GETTING YOUR WORK PUBLISHED
Every serious writer dreams of getting their work published. Books are written for a wide variety of reasons. A writer may want to record their life for posterity, tell an interesting story, entertain children, share their poems, educate others, or weave a novel. Whatever the reason, there can be satisfaction in putting these things down on paper. But, once written, getting the work published requires a completely different set of skills.
Not too many years ago, only two real options existed. One required getting the attention of a professional publisher, not an easy thing to do. The other consisted of paying a lot of money to a Vanity Press to print a few hundred copies that would likely end up collecting dust on the writer’s shelf. Either way, books were produced through offset printing on a printing press. That meant that large runs of a book became necessary to make publication cost effective.
Today, on-demand printing has changed all that. Advances in printing technology now make it possible to rapidly print a single book at a very low price. That, coupled with desktop publishing and the power of the Internet, has allowed companies like Amazon.com to explode the published book market exponentially. Now, anyone can self-publish anything, and they do. There are currently over 1.8 million titles available on Amazon alone. Considering that the company represents 41% of all online book sales means that there are over 4.4 million books listed on the Internet.
The world of the traditional publisher is now even more difficult to enter. Publishers are seldom ever interested in a book by an unknown author. Even then, their interest isn’t peaked unless the author is someone of notoriety, such as a politician, movie star, pro-athlete or the like. An author generally will not get noticed unless they have a base of at least fifty thousand followers who would be interested in purchasing writings by the author. An author may choose to invest in an agency to promote their book to publishers, but even then, getting the attention of a good agency is a difficult road.
Self-publishing on KDP
What is left for most would-be authors is self-publishing, or as the trade refers to them, Indie authors. Indie is short of Independent. The most popular route for Indie authors is Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP. Up until recently, a company called Create Space was king when it came to self-publishing printed books and Kindle was strictly digital versions. Create Space merged with Kindle to make KDP the foremost place to publish both digital and printed versions of a book. There are other places to self publish, but KDP rules the market place at present.
Although publishing through KDP and listing on Amazon.com is relatively easy, the process in no way ensures that there will be even a single sale of the author’s book. The marketing and promotion of the book is entirely the author’s responsibility. The published book goes into Amazon’s enormous list of titles. The buyer must know the title or author in order to find the author’s book. That information necessarily comes from promotions done by the author. It is possible that a reader my accidentally trip over the author’s book while doing a topic search, but that is rare. Most Indie authors sell less than fifty books. Those are generally to family and friends.
To use KDP’s online publishing, the author must either be fairly computer literate or engage the services of someone who is. There are any number of online companies that offer those services, often at exorbitant fees. The writer must be wary. Unfortunately, these companies often take advantage of the fact the writer is unfamiliar with the process and charge for services which are free on sites like Amazon’s KDP.
Steps To Publishing
Several steps must be accomplished in order to self publish. First, the manuscript should be thoroughly edited by a competent editor, both for grammar and for content consistency. Next, the writing should be put into a proper book format. This may include a table of contents, title page, index, and so on. If the work is created in Microsoft Word, it can be uploaded directly into KDP’s standard formatting program. That sounds simple, but Amazon provides specific guidelines, which, if not followed to the letter, will cause the piece to either be rejected or produce undesirable results. If the author wants more control over the output, formatting outside of KDP prior to uploading will be required. This is done with a desktop publishing program. The author, if not proficient in this art, may require the services of a professional.
An attractive cover that translates well in a small image is essential. When browsing Amazon’s book titles, book covers are shown in small images, typically about 1 ½” x 2 ½”. The cover should draw the interest at that size and the title easy to read. If the author does not possess the artistic ability to produce a good cover, it is best to enlist the services of one who does.
The author should consider the cost of publishing. The benefit of on-demand publishing makes it possible to order a single book for a few dollars. Although, KDP will publish and list the book on Amazon for free, there could be significant cost in preparing the book. An investment of anywhere between a few hundred dollars and a few thousand dollars is not unusual. Given the fact that only a few books are likely to sell, there may never be a return on the investment.
In order for a book to be financially successful, the expenses do not stop at publishing. That only puts the product in the warehouse. Significant time and effort must be put into promotion and advertising with no guarantee of any return. This effort can easily vastly exceed the accomplishment of publishing the book.
Authors should realistically define their goals of creating a book and the investment he or she is willing to make prior to undertaking publishing. Book publishing rarely provides a positive financial return, let alone an income. Those few who do succeed financially are generally endowed with exceptional marketing skills and plenty of perseverance.