Writing and publishing a book can be very fulfilling. It can also be incredibly frustrating and difficult. Getting a deal with a major publisher is like winning the lottery.
Fortunately, the Internet has made self-publishing a viable alternative. You can bypass the traditional book-selling system entirely. However, that doesn’t mean the process is easy. There are tools available to make it very doable, however.
Unless your last name is Grisham, your best bet is likely a print-on-demand service. It means less money spent up front, and you can order as many books as you want. Three well-known print-on-demand sites are
Lulu and CreateSpace are both fairly basic. Lulu lets you download book templates in Word format. You can copy your manuscript into the appropriate template. Lulu also allows you to create the cover art.
CreateSpace requires that you upload a completed PDF file. It needs to be created exactly the way it should be printed. There are strict rules about spacing and page count. That can be cumbersome. Blurb, on the other hand, gives you a free layout program that offers you more options to set up your book.
Print-on-demand books are a little more expensive to make because there isn’t mass production to reduce the cost. But even if you are printing just for your family, you can order in bulk, which can save money.
Blurb, for example, has a graduated price reduction starting at just seven books. Lulu requires a minimum of 250 books for bulk pricing. And CreateSpace has no bulk order system, but its overall pricing structure is lower.
Here is a quick estimate. For one copy of a 100-page, 6×9-inch, softcover book in black and white, Lulu comes in at $6.50, Blurb is $7.95 and CreateSpace is $3.66.
It would seem CreateSpace has the advantage. But be sure to compare book size, binding type, printing type and paper quality. One of the other services might be less expensive for your specific needs. Even a seemingly minor change can make a huge difference when it comes to printing costs.
Once you have a self-published book, it’s then time for self-promotion. Selling the book is an art in itself.
All three print-on-demand services have stores, which means anyone can buy your book. The downside is that there are a lot of self-published books out there, so the field is crowded and competition is stiff.
Marketing is key, which also can cost you a lot of money. Fortunately, thanks to the Internet, self-marketing can be free. It’s as good as you make it. You can promote your book on Facebook and forums, then just link to your book in the online store. If you are a strong social media user, this just might work. If that’s not your forte, the publishing services also offer promotional help – for a fee, of course.
Online location of your book is an important factor. For example, CreateSpace has a basic eStore. However, the service is actually owned by Amazon, so that means you can market your book there if you want, as well. That puts you in front of millions of eyes.
So what happens when you finally sell a book? Well, you get money, of course. But exactly how much?
You get to set the price of your own book. But there is a minimum amount taken to cover printing costs. The print-on-demand service also takes a cut, so expect to get less than half of the sale price.
I checked out CreateSpace’s royalty calculator. My test book was a 100-page, 6- by 9-inch book priced at $10. You would get $4.34 per sale if going only through CreateSpace’s eStore. Selling on Amazon would net you $2.34. However, more people would see your book, so it creates the chance that you might actually sell more.
You have to decide what your eventual goal is. This will help shape how aggressive you want to be. But try to keep your expectations realistic. Don’t expect to be the next J.K. Rowling – at least overnight.
Of course, this all presupposes you want a printed book. You could sidestep the entire process and start with an e-book. A good example is my Essential eGuide to Digital Photography..
E-books are easier to distribute. You can sell it yourself and cut out the middleman. Plus, e-book readers have become much more common just in the past year. They all support PDF files and other common formats.
Be sure to weigh all your options, and best of luck to you!