Authors who decide to self-publish a book are effectively taking on the role of a business owner if the end goal is to make money from book sales. When you decide to self-publish, you’re no longer a writer, or even an author, but a publisher. Although there is a learning curve when you make the leap from author to publisher, it doesn’t have to be intimidating; it can actually be fun with the right tools. Here’s what you need in order to become a publisher:
1. You Need a Book Worth Publishing
You may not have corporate offices or a staff, but as a publisher, publishing is your business and your book is your product. To make a book a viable product, successful authors start at the beginning. In other words, they sit down and write a book worth publishing. Your writing needs to be good, not only in terms of grammatical accuracy and a lack of plot holes or other inconsistencies (for which professional editing is a must), but it needs subject matter that resonates along with voice, character development, and description that captivate readers.
The book itself is a fantastic place to start, but that’s not the only thing you need before you determine whether your book is worth publishing. You also need to understand your audience, because if book sales are the goal of your publishing business, a book with no audience is not a book worth publishing.
2. You Need Resources to Self-Publish
Resources for self-publishing a book encompass many different things, including: money, time, and connections.
Self-publishing a book costs money. No surprise there. Just like any business startup, you have to invest a certain amount before you can start to turn a profit. There are initial investments that revolve around the product itself, such as book editing and book cover and/or interior book design. These two are necessary to help make that “book worth publishing” we mentioned earlier. But you’ll also need an ISBN, which is required for any book you intend to sell beyond your own handselling.
Many publishing experts in book editing and design offer discounts to IngramSpark publishers, so definitely check those out. IngramSpark also offers discounts on single ISBNs via Bowker to United States authors. This is available from your IngramSpark account dashboard at the time of title setup, so definitely look into that if it applies to you as well. And many authors may have heard about “free ISBNs” so why pay for one, right? The cost is the difference of you owning and controlling your ISBN or not, which you can read more about here.
Beyond those basic investments, you’ll need to invest in a way to distribute your book. With IngramSpark, this costs $25 for an ebook only, and $49 for just a print book OR for a print book AND ebook, and here’s all you get for that small fee.
After that, you’ll need to pay to print your book, but if you’ve sold the book you’re printing, you should be making more than you pay to print it and recouping that cost from the sale. You can use IngramSpark’s publisher compensation calculator to figure out the print cost and your earnings on each individual sale.
Once you've invested in these items, you need to be thinking about book marketing. A lot of this can be grassroots such as social media marketing, blogging and guest blogging, author events, giveaways, price promotions, good book metadata to enhance online discoverability, and the list goes on, but if you’d like to invest in advertising, book reviews, and beyond, the beauty of this expense is that you control your budget. No book achieves sales if no one knows about it though, so you’ll definitely need to be investing something here whether it’s money or time.
All things are possible if you dedicate the time and effort to grow your understanding and efficiency. All of those grassroots marketing initiatives mentioned above may not cost money, but they would cost time. Interacting with and growing your fanbase normally takes a personal touch that only time can provide: listening, responding, and participating in conversations on social media and other places online, attending author events, and coming up with new ways to pitch your book to media and beyond.
The best investment of your time that you can contribute to your publishing business is in your publisher education. In some instances this may cost money, for example, if you wanted to join a publisher association or attend an author/publisher conference. But IngramSpark provides countless free resources with the intention of helping you publish successfully, including a podcast, this weekly blog, online courses, and downloadable guides. All of these resources offer you ideas and options to pursue in order to take your book and your business further. You don’t know what you don’t know and there’s ALWAYS more to learn. So do it! Invest in learning and reap the rewards in book sales once you successfully apply what you learn.
The right connections can help your book become more than you ever imagined. Authors are a tribe and you’d be amazed how ready and willing they are to help one another. You can connect with other authors and industry experts at conferences, in associations, on social media, and the IngramSpark Community where IngramSpark publishers can answer each other’s questions. You can also reach out to influencers and should make friends with your local booksellers and librarians. The book industry is a great wide world, and if this is your new business, get out there and start shaking some hands whether in-person or virtually.
We may be a tad biased, but IngramSpark is another significant connection for self-publishers. IngramSpark’s book distribution connects your book with the world, sharing it with all of the places readers would expect to find it, including over 40,000 retailers (both physical and online) and libraries.
Hopefully this blog post has motivated you to take the leap from author to publisher. The most successful self-publishers think of their publishing as a business, and these are the basics of what you would need in order to do the same. We wish you the best of luck and invite you to reach out to us on social media if there’s anything we can do to help!