publishing

Three Phases of the Self-Published Book

So as not to leave anyone in suspense, the three phases are: (1) writing a book, (2) publishing it, and (3) marketing. I discovered (like everyone else) that each phase requires vastly different expertise.

Also, each expertise can be used only for that phase which makes things even more troublesome. What I learned from writing my novel I could not apply to publishing it nor marketing my book. I had to learn three different processes for the hope of someone to read what I wrote.

There are a lot of resources to help authors with each phase and a lot of opinions about how to be successful at each one. All this information is too much and can be overwhelming. What is useful depends on each author’s book.

No one writes the same one. Each book is unique and it is hard to choose what information is useful.

What is working for me is completing each phase before moving on to the next. I did all I could to finish my novel and dove into publishing my product without looking back. Now that my novel is available, I’m stumbling around in the marketing field trying to get people to buy it.

Each phase was difficult and I won’t go back to a previous phase. It may be stubbornness or laziness. It just seems like a lot of work to go back to editing or re-publishing. Besides, it was a lot of work getting out of each phase that I don’t want to repeat.

All these phases should not discourage a writer from beginning this journey. Just realize that it will take a little work, a change of thinking when in each phase, and that many authors succeed. The end result is worth the trip.

Self-Published Print Book and Booksellers

Things are simple for self-published ebooks. The author sets the price and the publishing company takes their share. For print, the author must choose what discount to give booksellers (30-55%) and whether to allow returns or not. If allowing returns, the bookseller can send books back for a refund. The author pays the refund.

What the author chooses determines how motivated a bookseller will sell their book.

Allowing the 55% and returns will motivate booksellers to sell the print copy in their store. However, this means the author gets less for each book and there is a risk of paying for returns. However, having a book in a store may generate more sales offsetting the cost and risk.

So, what is an author to do?

I do not allow returns. I have read horror stories of booksellers ordering too many books and the author getting stuck with a large expense. As an alternative, the author can buy their books and provide them to local stores, promising to accept returns. This way the author can limit how many books are in a store and can resupply if needed. More importantly, an author has the opportunity to sell their books in other-than-bookstores. And, readers can still buy a print book through online sites.

While I would like to offer booksellers the 55% discount, that means I must sell my book at a higher price. This could reduce sales. So, I decided on a low book price and the profit I’d like to make (it’s minimal). After these decisions, I adjusted the discount to meet my numbers.

Even with the 55% and allowing returns, as an unknown author I have little chance of a bookseller picking my book. So, I’ll stay local and online to sell my book.

Self-Publish or Bust

After several months attempting to self-publish, I hired someone to do the interior formatting and another person to do the cover. While some authors hire someone to also do the uploads, I wanted to do this and control something of the process.

Of course, my first attempts to upload the files failed. This is when I realized something.

Self-publishing is two paths. One for e-books and one for print. I had been trying to do the e-books and print at the same time.

To create a physical object in print means defining three dimensions using jargon that is meaningless to most people. With e-books, I seemed to be working in one dimension, a simpler process.

As an example, most self-publishing packages use their software to format the interior as an e-pub. With print, I must upload a file meaning I make too many decisions any of which can go wrong for no reason.

For the cover, an e-book only needs one picture and the self-publisher’s software places the cover where it needs to be. Print has a front and back side and a spine that requires fitting everything inside a template. In print, everything must be exactly exact.

So, I refocused. After all, the purpose of self-publishing is to publish something. And my genre mostly read e-books, anyway.

It did not take me long to overcome a few obstacles and upload and publish my e-book on two self-publishing platforms. I am now working on publishing on two other platforms. My confidence has recovered, somewhat. However, I have not abandoned the print.

While an e-book is what people buy (at least in fiction), a printed book is what authors want. It is something that can be touched, smelled, and felt.

I’ll get my book printed. For now, I have my e-book out and more versions are coming.

What readers look for first in a book

The aim of publishing is to get someone to read what is published. The author will not know the reader, so what can they do to motivate someone to look at their book?

People in the publishing business say the cover is what attracts readers first. I disagree. For many years I conducted an informal, haphazard, non-scientific survey of asking people I knew what attracted them to a book. Very few people said the cover convinced them to look at a book.

My survey group had a list of things they looked at first when considering a book. This included the author’s name, the genre, book reviews, and maybe the blurb. I also consider these things when looking for a book.

While blurbs are important, they are two or more paragraphs and the second thing I look at when selecting a book. I don’t look at book reviews. It’s a lot of trouble finding them and, besides, they are a stranger’s opinion.

As a reader, I look in the genre that interests me. This helps me narrow the search, but for an author their book is sitting there among many other books. On occasion I will look for an author’s name. However, I would have already read at least one of their books.

What attracts me and sometimes my survey group was the title of the book.

A few words across the front cover are the first thing people read. They may glance at the cover, adore the colors, but an interesting title will attract a reader’s interest.

P.S. I will post in two weeks my continued efforts to publish on IngramSpark. Alliance for Independent Authors gave me advice that helped.