How To Publish Your Own Book

This indispensable guide provides much-needed help to a writer who wants to have his or her work published for the first time.

Internet pundits predict that pretty soon everyone in the world will publish his or her own book. This will be ushered by the advent of e-publishing, with the author simply uploading his or her text on the Net and having the e-publisher format it into, say, an e-matter or an e-book. Then, for a low price, anybody with Internet connection can simply download the book. If you happen to be the author in this case, this means that your readers need not go to the bookstore anymore to buy your book. In fact, if they happened to purchase your book on-line they can even have your book delivered at their doorstep.

This is really a great development. Unfortunately, there are still people who prefer to read the good old book, whether in paperback or hardbound format.

For now, allow me to discuss how to self-publish your book, that is, your real book--not an e-book. The first step, of course, is to put your best writing forward. The topic may be pretty much anything. It can be a short story, or even a collection of short stories. It can be a novel, or a romance story that is entirely based on the pigments of your imagination. Whatever it is, try your best at writing the stuff--or no one will buy it.

Think of it early on as a marketing game. Don't consider a topic that's already been beaten to death, unless you have something new to say! A rule of thumb is to pick a subject that is close to your heart, something that will give you the drive to carry on for the long haul. After all, crafting a 9,000-word text, the average length of a short book, can take you ages to finish unless you love what you are doing with a passion.

That said, let's proceed with the finished text. If you're like me and many others, you would have typed up your book text in Microsoft Word, then you would have saved it in a nice floppy disk or your computer's hard drive. Not having Microsoft Word or any other advanced Word Processor should not stop you, however, from writing your piece.

Neither do I recommend typing up your text on that good old typewriter because you definitely can't mass-produce it that way. At the very least, work with your PC's Notepad program, which is the most basic word processor you can find. Then you can format the text later to whatever book form you desire.

Have you edited your text? Are all the words spelled correctly? If you are not really a writer, I strongly advice you have an English major review it for you. You see, the grammar and spelling of your work should be flawless. After all, this is your first foray into the publishing world. It can make or break you!

Once you finally attain confidence with your text, you can proceed to the next step--transforming your text into book form. There are dozens of book publishing software in the market such as PageMaker or QuarkXPress, but if you can't afford to buy these programs, there's still a way out. Try Microsoft Publisher.

You see, Microsoft Publisher will not automatically paginate the pages for you in the right sequence. Let me demonstrate what I'm saying. Hold a single coupon bond paper in front of you and fold it crosswise. What do you have? The basic book format with four different pages, which is technically known in publishing circles as a signature.

One side is Page 1 and 2; and the other side is Page 3 and 4. Microsoft Publisher will not print that entire signature automatically, which means you have to feed the first side to your printer, then turn the paper over to the other side in order to print Page 3 and 4. This can be very confusing at first, but if you mark your pages with a pencil, you will soon be able to anticipate on what page exactly your printer will print. Nonetheless, I will not dwell too much on this since you might have opted to use a totally different desktop publishing software. Desktop publishers can work in different ways. One brand might not have the feature that the other has, and so on. If you don't know much about computers, I advise you to just visit the desktop publishing people at the nearest shopping mall and ask them to print out those pages for you.

The advantage of printing your own book is that you can print as many copies as you can. A typical print run is about 1,000 copies--so what if you don't want to print that many copies? Only self-publishing gives you a choice! With self-publishing you can print on-demand and avoid excess inventory. The downside of course is that you have to anticipate your orders well ahead of time, plus you have to stock up on paper and printer ink. Even then, that scenario is still so much better than paying a publisher for a minimum print run.

After you have printed the insides of your book, it's time to print the outside, which is the cover. There are three things you have to do to complete this task.

One, you have to secure an ISBN number. You know that series of numbers commonly found on the outside back cover of a typical book? The ISBN number is the official stamp that your book exists. Without it, your book is just an e-book and if not, a non-published material. I used to think that only bigtime publishers could have ISBN numbers until a short trip to Bowker showed me that I could secure a bunch of ISBN numbers for myself for a small fee. Once Bowker assigns you these numbers, these numbers are yours, and pretty soon your book will have its spot in the U.S. Library of Congress. Imagine that!

Second, you have to secure a barcode. You do this by going to Kagi to download LogicBar, a barcode-generating software which will enable you to generate as many barcodes as you want. By the way, you'll only need one per book, no matter how many copies.

Third, you have to print out that cover containing the cover design that you are probably very proud of by now ("How did I do that?"); the ISBN number; and, the bar code. Make sure everything is legal. Don't copy other people's design. It's not a good way to start!

Let's assume that your pages have all been printed. Next stop is the bookbinder at the shopping mall who may be able to give you a special discount for a mass-binding business that you can give him or her. Otherwise, be prepared for the cost. This could eat up to a quarter of the profit you will earn from every book sold. So the smart thing to do is learn to bind your own book, which is not impossible to do since I'd done it before. Bookbinding is, of course, entirely another subject which I shall not discuss here.

So the books are bound, and you are sitting there admiring the whole bunch, wondering how you managed to get this far without spending thousands of dollars. You may also wish to congratulate yourself. You're published!

The next and of course, peerless question is, how do you sell your book? There are two ways, you can use that lemonade mentality of yours to post your self-made flyers on every lamp-post and bus stop (assuming this is not prohibited in your city); you may also mail out your flyers to corporations and individuals (a.k.a. your friends). Or, you can scamper to the biggest book retailer on the Internet and on the planet: Amazon!

To do this, visit Amazon's Advantage program where you sign up for a deal and the Amazon guys will quickly email you how much profit you can earn from the equation, which is usually half of the selling price. I don't know about you but that to me, is better than making a deal with a regular publisher who will only give you a fixed payment for the book and that drop in the bucket called royalty (only if the book sells).

The nice things I'd discovered about the Advantage program is that by setting up your account, you are notified by email about a new order; plus you are able to track your deliveries and payments without leaving the Amazon site. Your payment is also mailed out to you so this relieves you of a lot of administrative tasks in the book business--but remember, it's still your responsibility to deliver any ordered copies to the address that Amazon designates.

If you want your book advertised at Amazon, all you have to do is send them one copy of your book and they will scan the cover and even publish reader comments about your book on their site--for free.

In the self-publishing world you have relatively more control than if you were to leave your book manuscript in the hands of an old-time book publisher.

To advertise your book even further, you might wish to write letters to your contacts or email them advising that Amazon is selling your book, and that all they have to do in order to obtain a copy is to proceed to the Amazon site. By all means, however, feel free to pursue your own advertising tactics as only you can determine in the end if which approach will work out. I admit, it's really a trial and error thing, but you know what? When your self-publishing venture succeeds you have no one to congratulate but yourself. The credit goes to you, plus more of the book profits, too!

© High Speed Ventures 2011