Self-publishing a print book is a challenge, but it can be very rewarding. A print version of your book allows you to build connections with local writers, sell your work at events, and promote yourself in ways than an ebook just doesn’t. However, it can be a costly investment, and it is important to research all of your options before getting started.
Before self-publishing, think about the demands of the product itself. Is it a book heavy with illustrations or photographs, or does it need to be a hardback or a strange shape? In which aisle of your local bookstore does it belong? What is your vision for the book in its physical form? The answers to these questions will help you end up with the perfect book.
Preparing a Book for Print
Once all the editing work has been done, a manuscript needs to be formatted for print. This is a job that can be hired out, done through an automated service such as Createspace or Lulu, or that you can learn to do yourself. If a proofreader is hired, they usually proofread once the text has been laid out, before the book goes to print. You will also need to get an ISBN (print and ebook versions of a book need separate ISBNs), and fill out the publishing details in the first few pages of the book.
A print book also needs a blurb for the back cover. This is designed to grab the reader’s attention, so it needs to include your hook. There are lots of online articles on how to write a successful blurb, and you can look into getting a manuscript assessment if you are unsure. If you have any famous or author contacts, consider giving them an early copy to read, in case they’d like to add a quote for the cover. Be careful not to be pushy here, but a note from a recognised professional can help give your title legitimacy.
If you are also publishing an ebook, note that the formatting is different, and also that your cover design may need to be different for the separate editions. Cover designs for an ebook need to look good in a thumbnail, but print designs have more flexibility. For this area, it is often best to hire an experienced book designer, as they will know how to balance all of the elements of a successful book design.
Print on Demand Service vs Local Printer vs Assisted Self-Publishing Services
Thanks to the boom in technology, self-publishing a printed book is much cheaper and more accessible than it used to be. Authors have options; they can choose whether to go with a print on demand service, to purchase several hundred copies and then sell them, or to use an assisted self-publishing service. When choosing which option to go with, make sure you know whether you need to purchase your own ISBN, or if one is included in the service—and make sure you’re aware of the pros and cons of getting a free ISBN.
Print on demand services, such as Createspace and Lulu, allow you to upload a copy of your book, and then have it printed to you in physical form. Some allow readers to purchase copies directly from the site, meaning you can link them there and they can purchase copies of your book, without having to do any work. However, some print on demand services can be similar to vanity presses. Always do research on the company first to find out what experiences other writers have had.
There are also assisted self-publishing services, which can do a range of things, including cover design, typesetting, editing and printing, depending on the service. Some even promise to get your book into bookstores. However, these usually come with a hefty price tag, and again, it’s crucial to make sure the company is legitimate before giving them any money. Do some online research, and contact your state writers centre or the Australian Society of Authors to find out if they have worked with them before.
Working with a local printer is another option. Here, you would purchase a print run of books before selling any, and then work to sell them yourself. This involves hard work and it does mean putting yourself out there, but it means you can get really involved with what you’re doing, and you have control over the complete process. If you’re looking at this route, many local writers centres have local printers they recommend.
Getting Into Bookstores
Getting into bookstores is probably the hardest part of self-publishing a printed book, but it is possible. Most bookstores order their selection from a distributor, such as TL Distribution, and most distributors rarely stock self-published books. One distributor that has been known to accept self-published titles is Dennis Jones.
Beyond using a distributor, your best bet is with local, independent bookstores. Visit your local indies and chat with the staff. Ask if they stock any self-published work, and who takes care of the store’s selection. If you’re unsure of who to contact, try getting in touch with successful self-published authors in your area to see where their books are stocked. Also ask if your local bookstore is willing to host a book launch, which will give them the opportunity to sell copies of your book, as well as bring customers in store to peruse other titles.
The Book Launch
The book launch of a self-published print book is a big deal. This is your chance to show the local book community that you exist, and get the word out there about your work. You’re much more likely to have a successful launch if you have connections in your local writing and book community, so start to attend other events and network with people as far in advance of your launch as possible. Don’t be fake about it, of course, but if you make genuine connections with people, they will be genuinely excited to support you.
You might like to ask a local writer to host your launch, or make a small speech. It’s usually best to contact someone who is successful in your genre and active in your local writing community, as they can bring people to the launch, and have some persuasion; this is similar to asking them to blurb your book. Again, this is why it’s a great idea to network in advance of planning your launch.
Most launches take place at local bookstores. This is because local bookstores have the facilities to sell books (and take EFTPOS payments), and are usually lovely venues. Contact your local independent bookstores to see if they’d be interested in running your launch, and then get in touch with your local writers centre to help promote the event.
Side note: Before your book launch, invest in a good quality pen that doesn’t bleed through paper. Most launches include a signing portion.