBN, as the ones printing companies use are typically recycled and will identify them as the publisher -- not you.
Find a site that will print on demand
There are plenty of online organizations like Lulu and CreateSpace that offer printing on demand for all types of books. These sites allow you to upload the guts of your book, do a cover design, and put it on the online marketplace with no upfront cost. They sometimes even offer to link it up with other popular sites like Amazon and continue to print them off one by one as people order.
By doing this you do not have to pay anything per copy upfront… these sites take a percentage of each book sale you make. This is a great option if you don’t want to pay a lot upfront, and you won’t have to worry about having hundreds of books in your garage. Then you can just reap the benefits as the orders come in. Be sure to shop around and check prices.
Bring a sales sheet to your local bookstores
Once you know where you're printing, you'll want to get an idea of how many copies to order yourself to have on-hand. Start by ordering a few sample copies that you can show to retailers. Write up a one page sales sheet that includes your ISBN, the name of your book, your name, contact info, and how many copies you'd like to drop off. Also include your consignment cost. Most bookstores give 60% of the sales price to the publisher, and take 40% themselves. Just by bringing this sales sheet, a copy of your book, and talking to the people who work there can get you in plenty of stores. You'll be surprised at how many people are interested in your writing!
Use social media
Yes. It’s annoying when you say you have a company and the first thing someone says is “Start a Twitter!” or “OMG are you on Tumblr?” But people say these things because social media is really useful and free. Something like Twitter can reach thousands of people faster than you can ever do individually.
Get your book or publishing company on every social media site, and sync them up with a tool like Buffer or HootSuite. These applications allow you to schedule one social media update that will post across multiple platforms. That way, you can reach the maximum amount of readers, even when you're on the go. They also help you analyze your social media reach, and offer free and cheap, basic plans. Keep updating and reaching out to new people. Eventually your content will spread.
The cool thing about self-publishing is that you can run your project your way! These are just guidelines, but we hope they help you get a start to your new amazing text. Any self-published authors here? Share your experiences.