10 Questions About Self Publishing

15 Oct

A lot of people are interested in self publishing.  I’ve put together the top ten questions I’m asked.  While I’m no expert, I do think some of the answers might be helpful to those of you thinking about self publishing.  This is a summary of a discussion with the Rehoboth Beach Writer’s Group.

1. Why Did I Self Publish?

Because I’m not Condeleeza Rice or Tom Wolfe.  Publishers weren’t waiting with baited breathe for my book.  Heck, I’d never written a book before.  My topic is regional.  And, even if I’d found a small regional publisher, I’d still have to do all the marketing.  So why not do it myself?

Self publishing is part of a larger movement of artists taking control of their message, market, and money.  We’ve seen the growth of the indie artist in filmmaking and with music.  Finally seeing the rise of the independent author.Self publishing is 20% writing and 80% marketing. I was comfortable with doing the marketing, given that I do fundraising, marketing, and events in my day job…

2. How Did I Get Started?

I’d been thinking about this project for a couple of years.  Several of my fellow columnists at Letters from CAMP Rehoboth had published.  I had to wait until I felt I had enough material to do the book I envisioned.

The first thing I did was to translate my motivations for writing the book into three goals that would guide all my subsequent decisions and actions.

  • Use this book to help further establish me as a Delaware writer.
  • Produce the best book I could.
  • Sell 1,000 copies within the first year.

3. Why Did I Set Up My Own Publishing Company?

I wanted total control.  I wanted to maintain all rights.  I thought it would be fun.  I have other books and products in mind.

4. How Did You Determine Your Audience?

This is just as important as the story.  I believe you need to think about the audience early on.  As a self publisher, it has major implications for how you write, design, and sell the book.

My market:

  • Those who know Rehoboth, those who have heard of Rehoboth. those who might be visiting Rehoboth.
  • Geographically expands out from Rehoboth to Mid-Atlantic cities.
  • Locals, second home owners, the summer crowd, and visitors.
  • Gay and straight people.
  • Those who might read it on the beach or buy it as a souvenir or gift.

I created a value proposition, i.e. what does the reader get in exchange for buying this book?

A unique resort requires a unique book, and this book provides readers with exactly what’s missing in ordinary travel guides and websites:  insights, heart, humor, and a curiosity that leads the reader into parts of Rehoboth no other travel book can.

Knowing my value proposition helped me ensure that my book would deliver to the reader.

5. How did you come up with the look and design?

This was the fun part, envisioning the book. It was also challenging.

I spent a lot of time in book stores. Which books did I gravitate towards?  Which books caught my eye?  Small ones did.

  • My stories are vignettes, would work well in a small sized book.
  • A small book easily fits into a beach bag.
  • A small book fits nicely on a front counter at a store.
  • A small book makes a nice gift.
  • A small book makes a collection of short stories feel bigger.
  • A small book feels unique.

Many experts say the title and cover design are perhaps even more important than the content because you have to inspire someone to pick it up.

Google “how to select a good book title” and you come up with over 250 thousand results.  Most experts say you need something memorable + something that tells you exactly what the book is about.  They say the title and the cover should be the last thing you do.

I came up with a title early on.  I wanted a title that could serve as a touchstone to guide me and keep me true to my value proposition.  If I needed to change it later on, so be it.

The experts say a title should be short.  My title was long.

The experts say a cover should be simple and bold.  It should catch your eye on a table with hundreds of books.  My cover is busy, but rather than repel you, it pulls you in.

I wanted a title that reflected the character of the book and something that said Rehoboth but in a different way.  I wanted something that would work for my audience and help deliver my value proposition.  I got a lot of advice then went with my gut instinct.

6. Did You Use an Editor?

Absolutely.  I definitely recommend hiring an editor or a “book doctor.”  Self-publishing companies offer this sort of expertise for a cost, but something told me they probably didn’t have my best interests at heart.   I wanted someone I could have some dialogue with and talk about things.  A real partner in the venture.

I hired a friend who was also a graphic designer. With her assistance we cut things, added things, combined things.  She suggested where some re-writing might be in order.  Together we brought my vision to life.

7. How did you pick a Publisher?

There are a lot of options out there.  I read a lot of articles, blogs, and customer comments.  Personally, I was leery about companies that offered turn-key services and promised to market your book.

In the end, I picked an author services company (CreateSpace owned by Amazon.com) that wasn’t going to cost me too much and that was going to meet my five key needs I identified:

  • Print on demand.  Didn’t want boxes of books in my basement.
  • Customer fulfillment.  Didn’t want to do it myself.
  • National marketing platform.  Get it on Amazon.
  • Easy to create e-book.
  • Allowed me to keep all rights and be the publisher.

8.  How did I settle on $17 price?

I looked at similar and competitive books and I spoke with merchants who were interested in carrying the book.  What I learned was that anything under $20 could be considered an impulse buy.  $20 is the new $1.  The price felt right for a small book, for a gift, and for a souvenir.

9. How did you create a marketing plan?

I took advantage of my job skills and experience.  I established my goals.  For each goal, I put forth objectives, which were the things I need to do to reach my goals.  Then, I continued to break it down, fleshing out the objectives with the specific actions.

Two things I’ve learned about marketing:

  • Must stick with it.  I try to do one thing per day, even if it’s just something as simple as returning an email or posting something on my book blog.
  • You have to be creative in finding ways to promote your book because people get tired of hearing the same thing over and over again.

10.  Have you made any money?

I have made a profit.  I could have made more if I had served cheaper booze and wine at my book parties!

One Response to “10 Questions About Self Publishing”

  1. marilyn margaret October 18, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    This is incredibly generous and insightful information, and entertaining to boot! Thank you, Mr. Barnett… m.

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