Over the years, self-publishing has become much more than just a 'last resort' for desperate authors.
It is sometimes surprising to learn how many people write as a hobby. And while preparing and finishing a manuscript is a whole challenge on its own, getting your work published can be frustratingly difficult.
It is no secret that there is not much money to be made from books. As such, traditional publishing houses are very picky when it comes to the works they choose to sell. And the more 'niche' or experimental the genre of your manuscript is, the more likely it is to see rejection after rejection – if you even receive an answer at all.
However, thanks to digitalisation and more flexible printing technologies, it has perhaps never been a better time to become a self-published author. As the concept can be a bit overwhelming at first, it is important to keep a few key guidelines in mind.
First of all, DO take time to determine where you want to go with your project. When it comes to self-publishing, you basically have two options: spend money or spend time. If you have the budget, you can simply hire freelancers for proofreading or editing as well as for cover design. However, you can substantially reduce the cost of self-publishing if you are willing to invest the time to learn certain skills yourself. Basic layout and cover design are not too difficult to learn with the right tutorials. If you are able and willing to spend a little bit of extra money, hire someone to professionally proofread/edit your manuscript.
DON'T fall for scams that make you pay huge amounts of money in advance. Besides granting full creative freedom to the author, the whole appeal of self-publishing is that it allows practically everyone to publish their work easily and at a low price. Look for services working with on-demand printing, meaning that books are only printed once an order has been placed. Excluding any optional commissions for work done by freelancers, you should not be paying more than a service fee of – at maximum – €20 to have your book published.
DO keep in mind that everything is on you, including marketing. How much you spend on marketing really depends on what you want to achieve. If you are fine with just having a book out and available for order through the traditional channels, then you can skip marketing entirely and rely on good old mouth-to-mouth advertising. If you have the money and really want to push your book as hard as possible, then marketing will probably be your biggest budget of all. Proper marketing is insanely expensive, so be smart about it. Try and choose the most effective tools for a very specific target group.
DON'T expect too much. Self-publishing can be a very empowering experience but only if you approach it with a healthy mindset. The book market is incredibly harsh, even if you somehow manage to convince a publisher to publish your book. The beauty of self-publishing does not come from the fact that it is an "easy road to success", if anything, it is a heck of a lot more difficult. Instead, self-publishing opens up a path for more experimental or niche works and grants the author full creative control. If you're not looking to make any significant amount of money, or even reach a sizeable audience for that matter, but think you can appreciate publishing your own book just for its own sake, then you're in for a wonderful journey!
DO take inspiration from professionally published books. This tip mainly goes if you decide to handle most of the layout and design yourself. Even if you learn how to do it, you may be a bit overwhelmed at the beginning. If that's the case, feel free to browse through some of your favourite books, ideally ones in a similar format that you're aiming to achieve. Look at the font, spacing, and general page design and imitate what you like for your own book.
DON'T be afraid to ask for help! Even if it is called "self-publishing" that doesn't mean you have to do it all by yourself. If you have any friends or relatives who have a skill that might help you with your book, feel free to ask them for help.