Finding an established publisher who will pick up your book and print it at their expense is getting more and more difficult. Publishers are closing themselves off to the creators by not accepting
unsolicited proposals, requiring that you use a 3rd-party listing service, or only allowing contact to them through an agent. So, unless you have access to their ear directly (via booksellers meetings, seminars, forums
or just know someone in the business) or an agent, it's a hard sell, but it is still the first thing you should try. Established publishers have marketing and distribution channels that make it much easier get
your book out there, but they also keep most of the profits <g>! Once all avenues to being published from an established book publisher have been tried ... then it's time to make a go of it for yourself. Here are
some steps that I have used ....
Steps to Self-Publication:
1. - Copyright Your Work
Description - I think most of you already do this anyway, but just in
case - by adding the copyright symbol ©, your initials, name or signature and a date automatically (©RLD 02, RDiesslin © 2002, etc.) provides copyright protection in the US. It's still a good
idea to invest the $30 fee to make it official - in case of problems later. Most cartoonists are actually getting a visual copyright which protects the graphics/cartoons in a work but not the gag. To get character or
text copyrights requires more effort. You might need to trademark characters. Things like gags are unlikely to be copyrighted ... as it says in Ecclesiasties there's "nothing new under the sun." Kind of
limited, but still some protection. However, I'm no legal analyst, so have fun reading the small print for yourself at the copyright web site (below).
US Copyright Office
2. - Obtaining an ISBN for Your Publication
Description - ISBN stands for International Standard Book Numbers. This is the easy part. There is one official
registration agent in the US for ISBNs and that is Bowker and Associates. Last I checked they were selling blocks of 10 ISBNs for $200. You are basically a small independent press and they are issuing you your first 10
ISBNs, for use at any point in the future. You then add all the pertinent information on your books through their web site. They also publish the reference book "Books In Print" which is a bookstore's bible
for finding anything under the sun.
The ISBN therefore becomes the unique identifier for your book and is what the publishing and book selling world use to reference your book.
3. - Packaging Your Product - Desktop to Doorstep
Description - Medium (or media) and Packaging. Vanity Press, printing house, or
do-it-yourself e-books on CD.
As mentioned at the top of the page, these are options available to you if you cannot find a publisher to do it. A vanity press is any press that will print the book for a fee and
"claims" to provide marketing of your book (sometimes included, sometimes separately priced). A printing house prints your book for a fee, but does not get involved in the marketing. Usually the latter is more
realistic, since the limited marketing of vanity presses seldom nets much sales ... you are really on you own (IMHO).
I'll go into more detail on do-it-yourself e-books, since that's what I do when I can't find an
established publisher. (There are sites that will e-publisher for you, but use them at your own risk, I haven't found a good one yet) Here are the my steps for self e-publishing ...
- Create an Acrobat file.
Some word processors and most desktop publishing programs can do this - some better than others. FrameMaker does very well at this, including generating a great set of bookmarks. I also use Acrobat for any editing or security features I want to add to the e-book.
- Create an HTML version.
Word processors and desktop publishing software can be used to create an html file, but often a fair bit of editing is needed in an html editor to get your book into final shape. I also replace my print-resolution graphics with "web" resolution ones. This speeds up browser response time and improves the quality of the resized images (otherwise large files are reduced for viewing by your browser ... and are only as good as your browser is at reducing them). Since I do all my work in Photoshop, resizing graphics is quick and easy. It's also good to take advantage of the hypertext linking features and create navigation aids for on-screen reading. Might as well make technology work to your advantage.
- Add other perks!
Face it, reading on the computer screen isn't as nice as a book in print (IMHO), but there are things you can do to make it a good investment for your customer. Some of the things I've done is provide high resolution artwork for use in bulletins, newsletters and greeting cards; provide a slide show of the cartoons, add links to related online sites; and provide some other features that only the CD buyer could get (a glimpse into the process of cartooning, some excerpts from other works, etc.).
- Then you need to burn your CDs.
