I've just finished (really this time) Self-Publishing my first official book. Let much rejoicing commence!
Available on Amazon.com
Available for Kindle
Available for Nook
Along the way, I've learned a lot about self-publishing. I've read commentaries, articles, How-Tos. I've even had a rather successful self-published author as a mentor, who has given me tips and guidance that you can't find in any Manual.
There are some tips you see all the time in the How-To world of self-publishing, tips that I either scoffed at or shrugged at. Tips that usually involved spending rather large quantities of money on your materials.
But what about those who don't have much excess cash on hand for their project? Or any at all?
It's hard to justify, at times, putting a lot of money into a project when there is no guarantee of getting money out of it. This is what makes the publishing world so hard to break in to, because you have to convince a publishing house that your book will not be a sink hole. And of all the books in the world, all the hopeful authors who send millions of queries in every year, yours being the one they choose is a rare occurrence. Which is also why self-publishing has taken such a rise.
But you see a lot of the time tips like -- Have a professional design your cover. Have a professional layout your book for press and print. Don't do it yourself.
There are merits to these tips-- merits that I have discovered. But you can also merge the two.
If you have an artistic eye and a mind for the publishing industry, go ahead and design the cover yourself—but unless you have the programming capabilities to make it a high-res print-quality file, get a professional to do it for you. Pseudo programs will not work. And if you want your paying customers and friends to pay for a blurred, shoddy quality book, you will not be pleased with the ultimate results.
I designed the cover of Shifted myself. The first printing came out beautifully, but at the same time it was really blurry, because the programs I have do not give me the option of saving high-res. For most print materials, you need to have an image quality of at least 300 dpi or your text-- title, author name, description-- will be blurry. And if you can't save high-res, it won't be high-res, even if you use high-res stock images. Which you can't determine are high-res or not, without the proper measuring tools.
For the reprint, I then got a good friend who is a professional, studying artist, to redo the design. She had the requisite tools needed to make my cover over 300 dpi in quality, and the second printing came out spectacularly. So on that front, I did a combination of professional and self. I will be getting her to help me from now on, and I will also be setting aside some money to pay her. It won't be much, but I respect her work, and as a professional, she should not be expected to work for free.
The other major element that will affect the quality of your book, beyond the writing, is layout. You have to know how to typecode your book, and if you don't know how to do that-- or what that is-- you need to have a professional help you. Luckily, I am in that industry, and so I was able to do that on my own at the very basest of levels. Now I may pay another good friend to do fancy layout details with other, more advanced programming down the road. I hope to get to that level soon. But if you know how to use style sheets and coding in as little as Microsoft Word, you can format a viable document for printing.
After that, the main question is: where? Where do you upload your book? I personally used Create Space, through Amazon.com, and then Kindle (the Amazon eBook) and Nook (which is Barnes & Noble, and the other major player in the eReader industry). You will need both Kindle and Nook in your repertoire if you want to publish an eBook, and the way people read these days almost demands that you put out an eBook version of your work. All of them were incredibly easy to use and upload-- it took me about a week to get both eBooks uploaded, just by downloading the Microsoft Word document of my book. It used to be you had to do a special layout and format called an 'ePub' for eBook editions, but the programming has advanced so far that it seems you no longer have to do this. You still can, if you want to use the fancy layout as I mentioned before, but it is not necessary.
Another tip I learned is that the more reviews your book gets on Amazon.com, the more visibility it has, on a purely marketing level. So when you distribute your book, either for free or for sales, ask for those reviews, bump those reviews. You will have so much more visibility just through mathematical formulas in search terms than you will if you just have a book floating out there bereft.
There is so much more out there, now that I've got the book published just on the marketing side, that I haven't even touched yet. My journey will continue. And as I plough through my next book, which is in the works, I will learn even more that can be applied to novels to come, making each and every new publication stronger and better.
Besides, when it comes to books, there is nothing at all like holding your book in your hands for the first time.