In this day and age of Kindle and e-books, more and more novels and tomes are being read using an electronic device. However, many readers still relish the feel of the pages of a book, the independence from the limits of battery life, and the joy of browsing a bookstore for hidden treasures.
Authors themselves feel the draw of holding a physical book in their hands as a tangible reminder of their creation! Furthermore, publishing a print book is a great idea from a business standpoint. With only electronic copies, how would book signings go? When you encounter a fan at an event, it's easier to hand off a copy of your book than to do it electronically. Although many venues for electronic giveaways exist, an in-person exchange creates a unique impression on the reader.
Print books still have a market, particularly for nonfiction works. And even today, print books still play a role in the electronic world, since many people order print books online to be shipped to them. Plus, having a print book purchasing option provides a handy sales tool; when a print book is listed at $12.95 next to the e-book version for only $4.95, the customer feels he is getting a great deal on the electronic version!
A wide range of book mediums is available, which can all benefit you in different ways in your book sales. But before you get to that point, you must consider the required steps for self-publishing your print book.
Edit your work
Authors who publish under a publishing house have certain resources at hand, like in-house editors. As someone who is self-publishing, you'll have to make sure your own text is polished and perfect.
Even though great care and planning went into your text, it's still a compilation of fragments composed under different thoughts and moods over the course of hundreds of writing sessions. And don't forget that even the most meticulous grammar nerds make typos.
Tighten up your language
Take out words or even passages that don't add much to the book. Wordy language has put me off many books in my reading experience; it's distracting, and it prevents me from getting lost in the story. And who has the time to read a book that doesn't draw you in? Take a look at the example below, and see which one gives you the point without wasting your valuable time:
If Gabriel hadn't glanced out the window, he would have passed the evening in quiet solitude and ignorance in front of the fire, dog on his lap, drink in hand. He would have drifted away to sleep with nary a care in the world, not knowing that the rain was sweeping away his lawn furniture. Without looking outside that night, in the morning he would have discovered his front porch bare where previously there had been a table and chairs.
Gabriel glanced up to see the rainwater gush through his yard, carrying away his patio table and chairs.
Of course, there is a time and place for lengthy description, but the key to good writing is conciseness. Some experts suggest that your book should be half its length after a good round of editing.
Use synonyms to vary your expressions
In Dead Poet's Society, we learn the following wisdom:
Avoid using the word 'very' because it's lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don't use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys—to woo women—and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won't do in your essays.
Ask for editing and proofreading help
When you've been staring at your text for so long, you can miss some glaring errors. You know what you want your text to read like, but what will your readers see? Ask a friend to take a look at your book. You can also hire a professional editor from an online service like ServiceScape. The investment will bring you peace of mind as well as a polished text.
Copyrighting your book
You've created your masterpiece after months—maybe years—of dedicated hard work. You certainly want to protect it by copyrighting your creation. Copyrighting secures your rights to distribute your book, advertise it, and reproduce it.
Make sure to register your copyright with the Library of Congress at copyright.gov in case anyone should dispute your rights to your book. The process can take months, so don't wait for your copyright to go through before you submit your book for print or e-book. Once you obtain your copyright, you'll include a copyright page inside your book indicating "All rights reserved."
If you're publishing in print and electronic versions, be aware that the two mediums offer production on different time tables. E-books offer a quicker production process with fewer steps. So, if you're going with both forms of your book, plan to launch according to the time needed to process your print book, since it will take longer than your electronic version.
Some authors hold a soft launch for their e-books to gauge the critical reaction to their work before printing a hard copy, while other people like to produce both simultaneously to cater to both customers who prefer e-books and those who want a print copy.
Holding an official book launch offers you as the author the chance to celebrate your accomplishments with friends, colleagues, and other guests. This event also enables you to market your book and sell copies to adoring fans who will also ask you to sign them.
Try to plan your book launch in conjunction with another event, such as a reunion, community celebration, or festival, since the crowds will already be there. Plan ahead, leaving plenty of time for possible delivery delays of your print copies.
Think of the venue where your event will be held. Are you providing catering? Do you have a table for signing and selling your books? How many people are you expecting to attend? Will there be another form of entertainment offered in conjunction with your book launch? Perhaps you might employ a prominent figure to help promote your book to add increased interest in your event and even encourage the presence of media coverage.
Offer stacks of sales flyers in case your guests are on the fence about buying your book. Include in your flyer a photo of the book's cover, passages from the book, information about the author, and maybe a purchasing coupon. These can be simple to put together yourself, or you can hire a service to produce them, either in color or in black and white. Some services also offer an electronic version of the flyer so you can send them via email.
If the book's author is present at a book launch to sign copies, guests feel compelled to purchase a copy while they have the chance to secure the author's signature. Consider also offering a discount during the event to encourage additional sales.
A book launch provides excellent exposure for your book. However, some authors wish to not be the center of attention or can't reach their intended audience in person. In that case, there are several other options for marketing and promoting your book.
Marketing your book
When you're self-publishing, marketing can prove to be a difficult task, so you should start the process as soon as possible. When you have the delivery date for your print book, start your efforts to spread the word about your book. If you feel you're not up to the task, you can hire a publicist to do the heavy lifting for you.
Create a web site. This is essential for any Internet marketing endeavor. Always add your URL to your e-mail signature; every email you send will serve as a piece of marketing material.
If you're self-marketing, compose a list of potential buyers and their contact information. If you are marketing to a specific group, especially if you've written a nonfiction book, search online for relevant groups and stores that would be interested in selling your book.
Many bookstores sell books only from publishing houses, so you'll need to get creative when coming up with places to market and sell your self-published book. Try the following marketing destinations:
- Hotel lobbies and transport centers
- Museums and art galleries
- Writers' festivals and reading groups
- Locally owned stores and gift shops
Other places might let you display sales flyers or brochures about your book, such as libraries, newsstands, and community centers.
Compose a press release and send it to your local newspaper, journals, and other related publications. This costs you very little money and can provide excellent advertisement for your book. You might get a published book review out of the process, which is a free and effective way to generate sales.
Contact your community radio station to read your press release, and provide the staff a copy of the book. You might even target a station that typically broadcasts art programs.
Get your book reviewed. Many people base their book-buying decisions on recommendations from colleagues. Determine which reviewers will give you a favorable review in a short amount of time, and send them a copy. Remember that reviewers are not obliged to review every book they receive.
Cost of printing: Is it a deal-breaker?
Now let's talk about printing cost. In the past, authors had to shell out a massive upfront fee to print out hundreds (or even thousands) of copies of their books with the hope that they would all sell. Unfortunately, many of those books ended up in the landfill. Today, although print books do cost more to produce than electronic versions, there are services that can prevent you from having to spend a huge sum to print stacks of copies you're not sure will sell right away.
One such service is called print on demand (POD). With this service, you send your text and cover art to a company that offers this service (Ingram Spark and CreateSpace are a couple of options). Then, when a potential reader buys a book from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or other online book retailer, the POD service prints one copy and sends it to the customer.
Not only is this a cool service, but it also offers several benefits:
- You pay nothing upfront for printing.
- You don't have to store stacks of books.
- You won't have to ship your book every time someone orders a copy.
- There is much less waste of unsold books.
- No cumbersome reminder of the copies you have yet to sell.
These POD companies offer this service for free (while just charging a small portion of each sale), so that makes your self-publishing load quite a bit lighter! Most significantly, it eases the pain many authors face when they shell out a high upfront printing cost for a huge print run.
The task of self-publishing can be intimidating, but it's not impossible at all. Remember that you're not alone when planning your book editing, printing, launch, and promotion; help can be found around every corner!