Self-Publishing: A Simple and Inexpensive How-To Guide

Over the last several months it occurred to me that at least a dozen of my friends, relatives and acquaintences are in the process of writing a book.  Because of what I currently do for a living (Marketing Director for a mid-tier training and publishing company) a number of them have asked me for advice.  This series represents a summary of the conversations I had with each of them.

The post you are about to read will act as Part II in what will likely be a three-part series written specifically for budding authors.  In Part I of this series, 5 Reasons to Self-Publish Your Next Book, I covered the most compelling motivations to self-publish—some logistical, some financial, and some emotional.  In this posting I will cover the ins and outs of self-publishing, with the goal of demonstrating that self-publishing is not nearly as difficult or expensive as you might think.

With the above in mind, it is time to review the costs, difficulty and importance of four key steps in the self-publishing process: 1) Choosing a Name, 2) Incorporating Your New Business, 3) Getting Your Book Ready for Market, and 4) Finding an Affordable Printer.

Step 1: Choosing a Name for Your Publishing Company

Choosing a name for your new publishing company is by far the most fun and least expensive step in the process.  And the best part is, it’s your publishing company—so you can choose whatever name you want . . . almost.  Before you settle on a name, spend a few hours searching the web to make sure your favorites aren’t already taken by another publisher.  Also, for marketing purposes be sure to choose something that lends itself to an available URL, and that sounds good when you add “Publishing” or “Publications” to the end of it.  Both Network Solutions and GoDaddy will allow you to check URL availability for free.

Cost: $0
Difficulty: Easy
Importance: Mandatory

Step #2: Incorporating Your New Business

If your goal is to self-publish Grandma’s favorite recipes for the next reunion, you may skip to Step 3.  But if your future plans include multiple books, online sales, and investments in assets like computers and software, you should STRONGLY consider incorporating.  For a few hundred dollars or less, websites like LegalZoom can help you set up a Subchapter-S corporation, usually in less than a month. Running your publishing company as a corporation has a number of benefits, not the least of which are the ability to write off business expenses against income from your real job, and protection of your personal assets in certain situations if you get sued.

Cost: $139 to $369 + State Fees
Difficulty: Medium
Importance: Optional (but Recommended)

Step #3: Getting Your Book Ready for Market

There are two absolutely universal rules in the publising world:

  • Books with ugly covers don’t sell; and
  • No writer should be his or her own proofreader.

With these two things in mind, finding qualified and inexpensive help with these two tasks—cover design and proofreading—will be critical to your long-term success.  Not surprisingly, most authors lean heavily on their personal networks in these cases.  If you recently spent an entire weekend helping a starving artist or English major move out of an apartment, now is the time to cash in your favor.  Otherwise, if you have no applicable friends you can contact the Graphic Design and English instructors at the local community college for a student recommendation.  Not only will a student’s rate be significantly lower than hiring an experienced professional, but you might be able to get your project done for free as part of a class project, or as a resume-builder for a student looking to break into publishing.

Cost: $0 to $500 Each
Difficulty: Medium
Importance: Mandatory

Step #4: Finding an Affordable Printer

Finding someone who can print your book at a reasonable price is not as improbable as it sounds.  The fact is, there are companies out there who do nothing but print short runs of books for independent authors.  With just 30 minutes of work, I was able to find several that print books for less than $5 apiece, with very low setup fees.  One of these companies is called Keystone Digital Press, and offers an “Instant Price Quote” service where you can enter the specs of your book into an online calculator.  When I entered what I consider to be the specifications of a standard book (200 pages, 5.5″ x  8.5″, 60# paper, perfect binding, full-color cover) the system shot me a price of $4.20 per book for 100 copies.  Understanding these printers don’t offer a ton of flexibility—only 6 book sizes, 3 bindings and 2 paper weights to choose from—their prices leave you plenty of room to make money when you actually sell a book.  And although the 100-book minimums might seem intimidating at first, keep one thing in mind: if you don’t believe in your book enough to print 100 copies, you shouldn’t be doing this anyway.

Cost: About $500 for 100 Printed Copies
Difficulty: Medium
Importance: Mandatory

This wraps up Part II in my self-publishing series for aspiring authors.  If you would like to be notified when the next post in this series becomes available, be sure to either Join my RSS Feed or bookmark this page and check back often.  Also, if this post was truly helpful to you, feel free to reply to this post.  Otherwise a RetweetFacebook ShareLinkedIn Share or other type of social share (handy buttons provided) would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you!

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