4 Important Tips in the Self-Publishing Process

by Beth McAuley

Published at 2013-12-16

With the advent of self-publishing, authors are seeking out good advice from editors who can help them navigate the process. There is so much to know when setting out to self-publish your own work.
Here at TEC, we have edited the works of several self-published authors. Each one has brought a different set of questions and concerns to our attention. Based on these discussions, I would like to offer 4 important tips to consider when setting out to self-publish a book.
The Length of Your Work
In the publishing industry, your manuscript is referred to as “the work.” One of the first things to consider when preparing your work for publication is its length.
It is a wonderful thing to be able to write and tell your story. Or to develop a manuscript that shares your point of view with the broader world or outlines a step-by-step guide in your field of expertise.  But it is critically important that you not write too much.
Remember to keep your manuscript to a readable length. This usually falls in the range of 250 pages, or 7,500 words.
Anything longer may lose the potential of being read. In the publishing industry, an overly long manuscript is referred to as a “door stopper.” A term used to describe the fate of too-long manuscripts.
Take the time to craft your work. Trim and revise as often as possible. You want your audience to read your book, don’t you? What are they most likely to pick up: a 250-page volume or a 400-page tome?
And remember that eBooks lend themselves to shorter, snappier books.
Who Is Your Audience?
The second important consideration is your audience.
In conversations with client authors who are working on their first books, we spend a lot of time finding the best way to shape their books for their specific audience.
To know who you are writing for is essential. It helps you manage the length of the manuscript and to shape it: how many chapters will it have? will you include tables and graphics? should you provide a reading list or a glossary?
Knowing your audience helps you find the right tone of voice, choose the best words, and provide the right amount of explanation.
Always keep your audience front and centre as you develop your manuscript: remember that audience = readership.
Knowing who will read your book will help you market and publicize it. Whether an eBook or hard copy, you need to know how to reach your target audience.
An editor stands in for your audience. If you want a good opinion on your work, hire an editor to read and assess it.
Who Will Buy Your Book?
A third important tip is to ask yourself, Who will buy my book? This is one of the first questions a publisher asks about a work it is considering. If you are self-publishing, you will want to ask yourself the same question.
This question also helps you define your audience. Since you are responsible for doing the marketing and publicity to bring attention to your work, you need to know your audience so you can shape your marketing plan.
You may want to consider one of our Writers Support Packages to take you from start to finish.
Budget in Advance for the Costs
Tip 4: self-publishing costs money – your money – so you should plan your budget well ahead of time. The first investment you make, of course, is the time you put into the writing. No matter how long the writing takes, you are covering your own expenses as you do this work.
Once the manuscript is ready for editing, the first expense you will encounter is the cost of a good editor. Editing rates vary from editor to editor, and costs are estimated on the length of your work and the level of editing required.
This is another important reason for keeping the length of your manuscript under control. If you have a 500-page manuscript, an estimate might come in at $3,000 or $4,000 (onto which you add tax in Canada). If it is 180 to 250 pages, the fee will be much less. But again, the rates vary with each editor.
Investing in a good editor and allowing time for a careful edit to be done is a wise investment. A polished work is noticed by the readers. One of your key marketing tools is word-of-mouth recommendations from readers – a well-crafted, well-edited book finds its ways into many hands.
Additional costs are the interior design of the book, the cover, the printing of a hard copy, and the design for the digital copy. These costs vary as well. And packages are available through a number of reputable self-publishing companies.
As soon as you begin your writing, begin planning your budget. Make the calls to editors and to self-publishing companies and ask for quotes. Set up a budget that will work for you.
No matter what your writing project is about, these four tips are important to keep in mind.
If you are working in the non-fiction genre and would like a consult on how to begin the self-publishing process, give us a call or send us an email.  We have 25 years of experience to draw on. We’d be happy to book an appointment to meet with you.
Visit the Canadian Authors Association FAQ page for some more on what is involved in self-publishing.
Future Self-Publishing Topics
Another important question for self-publishers is the issue of distribution. Are there companies out there who will distribute the hard copies of your book? What are the options?