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I'm advising people who have text-based books no graphics, illustrations, or photos to test the self-publishing waters with an e-book before moving on to hard copies. It's much easier to produce an e-book, particularly when it comes to formatting and cover design. Once you have your book finalized in a Word or PDF file, it's relatively easy to convert it into one of the many e-book formats -- or just offer it as a download as a PDF.

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There are several e-publishers geared to "indie" authors, including Smashwords , BookBaby and Lulu, to name just a few. Please see my article " How to self-publish an e-book " for more information on e-book creation. I can't speak for all self-publishing companies, but the quality of POD books is generally quite decent. You can't do a fancy matte cover yet , but the books look and feel like "real" books. The only giveaway that you're dealing with a self-published book would be if the cover were poorly designed -- which, unfortunately, is too often the case. One of the unfortunate drawbacks of having a low barrier of entry into a suddenly hot market is that now everybody and their brother and sister is an author.

That means you're dealing with a ton of competition, some of which is made up of hustlers, charlatans, and a bunch of people in between. The growth of indie publishing in the U. While that growth has started to level off as fewer writers have unpublished novels in their closets to publish, you can still expect to go up against thousands of other motivated indie authors. Again, because the barrier to entry is so low, the majority of self-published books are pretty bad.

If I had to put a number on it, I'd say less than 5 percent are decent and less than 1 percent are really good. A tiny fraction become monster success stories, but every every few months, you'll hear about someone hitting it big for those who don't know already the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy was initially self-published. The average print self-published book sells about copies -- or two-thirds to three-quarters of your friends and family combined and don't count on all your Facebook acquaintances buying.

I don't have a source for this statistic, but I've seen this stated on several blogs and as a Publishers Weekly article titled " Turning Bad Books into Big Bucks " noted, while traditional publishers aim to publish hundreds of thousands of copies of a few books, self-publishing companies make money by publishing copies of hundreds of thousands of books.

Self-publishing a book: 25 things you need to know

You wonder why "real" books take nine months to produce -- and usually significantly longer. Well, I now know why. It's hard to get everything just right if you're a novice at book formatting, Microsoft Word will become your worst enemy. And once you've finally received that final proof, you feel it could be slightly better. This will help dictate what service you go with. For instance, if your objective is to create a book for posterity's sake so your friends and family can read it for all eternity , you won't have to invest a lot of time or money to produce something that's quite acceptable.

Lulu is probably your best bet. However, if yours is a commercial venture with big aspirations, things get pretty tricky. If your book is really mediocre, don't expect it to take off. But even if it's a masterpiece, there's a good chance it won't fly off the shelves and by shelves, I mean virtual shelves, because most self-published books don't make it into brick-and-mortar stores.

In other words, quality isn't a guarantee of success. You'll be lucky to make your investment back, let alone have a "hit" that brings in some real income. Don't quit your day job yet. This seems to be the mantra of self-publishing. Nonfiction books with a well-defined topic and a nice hook to them can do well, especially if they have a target audience that you can focus on. Religious books are a perfect case in point. Well, it's tough, but some genres do better than others. If it's any consolation, the majority of fiction books -- even ones from "real" publishers -- struggle in the marketplace.

That's why traditional publishers stick with tried-and-true authors with loyal followings. Even if you go with one of the subsidy presses for convenience's sake, there's no reason to have Lulu, CreateSpace, iUniverse , Xlibris , Author House , Outskirts , or whomever listed as your publisher. The complete list of sellers is here. Most self-publishing operations will provide you with a free ISBN for both your print book and e-book but whatever operation provides you with the ISBN will be listed as the publisher.

Your book should be easy to find in a search on Amazon and Google.

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It should come up in the first couple of search results. Unfortunately, many authors make the mistake of using a title that has too many other products associated it with it -- and it gets buried in search results. Basically, you want to get the maximum SEO search engine optimization for your title, so if and when somebody's actually looking to buy it they'll find the link for your book -- not an older one with an identical title. On a more cynical note, some authors are creating titles that are very similar to popular bestsellers. Also, some authors use pseudonyms that are similar to famous authors' names so they'll show up in search results for that author.

