3 Questions to Ask Before You Publish a Book

By | September 16, 2014

This week I received an email from a dear lady who has written her memoirs. She wants to publish a book for friends and family, but also for the general public. She believes her story will interest others. I agree.

publish a book  : I"m considering self-publishing, but I'm addicted to rejection letters.

She grew up in an Amish community. If you check out book lists on Amazon, you’ll find this is a pretty hot topic among readers. So, she’s already done one of the most important things an author can do–she’s found readers.

In her email she mentioned that she’s not very tech savvy and she wanted my advice about whether or not to self-publish. I took a deep sigh before responding to her. How could I explain to her in an email the process and hard work it takes to publish a book? I could write a book on the subject of how to self-publish; but I wanted to help her, so I did the best I could to give her an overview of what it takes to self-publish a book.

While this may seem oversimplified, there are at least three questions you should ask yourself before you consider whether to self-publish: Do you have the required skills to self-publish? Do you have the time to self-publish? Are you willing to market your book?

Do you have the required skills to publish a book?

Publishing a book requires a certain level of skills. Do you have an excellent grasp of grammar and sentence structure? Can you edit yourself? Most writers can’t, and a poorly written book is sure not to sell.

Can you create a high quality book cover? A cover is the first thing readers will see. Yours needs to be professional and appealing. Can you follow specs for outputting your cover in the proper format and the correct resolution? Cover creation requires skills beyond “just making it look good.” As a self-publisher you need to have the tools and skills to create a cover that makes an impression. Most professional cover designers use Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator.

Can you follow specifications for each distributor to produce the layout of the interior of your book? Margins, styles, book dimensions are all considerations. If you are producing an ebook, you can usually use Microsoft Word to layout your book; but if you want to self-publish in print, most professionals use Adobe InDesign or another professional layout software.

These are just a few of the skills and tools required to self-publish a professional looking book.

Do you have the time to publish a book?

Publishing a book takes time: time to mount the learning curve; time to set up accounts for distribution; time to edit, create covers and layout the interior; time to upload your book to multiple distributors; time to market.

When I first decided to publish books for authors, I knew I had the skills. I’ve been in media and publishing in one facet or another for more than 20 years. I’m an expert user of Adobe InDesign and Photoshop. I’ve worked with printers and understand publishing specs and how to layout text and design documents. What surprised me most was the time it took to get from manuscript to publication in the book market. If you just want to drop some text into Microsoft Word and upload it to Amazon, you can self-publish a book in less than a week. But it takes time to create a professional looking product, and Amazon is not the only game in town. I publish each book to a minimum of five distributors. Each distributor has different specifications and requirements. You must write book descriptions, purchase ISBN’s, maintain your accounts, add keywords and set pricing for multiple markets. I could go on and on with the list of initial publication and maintenance required for each distributor.

Do you want to take time away from writing to self-publish and market your book?

Are you willing to market your book?

Marketing is the part of the process most authors hate the most, and it’s probably the most difficult area of mastery in the self-publishing process. Uploading your book to Amazon or iBooks does not mean readers will immediately start buying your book. You have to master discoverability. There are millions of uploads each month, and without strong marketing your self-published book will remain lost in the slush pile.

Often authors choose to self-publish because of the difficulty of finding a traditional publisher. We all know that manuscript submissions usually end up in the acquisition editor’s slush pile; but these days, the slush pile of self-published books is just as murky.

Do you have what it takes to publish a book?

Before you decide to publish a book, consider the questions above. If you can answer a definite “yes” to all three, you may be cut out to self-publish your book. If you can’t answer “yes” to all three questions, you may want to consider another publishing route. There are many independent publishers who are looking for a great book to publish. And while you’ll still have to market yourself, a good publisher will guide you through the process. Your publisher will take care of the rest.

And if you don’t self-publish, you’ll have more time to keep writing.

Are you ready to publish a book? I’m here to help. Let’s get started!