Top 10 Tips for Self Publishing a Book

10-tips-self-publishingI was asked recently on Linked In some questions about publishing a book. Maybe you’ve made a resolution to publish the book that you’ve always had at the back of your mind?

The biggest decision you have to make when you wish to publish a book is whether to self-publish or not.  If you decide to go with a publishing company, and your book gets accepted by them a lot of the work is taken off your hands but so too is a lot of the profit, and rightly so because work should be rewarded through sharing profit fairly.

As a self published author of several irish slang books, I wanted to share my experience of writing and publishing my own books. The first book that I published back in 2007 was a book entitled “The Deise Dictionary of Waterford Slang.”

Here is the list of steps that I went through to get the book published and my tips for each stage:

  1. Research with Passion: Before writing a book you must research the topic adequately and become passionate about it, otherwise the book will not be written because the effort required is far more than you initially realise.
  2. Make a Plan:  You’ve got to have a plan for the book, content, chapters etc. etc.  In order to formulate a plan you should talk to others too.  I had great help from Tom Fewer of Ballylough Books to help me plan my first book.
  3. Write it:  Open up your word processor and begin writing.  It probably helps at this point if you format the page size of your word processor to match the dimensions of the book you want to write.  There will be less fiddling about at the end if you do.  Consider margins etc.  Perhaps even talking to a printing company at this point might be a good idea!  They will provide you with exact page dimensions and optimum margin widths.
  4. Review it:  You should get several third parties to go through the book to help correct grammar and other mistakes.  If it’s a novel you’re writing, this is especially important.  For me the most important thing was consistency.
  5. Design it:  Once you have the content written you need to design a cover, and maybe get some graphic design work done on the inside pages too. It’s probably best to employ a freelance designer for this or perhaps your printing company will have someone that can do this for you at a good rate.
  6. Get an ISBN number:  You need to apply to Nielson to get yourself an ISBN number. When I bought them I received a block of 10 that I can still use.  You then need to convert the ISBN number to a barcode.  Generally you can employ a company to do this for you, they will charge maybe €50 and you can pass it on to your printing company.  There are free tools online to create bar codes such as: http://www.terryburton.co.uk/barcodewriter/generator/
  7. Print It: You then need to go to a printing company and get the book printed and bound. Go to several as prices vary quite a bit.  They will help you choose the right format, paper quality and will give you a price. Normally the more you print the cheaper it gets per unit.   Before you print the final copy you will need to go through a proof of the book and fix any last minute mistakes.  If you’re sending physical copies of the book across the globe, consider the weight of the paper too.
  8. Publicise it: Once the book is printed you need to publicise it.  Create a buzz on social media, send copies to local media, papers, get a celebrity to champion it. I asked my school friend and magician Keith Barry (host of Tv3 show Brainhacker) to launch my book, which he graciously did for me.  In my case it was picked up by local and national media, including Ryan Tubridy, which was fantastic for sales.  The Deise Dictionary created such a buzz it actually sold out locally that Christmas (2000 copies). I managed to get a second batch printed quickly, and it kept selling well into January which is highly unusual.
  9. Get it on Shelves: I suppose publicity and placement in shops are a bit “chicken and eggish”  it needs to be in the shops before you publicise but it also needs to be publicised before shops will take it.  When it is in the shop, try and ask the shop nicely to position it well.  It will sell far more if it is more visible.
  10. Sell it online.  There are lots of opportunities to get your book promoted online via blogs, news sites, social media, youtube, discusssion forums and so on.  Consider your target market and where they are.  This is where you need to be.  You could create a site to sell the book via PayPal or get it on Amazon and other book selling sites.

Generating Profit

To make profit from a self-published book is difficult.  In order to get it printed you are looking at a cost of maybe 20% of the sale price.  Then you will need a distributor.  Argosy and Eason charged me in the region of 50+%, which included the shops commission.  If you are distributing yourself, typically, a shop will charge 20%-40% commission to sell your creation.

My advice on publishing therefore, is:

  • If you are exclusively selling locally and you can distribute yourself, then if you sell all of your books you can expect to earn potentially 40-50% of the the sale price.  If you go through
  • If you are selling nationally you will need a distributor, in this case if you sell all of your books you can expect to earn potentially 30% of the sale price.
  • If you go international, through a publisher, a lot of work will be taken off your hands in terms of publishing, printing, distribution, but you can expect a lot less than 30%. You will still need to do a lot of the promotion yourself.

Some more tips on selling your book online:

for-focal-sake-thumbThese days you can sell your book online also.  Consider creating a web page or blog to go along with your book and selling it online via PayPal.  For one of my books “For Focal Sake-A 32 County Guide to Irish Slang” I created a website to collect Irish slang from across the country.  I then published the book on the site and it’s promoted to this day via search engine optimisation.  If someone searches for a slang term and finds slang.ie, they are possibly someone in my target market.  Through this I have managed to sell this and my other slang books quite successfully.  Of course paypal take a small cut of the sale price and you have to add on shipping costs, but generally you can absorb these costs a bit better for your customer because you are not paying a large comission to get the book onto a shelve and you don’t have to worry about distributing, besides sending the items at your local post office.

If your book is something that people can relate to and you can provide extra information on a blog, some of your content could potentially go viral through social sharing (like button, pinterest pin, linkedin share, google+ etc).  This is a really good way of getting the word out there, but it isn’t easy to be successful.  You have got to find a niche and it has to be sharable, and you need to find a way to get the sharing process kickstarted. Also, once your book becomes popular, don’t forget channels such as Amazon for selling and getting reviews.  Send your book to popular blogs in your target market for review.

Happy writing and best of luck!

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