When I first looked into the possibility of self-publishing, most all of the steps looked pretty easy. At its base, you write a book then find a platform and hit publish. While you can do it that way, chances are it won’t really go that well for you because a few critical steps have most likely been missed along the way. That is unless you are also an artist, cover designer, interior book designer*, editor and/or have friends and family willing to do those things for you.
Is it a requirement to do any of those things? No. But… As a reader, I’m not going anywhere near a book that looks like a kid with barely passing skills tossed together a cover in their freebie version of Photoshop or worse… MS Paint. Believe it or not, people really do judge books by their covers. If the cover doesn’t look clean and professional, a reader is going to find it hard be believe that what is behind that cover is any better.
I’m also going to drop a book faster than you can blink if it is filled with errors once I’m past the cover. Nothing peeves me off more than to waste my time trying to slog through a book that hasn’t even passed the most basic level of editing. Again, you don’t have to hire an editor, but you better have some really good resources to give you feedback and corrections because you will never be able to catch even most of the issues on your own. The adage of just because you can doesn’t mean you should absolutely applies.
The problem then comes in with the cost. Those services are NOT cheep. And they shouldn’t be. Those people are offering highly skilled services that you really can’t get just anywhere and they deserve to be paid for the work that they do. If you do have access via friend or family willing to help out in any of the areas to bring your cost down, absolutely go for it. It is possible to go through this process without breaking the bank, but there is a very real possibility you are going to need to spend at least a couple thousand dollars. That is kind of a shock, but… you are paying for someone’s skills. You expect to get paid a reasonable amount for your book, for the effort you have put into it. So do they.
It is even harder to weed through all the various different types of services and pricings to get what you need as an author for your book, because those services, both editing and cover design, are all over the map as far as offerings go and sometimes it is really difficult to compare. There also really isn’t any kind of way to weed out the good from the bad without a crap ton of leg work on the part of the author. There aren’t services like Yelp for this kind of work. I spent a lot of time paying very close attention in the books I was reading as to who provided those services, whether the service was good or bad. I also did a lot of leg work in online research to ensure there weren’t any complaints hovering around the internet about the people I was looking to hire. Well, Hubby did a lot of that part for me because he is so much better than I am.
Even once you’ve gone through all of that headache, decided to bite the bullet and pay for those services in an effort to put out the absolute best work you possibly could, you still have to figure out WHERE you are going to publish. The obvious choice for most everyone is going to be Amazon. While it holds the largest market share, there are other platforms out there, but the thought of going through each and every single one of them individually is daunting. That is why there are services like Draft2Digital, Ingramspark and Smashwords. Each one offers to publish your work across multiple platforms for you. Some offer more than others and they each have their own royalty scales, so you’d have to figure out which works best for you, but again… more time and research to be able to make that decision.
I thought I knew the direction I wanted to go, but after talking to my designer, who was amazing about giving me information in a pretty unbiased way to help me make that decision, I decided to go a slightly different direction than my original plan. He also helped me work out what I needed as far as ISBN#s, which are required in some places and not others and, depending on what you read and where, that information is conflicting. And ISBN#s are yet another thing you have to do and pay for.
So far, I have made it through all of the above. It has been really confusing and overwhelming at times, but I think it will be worth it in the end. I still have to get the finalized versions of my files with all the bells and whistles added so they work on all the various different platforms they way they are supposed to and with the correct numbers in their correct places before I can ever hit those publish buttons. Even then, I will still have to actually register the book with the copyright office because everything I’ve read so far says that if you ever need to defend your work legally (the recent plagiarism scandal for example), you have to have registered it first. It didn’t used to be that way, but something in the laws changed and it is now required. It just one more thing to do that is confusing.
Once that is all said and done, I still have to consider a whole other beast. Marketing.