Learn how to self-publish

April 9, 2009 4:47:28 PM PDT
A children's storybook author tells his inspirational story.

Will Marks' self-publishing story: I'd published two other books and was looking around for an idea when I overheard a friend calling a politician a "pig" - not the animal pig, but a dirty politician and I thought - that's it! Then, my son and I were playing football outside, and he was complaining about getting all muddy, I had to tell him "dirt doesn't hurt", and it all started to come together.

If someone wanted to self-publish at home, what are the most important things they would need to do?

  1. Do Your Research
    Understand the time and financial commitment in advance - you may decide not to do it. Labor of love is an understatement. The last thing you want to do is get half way done with the book and run out of time and money to write the second half.

  2. Learn to be a General Contractor
    As a publisher, you'll need manage a virtual staff of experts to help you. I had to find, hire and manage an illustrator, graphic artist, printer, distributor and marketing person, to name a few.

  3. Make it Professional
    You know the old saying "you can't judge a book by its cover?", well, most consumers still do. Spend the extra time and money to make the book look professional. Remember, books stay around a long time, maybe even to be passed down through generations. If you spend the effort to publish the book in the first place, you don't want to look back and regret that you didn't give it your all. You do not want a newspaper that may review the book or a store that may buy it to actually think that it is "self-published". With my first book, I used a binding machine to put it together and it had an orange cover - let's just say that one had a limited life cycle.

  4. Tone Down the "Self Published" Language
    Don't lie if asked, but you don't need to mention that it's self published in the first sentence. Unfortunately, with the rise of do-it-yourself online options for book publishing, the term "self-published" now implies shoddy work. I found that dust jackets are key with children's books, and relatively inexpensive.

  5. Talk to Other Authors
    There are tons of internet-based blogs, discussion groups and local forums to learn more about the process or even to find a mentor to guide you through the process.

  6. Throw Yourself a Party
    Once you have the finished product, throw yourself a "book launch" party. Invite friends, relatives and anyone else you can find to come and check out your new book and buy a signed copy. Assign a cute youngster to work the cash register on your way out armed with gift bags and a free wrapping service.

  7. Don't be Shy
    As with any small business, you are your best promoter and now that you've been "published", you can't afford to maintain a quiet personality. And, when you self publish, you need to sell yourself as well as your book - you can't rely on connected hand holders to work the system for you. Contact local bookstores to suggest book signings

  8. Think Hard About the Title
    Before you finalize your title, search for it on Amazon and the Internet, conduct grass roots testing with large book stores and your local library, maybe even talk to an attorney or naming firm. I didn't realize a one word title is risky, particularly if it is a fairly common word, such as Rhyme. Unfortunately, a search on Amazon.com for "Rhyme" brings up many other books before mine because Amazon puts its best-selling books in front no matter how close the word match. The only way to call up my book first is to type in "Rhyme William Marks".

  9. Get Good Marketing Help
    If you build it, they won't come. Make sure you hire a trusted marketing and/or a public relations expert that can get the word out. A good way to find one is look on the "press" section of a self-published book you've heard of, and try to contact that same person. I had to work with two different firms before I found a freelancer that really helped me get the word out.

  10. Do Readings
    Readings at local bookstores are great - they help the local retailer bring in customers and it allows readers to humanize the story, and hopefully buy a signed book.

  11. It's Not a Job
    Don't kid yourself, you can't retire from your day job and live off the income from your self-published book. See tip #1 for more details.

  12. Get T-Shirts
    Pick a character, theme, or saying from your book and print up T-shirts to give out to press, friends and family. It's wearable publicity, and recession or not, everyone loves a free T-shirt.

  13. Use Social Media
    Don't be intimidated by social media. Set up a Facebook page, Twitter account and Blog for your book. The Internet is a place where if you put out good energy it comes back at you in spades.
About Will Marks
Will Marks is the author of the recently released children's book "Rhyme." The book follows Rhyme the pig as he embarks on his political career in the town of Muck. Throughout the book, Rhyme gives speeches that parallel those of notable historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Lou Gehrig, Winston Churchill, Douglas MacArthur, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. The book brings a fresh perspective to politics that is both accessible to children and enjoyable for parents, and local artist Erin Gennow brings the story to life with vivid illustrations.

Marks is a financial analyst for JMP Securities by day and has written two other books under his publishing company MPC Press, "No More Mac and Cheese, A Bachelor's Guide to Cooking with Ease," and "Lawrence and the Laughing Cookie Jar." A graduate of U.C. David and Kellogg Business School, he currently resides in Noe Valley, Calif. with his wife and three children.


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