Sunday, 19 April 2015

Conversations about self-publishing for the serially challenged 4: dotting your i’s

Looking at the title I chose for this series of blogs, I’m beginning to feel rather less serially challenged than when I began. I realise I’ve learnt a huge amount, along the way. That can only be a good thing if self-, or indie-, or hybrid-publishing is to become more the norm for New Zealand authors. I now have a much better idea of what is involved, and to be honest, it’s very exciting.
In past posts I have talked about it surprised me how creative the editing side of things is. Now as I move more into the actual publishing process what surprises me is how much fun it is. I’m having a blast. I guess that’s not surprising, given I love books (of course I’d enjoy making one of my own), but still it is not what I expected. Lots of work – yes – but very enjoyable too.

A friend who is herself considering self-publishing asked me recently what exactly I have been doing. I sent her the email below, in the hope it would help her process when she reached that stage. I hope it helps yours too.

What you'll need to do:
1.      Finish writing your book.

2.      Get it professionally edited – this step is kind-of optional, if you’re also an editor, but not really if you want a good product. It’s extremely hard to objectively edit your own work.

3.      Get it proofread ­– also only kind-of optional. The last thing you want is errors.

4.      Find and brief a book designer ­– there are plenty. Find one whose covers and internal designs you like, and who produces the type of books (in terms of format) that you’re after.

5.      Find and brief an illustrator – if you are using one. I have been lucky to have a friend whose work I know is wonderful. She’s doing my cover and internal illustrations. Otherwise, you may need to find a cover image you want to use (unless your designer does this for you).

6.      Decide on a publishing name and logo (if you are using one). Also, whether or not you are going to form a company. My accountant has advised the latter may be a good idea if I plan to publish more books, especially by other authors. Something to think about for the future.  

7.      Get an ISBN number, or several if you’re printing in different formats; from the National Library website. A very straightforward process, but you may need to query them if they tell you (as they did me) that you can’t have it until four weeks before the book is printed. Obviously this doesn’t work if you are printing overseas.

8.      Get a barcode – you can do this online. It’s based on your ISBN and costs around $30. I used Barcodes Limited (   

9.      Get quotes from a printer – I got a few, but you could get lots of quotes. There’s a big difference between them. I think I’m going to get the book printed in China, but actually some of the New Zealand quotes I got were getting close, in terms of costs.

10.   Organise a freight agent – if you’re printing overseas, this seems to be cheaper than letting the printers organise the freight, and there should be no hidden costs (fingers crossed). They should itemise all the subsidiary costs you’ll encounter when importing books.

11.   Find a distributor – there are several, but I have found them hard to raise a response from. I am unsure if this is because they are swamped with submissions from self-published authors or, conversely, are not yet used to dealing with them. You may have more luck if you have the designed product to show them. If you do get a response, they will send you their terms of trade, including how much commission they take and where they will try to place your book.

12.   Pay everyone, including the GST on the imported books. Kat says she got stung for this.

13.   Move onto the next big step: receiving, promoting and selling your book.

Whew! No wonder I’ve felt busy. But like I said, all good fun.