cj Sez: When a newly fledged writer, curious about trying her wings at self-publishing, asked me how, I realized that, although I have taken classes and practiced with the manuscript formatting, I am a traditionally published author . . . I definitely need to know more about the self-publishing process. So, I started reading. What follows is some of my top-of-mind thoughts on the subject:
You can publish a manuscript yourself if you’re interested in becoming a little more computer/publication/pricing/distribution literate. If you’re confident in designing a cover yourself using templates; check out: Joel Friedlander's book of templates http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/ )
Some popular programs for formatting books are: (text is from a Google search):
Guides for formatting eBooks: Smashwords (Smashwords Style Guide - How to Format Your Ebook ... www.amazon.com › ... › Authorship
The Smashwords Style Guide has helped indie authors produce and publish over 130,000 high-quality ebooks. 200,000 copies of the Smashwords Style Guide have downloaded! This guide offers simple step-by-step instructions to create and format an ebook using Microsoft Word.
CreateSpace provides free tools to help you self-publish and distribute your books, DVDs, CDs, and video downloads on-demand.
Scrivener is a word-processing/writing program for authors. If you create your manuscript in Scrivener, the program will direct you how to export your document to ePub or Kindle formats (including Smashwords and CreateSpace) that sell on Amazon … ( the Ebook is readable on e-readers).
If the thought of learning how to format/export your document for publication is daunting, find reputable people you can hire to format a manuscript to print and digital book and then get a graphic designer for the cover. These should be people recommended by a self-published author you know or like to read. Check out the acknowledgements in his/her book for those names. You might even contact the author.
Being a member of writing group can be especially helpful in your quest. Members of groups such as SCBWI are able to call upon each other for questions about agents, publishing companies, contract clauses, et al. (I’m a member of Sisters-in-Crime, an international group of mystery writers, and I see a lot of freshman writers asking questions of the organization’s members. Always, there are members who have had similar experiences and are willing to offer an informed response.)
Never sign a contract with agent or publisher without having someone look at it first…a lawyer is best because you could be signing away lifetime rights or obligations. I heard the sad story of a lady who thought she signed a contract to pay a publisher $5,000 to print her book. She misunderstood some of the legalese in the clauses, and it ended up costing her more than twice that amount because she couldn’t get out of the contract, and they threatened to sue. Plus, the manuscript wasn’t edited. That opened the door for typos and just plain printing mistakes … the kind of thing that damages the author’s writerly reputation and causes readers to hesitate buying another of her books. The reputation of the self-publishing industry suffers damage as well.
The lesson learned is to never pay a “publisher” to edit/publish your book.
Some small legitimate publishers will help an author self-publish a book and employ a contract clause that requires the author to buy a certain number of books at a price that may equate to about 70% of the list price. That can wind up costing hundreds, but it may be worth it since by selling all those copies yourself, you get all the sales price—not just the royalties (an important contract clause).
If you decide to try the traditional approach for publication and seek out an agent or publisher, Google “submissions for (the genre you'e interested in).” A few dozen names will pop up; some good ones, some not so good. (A clue: Other than a standard fee, reputable agents/publishers do not charge the author for the privilege of representing/publishing the novel.)
Check out a potential site (* see below), make sure your manuscript is perfectly edited before you submit, and follow the site’s submission directions to a “T.” (*One source to check for scams and if someone is reputable is “Preditors & Editors” http://pred-ed.com/ )
Google “query letters” for dos and don’ts on your submission letter.
Whether your novel is to be traditionally published or self-published, there is one last caveat from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators site: Make your manuscript great. Before you start sending your story to publishers, you will need to make sure it is as good as it can possibly be.
Okay, readers, if you have more information to add to this, we'd love to pass it along. Now, you’all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.