During lockdown, among the many interests people took up, penning their autobiography, or getting that novel written, scored high. So now you have it, the almost-completed manuscript… is self-publishing the next step?

DIY-ing your book is a modern-day option. Established publishing houses are choosy; they want a proof-read, tight manuscript, beautifully copy-edited and they’d even quite like you to design the jacket too! And of course their editors will be fast to point out what can be improved. There are so many alternatives out there it’s all a bit of a minefield. I’m hoping to help any would-be authors by wading through the process and giving you clear directions.

Traditionally, an author writes a book then approaches a publishing house direct – or finds an agent who will hopefully recognise what a marvellous work you have produced, hooks you up with a publisher who then recognises your incredible talent, gives you a humongous advance and you go on to become a world famous author/millionaire. Dream on. In reality that would be a rarity.

Self-publishing, aka vanity publishing, is a viable alternative and more and more people are choosing this method to get into print. It’s not that complicated – a little more time-consuming perhaps should you wish to take care of the whole process yourself – but, there are many companies out there to give you a helping hand.

Chapter one
Where do you start? First, write your book. Done that? Great… that’s the hard bit over. Next you have to prepare your masterpiece for the platform you wish to use. You don’t want your work to be llittered with typos or inconsistencies, spelling mistakes or grammatical errors so you have to be honest with yourself and fess-up to the bits you aren’t good at. Personally, I’m rubbish at proof-reading as I read, write, and type quickly and don’t see typos even when they are jumping out of the page and screaming at me. If you are pedantic, thorough and fastidious, then go for it and proof the manuscript yourself. If, like me, you are lacking on those fronts, then either engage a professional proof-reader or, if you need this to be as cheap and cheerful an exercise as possible, ask someone who is capable of doing the proofing, to do it for you.

Don’t confuse proof-reading with editing – it is completely different. A copy editor is there to say useful things like: “That’s dreadful – you need to change it,” or “Repetition – use a different word or phrase”. Engaging a professional copy editor is a sensible step because even a short story can be improved by a fresh pair of eyes. The typical editing cost for the average 60,000 word manuscript will include proof-reading and is likely to be around €1,500. And formatting is important – your masterpiece has to read properly and the pages need to be uniform, the chapters aligned and the numbering correct. A little bit of technical know-how will go a long way at this stage.

Chapter two
Right, you now have this wonderful manuscript which is ready to be unleashed upon the world. Think about the cover of the book, or jacket as we literary types like to call it. Again, be honest with yourself – do you have the skills to design a jacket and the blurb that goes on the back cover? If not ask someone who does!

Graphic design companies will work with your ideas or come up with alternatives. Costs vary but one interesting and inexpensive way of doing it is to approach a local college and ask the art teachers if their students might be interested in designing a book jacket and offer a prize! The jacket needs to be spot on if you are planning to produce hard copies – it has to engage immediate interest.

You are nearly there! The next step is to decide which platform you want to use. The one that will spring to mind instantly is Amazon but, beware! Amazon takes roughly half of the cover price as commission.

There are other costs, too: printing for starters. A book selling at €10.99 will leave you with the princely sum of about €1.50. However, Amazon offers a print-on-demand service which means that anyone wanting to buy a copy of your book can buy it either in e-reader format or a real life book with pages.

Again, there are agencies able to make this process easy but, there is a fee. For around €500 your book will be formatted, listed on Amazon, a sample made available to prospective purchasers and basic marketing. There are many reputable companies around who can take care of the process of uploading your manuscript and actually listing it with Amazon for sale. If you decide to do it yourself, do your research – every book needs an ISBN – the number which identifies it against all others around the world, and you need to spend time arranging this.

Let’s talk marketing. Are you adept at writing a press release? Do you have any contactsi in the publishing/media world? Consider the time you have available to dedicate to your book and whether you feel confident about handling this aspect yourself.

You can, of course, relinquish all responsibility and hand over to a company who will look after absolutely everything for you including registering for Public Lending Rights (PLR), through which you, the author, receives a royalty every time your book is borrowed from a library. Are you confident about managing this yourself or would you like a company to do it for you?

Having toured the websites of the many companies offering every service imaginable, I think a mish-mash of you and them would probably be the answer to all of this. Write the book, have it proofed and copy edited then think about the jacket. The photograph you fancy may be subject to copyright, in which case you will have to buy the permission.

How you handle the whole process is your call. You can self publish quietly and do most of the work yourself; you can invest and remain in control but have the marketing tools and professionalism of an established company behind you; or you can approach an agent or a publisher and hope for the best.
But, whatever you do, write that book! Because, you never know!

Words: Dawn Annandale

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