July 24th, 2010
I’ve read a lot on blogs and Twitter recently about the question of whether self-publishing is just another name for “vanity publishing.” A little deeper is a discussion on Joel Friedlander’s The Book Designer blog, “Top 10 Worst Self-Publishing Mistakes—Explained!” A lively conversation, it takes in the “Does self- equal vanity- question.” But, with an avalanche of comments, it also gets much farther. Issues such as marketing, getting reviews, and one of my favorite subjects—the use of typefaces—are raised.
Early on I offered my prescription for success as a self-publishing author:
1. Write well about something people want to read about
I suppose I missed a chance to agree with those who put marketing research as their starting point. Admittedly, I have a bias against blind marketing and what I like to call “the selling of selling.” But the truth is, one can choose to write about a subject that has a large natural audience or is particularly of the moment. I’m momentarily finishing up work on just such a subject, about the Alaskan oil pipeline.
2. Engage an editor and, perhaps, a copy editor to make sure you’ve gotten it down and gotten it right
I know many authors are loathe to entrust their babies to another caretaker, but often after spending so much “close time” with a piece of one’s own writing, perspective is lost and the author could really benefit from another pair of eyes and a professional’s “take” on the subject and presentation.
3. Contract professional, freelance book design and page comp to give your book the best chance to attract potential readers
As a freelance book designer, I, of course, remain very big on this step. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: amateur-looking design hurts the sale of a self-published book, which already has a formidable hurdle to get over, if it is to find an audience and sell more than the typical 100 or so copies most self-published books manage to sell.
The first thing potential readers see is the cover. The cover needs to invite prospects to pick up the book, at which point they should become interested in what that cover suggests is inside. Then, when they open the book, the interior design needs to connect with the cover, sort of fulfilling the promise of the look the cover puts forth. The writing, the substance of the book, should then take over, grabbing interest of readers who are led through the lines and pages of the book by the work of the interior designer.
That’s my half of the equation. Then, too, at least from the point where the book’s writing is complete, perhaps sooner, the self-publishing author should formulate a plan for reaching the people most likely to be readers of his or her book.
Following these steps and my little coda on marketing is at least a feasible plan to getting above and beyond the 100-copies sales plateau.