Publishing your own book—no stigma needed!

Even as nontraditional publishing continues to grow—there is still a stigma attached to self-publishing. I’ve read the articles, I’ve seen the tweets. There is still a pervasive belief that self-publishing is somehow “settling”—and probably your only option because you were rejected by all the traditional publishers.

That, of course, is nonsense. For many authors, self-publishing—independent publishing—makes the most sense creatively and financially. These are the authors who have done their homework. These are the authors who are original and creative—and who know what it takes to run a successful publishing business. The quality of their books—both the way the work is written and edited, and the way it looks physically—matches that of those put out by large traditional houses.

Potential readers pick up their books not knowing—and not caring—who the publisher is. (Do you know who Stephen King’s publisher is? Do you care?) I’ve been criticized for saying that a well-done self-published book should not be identifiable as such; apparently it’s somehow “immoral” or “misleading” to put out a quality, top-notch piece of work. Eh. Whatever.

Indie publishing is here to stay, and I hope as more authors do it “right,” any remnant stigmas ultimately fall to the wayside.

Meanwhile, though, how do you make sure your book does not scream SELF-PUBLISHED and is judged by its cover and its content? Assuming you have a unique, compelling manuscript in the first place, here are some tips:

  • Have your own publishing company imprint and your own ISBN prefix. Head over to Bowker and buy a set of ten numbers—or a hundred if you have more than a few titles planned. If you are truly self-publishing (ie, not going the subsidy route), your publishing company must be listed as the publisher of record. If you’ve got Outskirts or Author Solutions or others of their ilk listed, they are the publisher—and you haven’t actually self-published. (Reference the subsidy link, above.)
  • Get your manuscript edited by a professional. Regardless of how good a writer you are, you probably cannot effectively edit your own work. I know I can’t—and I’ve been an editor of other people’s work for more decades than I care to remember. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back to read something I’ve written only to be shocked by some glaring error I overlooked.
  • Hire a professional to design your book cover. There are a lot of very inexpensive self-publishing options available today, most of which offer templated cover designs. They are all pretty awful and amateurish.
  • I recommend most authors hire a typesetter to design and layout their book’s interiors as well. If you are pretty tech savvy and can work a program such as InDesign, however, you can probably get away with formatting the interior yourself.

Don’t expect indie publishing to be easy. But do expect it to be rewarding—especially if you do it right.
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Self-publishing expert SUE COLLIER is coauthor of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, and the forthcoming Jump Start Your Books Sales, 2nd Edition. Her expertise has been featured on such places as ABCNews.com, Martha Stewart Living Radio, and Bottom Line Personal. Visit her blog at Self-Publishing Resources.

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