Easy CD Creator, or NERO are good choices for creating "data" CDs for your content. I add a program that autoloads the start-up file in the user's default html browser (referenced below).
- Finally, package your CD.
Often the CD-burning software comes with a cover-making program, templates and a library of covers and inserts for your CD jewel case and CD itself. The templates are handy, and you can load your own graphics in to make a nice cover. I sometimes use my desktop publisher to get more control of the process, but either way works well. I use medium or heavy card stock for my front/inside cover, any paper for my back cover and buy white stick-on "donut" labels (that you can run through your printer) for the CD itself. You can make your own stomper (a stomper is a device that makes putting the label on easier) or buy one. They sell for around $25, but cost is just about nothing if you make your own. You can buy CDs, jewel cases, labels, shrink wrappers, etc. very inexpensively from on-line stores (or more costly from you local office supply store). I estimate the cost at about $2/CD for a complete do-it-yourself.
- Don't forget the barcode!
How do you get a barcode you ask? An internet search will net you quite a few barcode providers, some free, some for sale. The barcode is simply of your ISBN. I usually integrate my barcode with the back cover of the CD. Then with a clear shrink-wrap cover (which I never bother to shrink) it's readable right through. Also have the number underneath in case the scanner doesn't work properly. You can also buy or make barcode labels, and put it on the outside of the wrapper (thus not infringing on your back cover space). Barcodes are quite simple, so if you can't find a free site you can probably find a book at the library and make your own.
References: Search the net for barcode generation sites and software, CD burning software (Easy CD Creator, NERO
), CD equipment and labels, autostart program
Back and Outside Front Cover for CD Jewel Case
Inside Front Cover and CD with CD "Donut" Label
Homemade CD Label Stomper. Made from an old CD spindle case. You put the label upside-
down on the spindle (it's held by the post-it glue) and then drop the CD on upside-down. Then
place the old CDs on top to push the label against the good CD. Viola - a labelled CD.
Shrink-wrap labels work well without shrinking them (in fact, they don't shrink too well anyway).
4. - List your book with Online Bookstores
Description - Online booksellers want to
carry your books. Unlike publishers who have to figure return-on-investment for every book they publish, booksellers just want to sell as many books as possible - the more they have available to customers the better.
Amazon.com has a program called Amazon Advantage and Amazon Associates for small and independent presses to use. I recommend their program highly. They keep a hefty
percentage, but it is very nice to be listed on Amazon. Their site provides all the instructions you need to get set-up. You need your ISBN listing to be up-to-date at
Bowker, but otherwise you have lots of listing options, including making buttons for your own web pages. Other online bookstores, such as barnesandnoble.com, may list your books as well.
On my own web site, customers can buy books via paypal shopping cart OR link to Amazon.com. Many buyers are more comfortable using the established booksellers over a
small independent's web site. However, they only get an autographed copy if they order from me directly <g>!
References: Amazon.com - Advantage and Associates programs
, barnesandnoble.com, etc ...
You can see what I'm talking about by browsing my site
which includes an online order form, book summaries, downloadable excerpts, etc.
5. - Promote Your Book
Description - All I can say here is, try your hardest to get the word out that your work is for sale! The references below are a good starting point. I'd give you more tips, but I'm
still trying to figure this out myself. All I can say is, being listed online doesn't equate to automatic book sales. You still need to get the word out. The press release is one good
tool, but you'll find this and lots of other suggestions using the references below.
- Press the Flesh - Market your book to brick and mortar bookstores - special niche, local stores, national chains. It's not easy on a national level, but locally bookstores
often have a local author section.
- Pound the Pavement - Guerrilla Marketing (refer to Amazon Advantage Marketing Resource tips) - Press Releases and other media leveraging ideas.
- Do Your Homework - the local library should have a dozen different books on getting published and promoting your work and yourself, including helpful articles in books like Writer's/Author's Market.
Well good luck and I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions, comments or great techniques that should be added on this page!