Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Lessons Learned from Self-Publishing

            It’s been one year since I released my book Comics Startup 101: Key Legal and Business Tips for Comic Book Creators. Since it’s my first book, and I went the self-publishing route, I thought my readers would like to hear some of the things I learned.
            I decided to self-publish my book for a few reasons. First, I wanted to keep the price low and be able to control it. It was important to me that my book be affordable so creators could buy it without putting a dent in their income. Additionally, I wanted to get out into the public quickly. I knew it would take a long time to submit to publishers, wait for them to respond, and then go through their editing process. It wasn’t something I wanted to do for this book.
            I chose Amazon’s CreateSpace program because books published through it are listed Amazon and any online bookseller who chooses to opt-in to their product offerings. It also was easy to make it available digitally on Kindle, and there were no initial print run demands. The book is only printed when ordered, and I have no obligations to order a set amount.
            How has my book performed? The sales have been in line with my modest expectations. I knew I wasn’t going to get rich of this book. It’s a short book that appeals to a narrow audience. I’ve sold 36 physical copies through Amazon and extended channels and 12 Kindle copies. I know, those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but I’m pretty happy with them. I’ve also sold an additional 10 copies in-person.
            However, there are far more copies of my book circulating among the public than what I’ve sold. I have given away a number of copies at conventions, for reviews, for gifts, and for strategic purposes. The number of free copies I’ve distributed totals 71. It’s not a surprising number. People love free books, and I’m happy to get mine  in the hands of as many people as possible. Obviously, I’d prefer they pay, but under certain circumstances, distributing free copies makes sense.
            So, what have I learned? Self-publishing is hard. You are responsible for the book from start to finish. The likelihood of someone discovering your book by accident and buying it is slim. Here are four takeaways I’ve learned.

1. Edit, edit, and edit some more.
Please, make sure to edit your book. Obviously, you’ll be responsible for doing some of the editing, but hire an editor, or find an editor willing to help you out (Hi, wife!), to edit your book. It will make it better. Looking over it once isn’t enough. Read your book so many times you’re sick of it. I’m pretty sure my wife and I read through my book at least 10 times, and each time, we’d find something else to fix or change.

2. Make it look good.
Make your book look as attractive as possible. Design a compelling cover. Make sure the interior looks great. The more professional your book looks, the more likely someone will be to buy it. Some publishers will offer basics for formatting your book, and some offer “add-on” services for a fee. Make sure you choose what works best for you and your budget.

3. Promote, promote, promote
Sadly, your great looking book won’t promote itself. You are going to be responsible for getting the word out and promoting it. Talk about it online before it’s released. Submit copies to be reviewed. Find outlets where you can talk about and promote your book. For me, I saw a noticeable sales bump every time I went on a podcast or gave a panel at a convention. You will be your best salesperson. So, make sure to get out there and promote it.

4. Profit?
Keep your expectations of profit in check. It’s possible to make good money by self-publishing, but it will probably take a while to turn a profit. You are going to be spending a lot of time, energy, and money on making and promoting your book. Make sure you understand how much money you will make on each book, and how you will get paid. If you’re self-publishing, evaluate a number of publishers and choose the one that’s right for you.

Some people look down on self-publishing. I don’t. I think there are number of valid reasons to do it, and honestly, some authors make a killing doing self-published work. If you choose to go the self-published route, keep in mind the things I discussed above.

If you’re interested in checking out my book, here’s the link (affiliate):

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