All right, you’ve written your book. You’ve revised the heck out of it. Maybe you’ve even found an illustrator. And now…?
If the honeymoon phase with your book didn’t wear off during the revision process, it sure will now. Because now is the time when you have to become more than an author—you have to become a businessman.
“That’s not what I signed up for!” I exclaimed out loud when I realized just how many decisions I had to make for my children’s book The Misadventures of Melvin the Missing Sock. Decisions about size, formatting, printing, pricing, marketing and distribution. I had to do math, people!
By now, however, it’s becoming clear that this is the new standard for the modern-day author.
As publishing houses continue to pass the buck of promoting to writers, many authors must shoulder far more responsibility than they thought they were signing up for. And if you plan to self-publish, you’re really in for it. I remember hours upon hours of staring at the computer screen, staring at a blank sheet of paper, and staring at my checkbook, wondering how on earth all of this would come together.
But it did come together, and that’s what I want to share with you.
Let me begin with a simple writer-to-writer admonition: have patience.
Most creative writers I know don’t get jazzed over logistics (I certainly don’t), and so this process is almost bound to be frustrating and, at times, disheartening. Don’t lose hope. If you put all that effort into writing and preparing your book for publication, you owe it to yourself to finish. And finish you will.
Once you’ve found your illustrator, you will need to decide how large the pages will be and which direction they will lie. It’s important to settle this before the illustrator begins the final drafts of the illustrations, since larger pages mean larger pictures, larger pictures mean more time, and more time means higher compensation.
I would encourage you to choose someone local. A local company may have a higher price tag, but the benefit is that you will receive much more attentive customer service than you will with a mass-production printer on the other side of the country. And shipping will be much lower (I actually went to pick my books up in person), so the final price might actually end up lower than a cheaper, mass-production printer that has to send the books across five states. Once you have decided upon a printer and received a quote, do two things:
a) Figure out your production costs per book
b) Get the printing specifications that the final file must have.
3) Hire an interior formatter and cover designer.
I recommend hiring one person to handle both the format and cover. The formatter is the person or company who will fit the final illustrations onto the page with the text. Some printing/self-publishing services offer interior formatting as part of the production package, but some authors prefer to find their own formatter. I hired mine through 99 Designs—a reputable, international platform that connects designers with writers, and manages the contracting process. My interior formatter was able to design the cover as well, using the cover images provided by my illustrator. I also found the cover designer for The Exile using 99 Designs, and could not have been more thrilled with the process and results.
If you do hire a formatter outside of the printing company, you will need to share the printing specifications from the printer with him/her. This will enable him/her to prepare the final file with all of the technical details in line, so that once the file is ready, it can be printed right away.
If you are using an online platform, such as Amazon, make sure you calculate the monthly/annual rates into your cost. I have not a third-party distributor, simply because of the heavy overhead cost, but plenty of people rely on such platforms. If you plan to ship the books yourself, find out the anticipated weight of your book (the printer can provide you this information) and then calculate the highest possible shipping cost using the furthest possible zip code.
Obviously the price must be high enough to cover both the production cost per book and the highest possible shipping cost, while still earning you a few bucks. To set a consumer-friendly price, check out the prices of other books in same genre and size category. And don’t be surprised if the price you set means you have to sell hundreds of books to break even. If you’ve written a quality book and if you go about promotion the right way, you will break even and begin to actually make some money. But again, have patience.
The price will be included on the barcode, so be sure to calculate your price prior to finalizing your book’s digital file. You will need to tell your cover designer the price in advance so that he/she can embed that onto the back cover along with the ISBN. Which leads to my next point…
The international standard book number is basically your book’s SSN. It is the numerical identity used to track the sale and purchase of your book, and preserve it as its own entity. You will need to provide your cover designer with the ISBN as well, which he/she can use to generate the barcode. Once the book’s interior has been put together and the ISBN, barcode, and price have all been embedded on your back cover, your book’s final file is ready to send to the printer!
Although most of the articles on The Inquisitive Inkpot are not as “businessy,” I wanted to throw out a straightforward help line to any author considering self-publishing or publishing in general. If you found this helpful, feel free to hit “like” and share it to anyone you think would benefit from it. And if you have specific questions, I’m more than happy to expand on this!
So here are my questions for you…
If you are an author, have you ever published or considered publishing?
If not, what would it take to convince you to pursue publication?
What is your read (pun intended) on the publication industry right now? Do you feel there is too much clutter being published, or do you believe not enough voices are heard?
Got kids? Grandkids? Nieces and nephews?
Or are you just plain curious to find out where all the missing socks go? Find out one ambitious sock’s journey by ordering your copy of The Misadventures of Melvin the Missing Sock!
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