Not-Quite-DIY Self-Publishing Tips

So the day I’ve been waiting for—the day I’ve been working for—has arrived. My debut novel DEAD SIZE is published! (Through self-publishing, to be precise.) It’s now out there for all the world (or at least some of it) to see and, I hope, enjoy.

But first people have to know DEAD SIZE exists. They say that the writing is only half the battle, and they, whoever they are, are right. Marketing, especially if you’ve chosen the self-publishing route, is the key to writing success. Writers write. Working writers finish what they write, promote it, then move on to their next project. Again and again.

Before I begin enumerating my efforts in self-marketing, let me use this post to run down what it took (in U.S. dollars) to publish my book.

Professional editing- $500
Book cover design- $399
Ebook distribution service- $249
ISBN- $250
Copyright- $35

Let’s review each of these in detail…

Professional editing: If you’re going to take writing seriously as a vocation, you need to treat it like a business. A book, much like any other product, needs quality control. Hiring a professional editor is an effective way to ensure you’re putting out a quality product. While I paid only $500 for my editor (thanks to a referral from a friend), I have seen editors charge well over $1000 per project. Do not skimp on this step. A book riddled with errors will sink faster than a dinghy shot full of holes. Try not only to find the best deal, but also the best editor for your project (someone who enjoys reading your genre, for instance).

Book cover design: For my cover art, I utilized the website 99DESIGNS.COM. 99designs is a “design marketplace” where you set your price (in my case $399), describe your project and what you’re looking for, and graphic designers from all over the globe compete to come up with a winning design. If you have the money ($299 is the minimum investment), this is a fruitful and fun way to find the right cover design for your book. I had 39 designers submit work, totaling 170(!) designs between them. Not bad. Of course, not all the submissions are blue-ribbon, but there were enough skilled designers proffering original work that I had several great-looking potential covers to choose from.

Ebook distribution service: I used BOOKBABY.COM to convert and, ultimately, distribute my book for the Nook, iPad, Kobo, etc. I paid for the premium package because I wanted to review a proof of the MS Word-to-ePub conversion before it went out to retailers. You can pay as little as $99 for Bookbaby’s basic distribution service ($149 with conversion), plus a $19 maintenance fee each year. Yes, you can do the conversion yourself (using a free program like calibre) and distribute your book yourself to each retailer instead of going through a service. I didn’t want to go through the hassle, so for me signing up with Bookbaby was worth it (at least for my first novel). The only exception was, on which I published directly (i.e., not through Bookbaby). I’ll talk about Amazon’s KDP Select program in another post.

ISBN number: For ebooks, you don’t need an ISBN to publish on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but other retailers may require it. That said, I figured my book should have one to cover all the bases. You can buy a single ISBN from BOWKER.COM for $125, or 10 ISBNs for $250. Since I expect to write and (self)publish more books in the future, the 10-ISBN package was the better deal. (NOTE: You need separate ISBNs for each digital and print edition of your book). If you go through an ebook distribution service like Bookbaby, they often can supply you an ISBN for a nominal fee (around $20), but typically they will be listed as the publisher on retailers’ sites. How much this matters to you will determine which route you should take.

Copyright: Yes. You need it. Not only does it help protect your work, having one makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. (United States Copyright Office website)

So my total expenses to prepare and publish DEAD SIZE came to $1433. You can save quite a few bucks here and there depending on how much of a self-publishing do-it-yourselfer you are. Just remember, putting out a professional-looking book is pivotal to make people want to buy it (and review it favorably). Do not cut corners on quality.

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