Writing is creative, glorious, mystical, fulfilling, full of passionate self-expression. Ah, to be an author! How romantic!
Publishing that writing, self-publishing, that is, is challenging, frustrating, tedious, and time-consuming. OMG! Why did I think I wanted to do that?
Feed my ego? Have people see my talent? Make bank? Share my inner world with the outer world? Uh-huh…Right.
I have been writing since high school, and in the last ten years I have published, yes, self-published, six books. A glutton for punishment, you say? You are so right. Let me explain.
Having been blessed with a long and relatively happy life full of people, challenges, spiritual formation as a monk, a teaching career, marriage, children, and, as they say, so much more, I have a lot to write about. Three collections of short stories, that is, 43 short stories. Then a memoir about my amazingly archetypal experience as a monk, à la Hermann Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund. A collection of all my poetry worth reading. Finally, a practical and metaphysical book on gardening. Yeah, a bunch of writing. Whew!
I decided to publish all 6 of my books through LULU book publishing, a decision I am 100% happy about. Let me tell you about how that works step-by-step, and more interesting, the challenges I faced and the subsequent learning curve I climbed.
First, write your book in Word. I used the 6×9 template that LULU provides. There are others. Format it correctly. (More on that later) Upload it as Word docx or PDF to LULU. Wait for LULU to tell you if it meets their criteria (probably not the first go-round). Revise it for LULU. Upload. Repeat until LULU is content. You will be relieved. Make a cover through LULU or elsewhere (a fascinating important challenge that will take a good while). Decide on price and other details including the ISBN number they will provide you. Click “Publish,” and it’s distributed to Amazon, Barnes & Noble. You are a published author. This will take about a year.
So, let’s deal with the challenges of preparing your book for publication. Well, these are my demons; yours might be different.
- Become intimately familiar with Word: correctly paginating different sections (my big hassle); using breaks, sections, headers, and footers correctly, making a Table of Contents and Index; inserting the correct quality images; maintaining visual consistency of text, graphics, and layout; and using text boxes for side bars.
- Check your document many many many times: read your book paragraph by paragraph and look for repetition, punctuation and grammar, and awkward word choice; read each paragraph out loud and/or have your computer read it back to you in whatever voice makes you feel authoritative (no pun intended); once you publish, it is a pain in the keister to change it, painful but not impossible; use bold, italics, underlining, and borders correctly, judiciously, and consistently; “Save As” in PDF form and check every page to see if it maintained consistency.
Now it’s the fun stuff—marketing your wonderful self-published book. This advice, an outline of my experience really, is easy to read, but it will take you about year to make it happen, unless you have no day job, in which case drink lots of dark roast and glue yourself to your computer. And it’s all on you. Not bad; not good. Depends on if you want to hire others to market your writing for you ($$$), or if you want to do it yourself (way less $). I decided to market my books myself, a decision that took me into another world, a fascinating world. (More on that later)
- Buy a website domain with a/your unique name. You will store your author web site there. Mine is charlesfrodeauthor.com.
- Get your author website: pay someone if you are digitally inept, or make yours if you enjoy detail upon detail upon detail. I use CityMax: it’s free, pretty easy to use, good tech support. You want to guide everyone to your web site to buy your books, read some free examples of your writing, read about you, send you email, go to your blog (I use Wiz—free, easy to use, beautiful), see your podcasts and videos. Check your site all the time to make sure it’s looking good and that the menus actually navigate the way you want. You will want to study elsewhere how to make a good author web site and how to manage menus and navigation within your web site. Look in “Writer’s Digest” magazine to get started.
- Post to your blog regularly: I post my daily, M-F, two posts to LinkedIn on my blog. Spend time making high-quality posts so you can post to your blog regularly. Good posts offer free, interesting, unusual, unique, and consistent content to readers (quotes, pictures, videos, examples of your creative work). Every post must have a link to your website. Just mess around with making new posts to your blog to see how it works; mistakes are not fatal because you can always delete the boo-boos.
- Send your books to people who respond to you on social media: people who like your books will tell other people. Ask them if you can send them a book for free. They will buy your other books (hopefully). Have a supply of your books you can give to people (all your friends and colleagues).
- Get reviews of your book(s) to post on your website, blog, and social media. I spent a few hundred dollars for each of my books to be reviewed by Kirkus Reviews because they post the respected reviews on their website, and you can link them on your web site. Enter contests (see “Writer’s Digest” magazine, a great source) and use their reviews.
- Connect with people and groups where you can speak and read from your books: speaker bureaus, blog and podcast hosts, local community groups, schools, fairs markets and festivals. This is challenging if you have no cachet, fame, experience, or connections from work or networking. Just start and do your best. It will happen in its own time; you can’t force it.
So, there you are. Feel like you can do it? You can, you should, you better! Start with one thing, then one more thing, step-by-step, everyday one thing. You will accomplish a lot before you know it. You will also have the satisfaction that comes from DIY. Step out into the cutting edge world of book publishing. Wait till you have a copy of your first book in your hands. You will never regret the time and the little money you spent to make it happen.
It’s your literary life. The first step is to make the decision to start. Then start.
Charles Frode is a lifetime master language arts teacher, educational technology integration expert, and writer / author / speaker for over 35 years. Visit https://www.charlesfrodeauthor.com/ for information on the author and his books!
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