Do It Yourself
The word "PUBLISHING" literally means "making public." Once your piece is public in print, you don't get a chance to make corrections or retractions. Major publishing houses stake their reputations on books that are as error-free as possible. DIY author/publishers get a bad rap for unprofessionalism. You don't have to. Here's what to watch for:
appropriate to story
tantalizing (caveat: your story had better deliver on the title's promise, chapter after chapter; did you raise expectations too high?)
appropriate to early part of story
type-only cover is acceptable
Back cover: fill it with words. Don't waste the opportunity. Put in blurbs if you have them. Use your first few paragraphs as a teaser. A small pic of yourself and three lines of bio at the bottom, if you're not shy.
Bar code: sellers expect one, to speed buyer transaction in a bookstore. This encodes your publisher ISBN (please get one) and the price. A bar code looks "official."
Spine is unimportant if you sell online.
title-copyrightsymbol-year-publishername. Make up a publishing name if you have to; better yet, invest in a domain name (about $10 a year) and put your info online. Using your own name as publisher looks tacky, presumptuous, IMHO.
ISBN number: Get one. Even more than copyright, your ISBN is your "ownership" of your book. If you expect to continue as a DIY author or publisher, I recommend that you invest in a block of ten ISBNs for this and later books. An ISBN is specific to each publisher. No ISBN? That's unprofessional; OK to skip it for a test run, but not for books offered for sale.
copyright: registering copyright is no longer required, only needed in case of piracy. Your dated first publication is your proof of ownership.
Credits, attributions, acknowledgments (if you have many people to mention, this might merit a page of its own, or append it to a preface).
List of publishers who have published your articles, chapters, poems.
If you have published books before, list your previous book titles.
Optional: a line of dedication, or a brief quotation.
(and we haven't even gotten to the story yet!)
As for content, I'm going to split it up: nonfiction, fiction, poetry, mixed media. All audiences expect no mistakes or ambiguities, but each set of readers has its own specific expectations, which I will attempt to differentiate. Switch to your category for suggestions.
Most books actually fall into the broad Nonfiction category.
Literature, and in particular Fiction, is the most popular, with the greatest turnover.
The specialized craft of Poetry addresses a different but fervent audience.
Climbing out of "experimental" are works of Mixed Media, from graphic novels and manga to works of art or audio. Video is beyond the scope of Beta Books; we have no expertise in that area.
Becoming a Small Publisher
A few concluding remarks about the switch from writer to publisher:
You have confidence in your own work— communicate that to potential readers. A few will respond; a few more might pass on the info to a friend. It's selling. Selling the book, and selling yourself.
You will probably spend more time promoting the book than you did in writing it. Are you up for that? It's not creative in the same way, but you started out with a goal— to write a book; if you could do that, you can do the other. Right? Different skills, yet both put you closer to the reader. And, frankly, publishers like to see that in authors— not competition, but commitment.
One more list: FORMATS. If you plan to market, which market? Which devices are you going to publish for? Some formats you can do yourself, if you're willing to learn the process; others may require professional help. Here's a list of professionals and DIY in formats, typically, to pdf, MS Word, print, epub, mobi, Kindle.
MAURICIO PARRA, Professor of Latin Studies, Illinois Wesleyan University
REV. DOUGLAS MILLER, Former Baptist minister, college professor
Any publisher is delighted to find someone bringing a new audience to supplement their established market niche. Anna B. Brooks
Bandanna Books • Santa Barbara
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