Self-publishing isn’t “self” publishing. Sure, it’s true that with the advent of digital technology, publishing a book is now easier and quicker than ever, and not nearly as intimidating. But it takes a team of professionals to publish a quality literary work.
Is it possible to learn the technical aspects of designing a template, setting the styles and uploading the finished product to an online store? Sure! Does Amazon make the technical side of self-publishing seem easy? Certainly! But this only scratches the surface of what self-publishing is all about.
As a new author, you’ll want your first book to be well-written, well-edited, and polished in its presentation and design, accompanied by a clear and concise plan for getting it into the hands of your target audience.
Self-publishing involves more than the “self” who is writing the book. For the best product, certain professionals need to play a role: editors, text layout specialists, graphic designers and marketers.
Let’s Start with Professional Editing
This is the perfect time for a quote I read somewhere: “The only pages that don’t need editing are blank.”
Whether you are attempting to publish a five-page white paper or a 500-page how-to manual, professional editing is a must! Publishing a book worth reading begins with an author placing his or her draft manuscript into the capable hands of a skilled editor who works with the author to shape, organize, correct, and clearly present the author’s thoughts and expertise relative to the subject matter and its intended audience.
Unfortunately, some authors choose to skip this step and go straight to publishing, only to face criticism for the book’s unprofessional presentation and myriad typos. Although no one is perfect, editors are the first line of defense against an author publicly embarrassing him- or herself.
Working with an editor for the first time can be daunting. This is why you must take the time to vet prospects in order to find the editor who is right for you. Places to find experienced editors are reputable self-publishing websites, such as Reedsy, Blurb, and Bookbaby, to name a few. For a fixed fee, some editors will do a trial run of up to 75 pages or roughly 20 percent of your book.
If you would rather work with an editor with a particular background or experience in a legal subject matter, posting a query on LinkedIn can garner several recommendations.
When working with an editor, be open to suggestions. Do not take critical comments personally; the goal is to improve your manuscript. Many of the comments will make you think twice about why you wrote what you wrote and whether it’s even relevant to the reader.
It is not uncommon for there to be three, four or even five rounds of editing. In most cases, the level of editing may differ with each round, possibly starting with organizational and conceptual editing, then on to a less-invasive form of editing known as copy editing, then finishing up with a round of simple proofreading.
Be patient. Editing is a process that can take several months.
Text Layout Design and Production
Many books are formatted in either Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign, so it pays to use someone who is knowledgeable in one or both software programs. From developing templates to customizing stylesheets to choosing fonts, it takes time and effort to design and layout the pages in the most functional way for the intended audience. The page designer also should be familiar with converting a finished manuscript to eBook format, whether Kindle (.mobi) or ePub.
Reedsy, Blurb and Bookbaby also are good for locating experienced text layout specialists.
Don’t skimp on cover design because people really will judge your book by its cover. Your book cover is the window through which potential buyers will view your book. It is the sole reason why most people will stop to investigate what the book is about.
Seek a professional graphic designer with experience designing for your genre. Designers can be found through several freelance websites, such as Fiverr, 123Employee and Upwork.
Vet the person by requesting references and work samples. Once you’ve settled on one, provide the graphic designer with as much guidance as you can. Offer a summary of the book highlighting the key points or major characters, along with examples of the type of cover you are hoping to have.
Bear in mind, however, that an experienced designer will rely on his or her skill in choosing the right art, image and typography for your genre. Design is subjective, but as an author, you must be open to suggestions from the designer. Designers work best when they are not micromanaged — they only want to steer you toward a creation that best suits your genre and your personality.
The final design should take into account the typical size of a cover appearing on Amazon and other e-Bookstores. Cover design also should carry through to your marketing materials so that you can develop a recognizable brand.
Marketing Your Book
Marketing is probably the most important stage and needs to be mapped out well before the release of the book. Many self-published authors tend to handle their own marketing — but if selling your book is your ultimate goal, then be prepared to put a lot of time, effort and dollars into promoting it.
Know who your primary audience is before you even finish writing your first paragraph so that you can build a targeted marketing strategy.
Use social media to your advantage. Join groups where your primary audience can be found and offer snippets of your book. Let the reader into your world by sharing your journey as you write. Building a following prior to launch almost guarantees that your book will sell once it is available.
Enlist friends, family and colleagues by asking them to help promote your book by sharing your posts for a broader reach.
Although not inexpensive, there are reputable freelance book marketers who will work to set your book apart from the competition and look for ways to distribute the book as widely as possible. In addition, publishing your book through print-on-demand companies, such as IngramSpark and CreateSpace, can offer distribution to libraries, international buyers and the like.
Why Do It?
There are several reasons why a lawyer would want to self-publish a book:
Building authority in your niche
Getting more exposure for your business
Reaching more people with your message
Attracting new clients
Diversifying your income
To leverage your book to achieve any of these goals, you must focus on the quality of the content and its presentation. My advice to you is, do not try to accomplish this on your own. There is no quick and cheap route to self-publishing a quality piece of work.