So You Want to be a NY Times Bestseller ~ How to Self Publish Without Losing Your Mind
The Groovy-Cool Cover
You don't have to be crazy (but it helps!)
When I wrote my first book, I had no intention of actually publishing it for the world to read. I wrote it as a form of medicine. I was in a pretty ugly place and it was by way of a friend's suggestion that I write to ease the pain that was taking over my world. In short, it was my way of focusing on all the good in my life. "Just write it all down", she said. "Write down all the magick that has been your beautiful life."
I wasn't thinking about the NY Times Bestseller list. I wasn't thinking about fame and fortune. I wasn't even thinking I'd take those pages and bind them in a groovy-cool cover. I was merely trying to recall the magick and keep myself from going crazy. If you think I'm exaggerating here, you are mistaken. It was that bad. The physical pain that racked my body was enough to push me over the edge. It is a very lucky thing that I didn't have a gun. No kidding.
Being a little on the crazy side helped. A LOT. Crazy people have great imaginations. Well...at least this crazy person does. So it wasn't a stretch to imagine that I was some reclusive writer, doing what reclusive writers do before they get so famous that they have to buy an island to find any semblance of privacy. The more I wrote, the more that image helped me regain my sense of humor. Humor, like insanity, can be very powerful tools. But I digress...
So many choices...maybe too many?
A year after I began, I was pretty sure I'd said all I needed to say. To myself, that is. The same friend who had made the suggestion asked if she could read what I'd written. I sent her the whole she-bang in a PDF. As I hit the "send" button, I realized I was sweating and breathing shallow little breaths. I was kind of in a panic. But it was too late to change my mind. The file was gone and someone besides me was about to read my secrets.
The very next day she called, all excited, and asked, "So, when are you going to publish it?" I almost dropped the phone. It honestly had not occurred to me. But after we hung up, I got on the computer and started doing the research. As I look back, it seems I spent almost as much time doing the research as I had writing those first few chapters. SHEESH!
Since this whole piece is about the "how to", I'm guessing I ought to get on with that part, eh?
First off, there are as many choices as there are books. (Well, not quite. But almost.) So you need to decide what kind of budget you'll be operating with and just how far you're willing to bet...on your SELF. Because the fact is, the range is huge. Some companies charge you for every single little tiny teensy thing. (overkill? I'm making a point here!). Others demand you place a minimum order. Still others will keep a percentage of your profits. And the ones to really watch out for are those that will retain the rights to your book. In short, you must, must, must read the fine print.
Some of the companies I chose to avoid were those that required a whole lot of information so they could send you your "free guide to self-publishing". No information was accessible until after you'd given said information. Abbott Press, Tate Publishing and Author House were among those companies. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with doing business this way, but it's not my cup of tea. When I go to a website, I want information. Right now. I don't like having to fill out forms in the name of said information.
There are also quite a few print-on-demand options. Again, you'll need to decide what suits you and your book, as well as the initial investment. Not everyone has access to a couple thousand dollars in order to get their book bound and ready to read. Like I said, it takes a bit of time to do the research. But then, it took a bit of time to write your book, right? I'd say it's worth however long it takes to insure you find the right publisher for your particular aim. Just remember: keep your intention clear in your mind. Take time to breath. And don't get all in a hurry about it. This is your book we're talking about!
Library of Congress
The copyright is pretty important stuff. The Library of Congress makes it super-easy for you to submit your work and attain that copyright. You can do the whole thing online. The fee is minimal (I think it was $40) and the moment your submission is accepted, the copyright is valid. Of course, it takes a lot longer to get the actual hard copy. But that's not as important as knowing your book is now protected by law. All in all, it's a very simple procedure and you need to get it done before you publish the book.
Is that your final answer?
There are all kinds of writers with all kinds of styles. There are those who also possess the kind of brain that does well with business strategies and other such money-making skills. I don't happen to be one of them. I prefer to do what makes me happy (write) and leave the other stuff to people who know about the other stuff.
In the end, I narrowed it down to 2 companies: Lulu and Create Space. I talked to a lot of people. I asked a million questions. I hemmed and hawed and wallowed in self-doubt. And then...I followed my gut. I opted to go with Create Space for the following reasons:
- This publisher is owned by Amazon.com. Which means that as soon as you've approved your final proof, the book becomes available on both sites. Create Space and Amazon. Since Amazon happens to be the largest book seller on the planet, I thought that might be a smart move. Also, it's quite easy to have it published in Kindle edition. So you get the triple bonus.
- The initial fees were minimal. All that was required were an annual membership fee and the cost of the proof. No minimum book purchase required. It is a print-on-demand setup so you only pay for books that have been ordered. No fuss. No muss.
- ISBN: Stands for "International Standard Book Number". You have to have one of these. Most companies charge extra for it. Create Space provides your ISBN without an additional fee. It was the only publisher I found that offered this 'extra'. Made things a whole lot easier.
- Ease of submission: the software they use is super-easy and user friendly. Even if you're not an ace with graphics, you can still get it done in short order. It helps if you have your own art, but even if you don't, they have many options available. You can browse through their themes and then customize. Piece of cake.
- Extras: Create Space also offers a wide variety of other tools to help with your marketing. If you have the funds, you can access their experts and get all the help you could hope for. Again, it's all about your budget. Even if you don't utilize these "extras", there are lots of folks who can help if you get stuck. All the way around a very pleasant experience.
Drum roll please...
Did my book make it to the NY Times Bestseller list? Nope. Not yet. But then, since I had no intention of publishing in the first place, it's neither a surprise or disappointment. I wrote my book. I published it. It has a place in the Library of Congress. And it's mine. So, for me, it is a success story. But you're not me, right? So...
Here's the thing: even if you happen to be good enough to get a "real" publisher to publish your book, you're still going to have to do a whole lot of marketing your self. Book publishers are not marketing companies. And they'll tell you that from the git go. You need an agent, a publicist, a manager and a whole lot of oomph to make a gazillion dollars. At least in the beginning. Once you've established yourself as a best-selling author, it gets a little easier. (Think Dan Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Esther Hicks, etc.) I'd be willing to bet that even those writers didn't get their first book published by any big-time publishers. Even J.K. Rowling had a tough time with that first book. And look at her now! The woman has more money than God. That wasn't always the case.
What they all have in common is that they just kept writing. They didn't quit because their first book (or five) didn't get published. They wrote (and still do) because they are writers. It's what we all have in common. So, regardless of how you choose to publish or how well you sell your book, just keep writing. Write because you can. Write because you love it. Write because you must. No matter what happens...
Just keep writing.
Disclaimer: I did not promise to tell you how to become a NY Times Bestseller. I did, however, suggest that I could give you a few pointers on self-publishing. So please don't report me to the Fraud Police. I delivered (to the best of my warped ability) what the title of this Hub suggested. So there!