Check out this list of Fifty Shades of Grey knockoffs. You've written your book and God knows you'd like to just hand it off to someone, have a team of professionals whip it into shape, and get it out there. Well, there are a lot of companies that will offer to make just that happen -- and do it in a fraction of the time a traditional publisher could.

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These folks can potentially put together a really nice book for you. But I've also heard a lot nightmare stories where people come away disappointed with the process and feel ripped off. You can do a search in Google for the companies you're considering and find testimonials -- good and bad -- from authors who've used the services. Self-publishing outfits are in the game to make money. And since they're probably not going to sell a lot of your books, they make money by with nice margins.

Some of the services are worth it -- or at least may be worth it. It was good while it lasted and it helped me sell dozens, if not hundreds, of books. Personally, I'd never work with CreateSpace's in-house editors, copy editors, and in-house design people. That doesn't mean they're bad at what they do I've seen some covers that are well-done. But if you can, it's better to hire your own people and work directly with them.

Ideally, you should be able to meet with an editor, copy editor, and graphic designer in person -- and they all should have experience in book publishing. Down the road, I suspect you'll see more self-publishers offer high-end programs that pair you with a former editor from a major publishing house.

It's also worth mentioning that Amazon has become a publisher itself, with several imprints that it's either bought or created. Amazon is in the process of developing a new hybrid model for publishing that aims to take the place of traditional publishers, which it sometimes refers to as "legacy" publishers. You can see a list of Amazon's imprints here. With its flagship Encore imprint , it selects certain "exceptional" self-published titles from "emerging" authors and brings them under the Amazon umbrella so to speak.

It's a good gig if you can get it. So indie authors looking to put together a book either need training, a professional to help with the project, or some combination of the two. Brewer, a renowned surfing photographer, had worked at Surfer Magazine and Windsurf Magazine for a number of years.

For less-connected indie authors, however, the amount of work involved in getting self-published projects ready for the printers can be substantial. In early November, David Lawrence released Artists in Jackson , a portrait book featuring 15 artists who live and work in Jackson, Mich. That process took him about a month. It helped that Lawrence had worked in newspapers before, so he knew about layout and pagination.

Usually you just send in the drawings and they do all the manipulations. As always, self-published authors are exclusively responsible for the quality of their own projects.

That was one of the reasons why Galella was drawn to going indie: And, for art or photography books, the project must be pristine. A missed comma might be overlooked in the text of a novel, but a poorly printed illustration or photograph is glaringly obvious. Like Brewer, he also used Blurb and sent a draft of his completed project to have one copy printed. Brewer also uses this approach. Though Brewer has the infrastructure to mock up his own books, he still finds it helpful for more complicated projects to have an early version produced by a professional printing company.

The Indie Authors' Guide to Self-Publishing Art Books

He recalled how he once put together a limited edition art book for cancer research. All of the interior images were Polaroids, assembled in a collage. Brewer hired a printer to bang out a quick edition so he could scan for any flaws and problems that might arise. Just little things like that. It made a huge difference. As first, the system seems like it should be an easy road map to success, since the publishers are starting with stories that have already built up a fanbase.

Real Estate Japan Inc. I've heard of authors taking years between first drafts and published editions to polish and make their books perfect. The notion that any book can have any meaningful revisions written in a month is absurd, and undermines the entire premise of this story.

Either this editor expects all the people they publish to be full-time writers with no other jobs in which case, why trawl hobby writing sites for new talent or they are attacking mistakes that are so minor and superficial that there is no point in criticizing the literacy of the author that makes them. There is a garbage "literature" in Japan as there is a place like the U. If you need a heave, check out any supermarket's bestselling titles.

Absolute garbage, but authors make their money by it as surely as Billy Graham made millions pushing Christ-crud. One thing you must know. Writers in Japan work directly with publishers. Publishers give writers quotas and deadlines.