Ep. 05: Tips and Technology: How to Self-Publish Like a Pro

Join us as we discuss how to employ technology and other best practices to publish professionally.

The beauty of technology is that it helps you craft, finalize, publish, print, and distribute your book. Book publishing and self-publishing is a business, and when time and budget are limited, it’s helpful for independent publishers to enlist technology and industry experts for help. Learn how to self-publish like a pro and if you’re ready to publish today, create an account with IngramSpark.


Robin Cutler [00:00:07] Hi, everyone, this is Robin Cutler, the Director of IngramSpark and I am so happy today, because I am actually broadcasting from Melbourne, Australia. I just got here for an author event just yesterday. I flew 15 and a half hours. I'm a little bit jet lagged, jet lagged's the word, and a little bit out of my mind from lack of sleep. But I'm really happy to be joined by Julie-Ann Harper, who is the Owner/Founder of a service called Pick-A-WooWoo, which I think's the best name ever.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:00:48] It is a great name and people remember it.

Robin Cutler [00:00:50] They do.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:00:51] Just great marketing, great name.

Robin Cutler [00:00:54] Tell us what Pick-A-WooWoo does, Julie-Ann.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:00:56] Pick-A-WooWoo is an author services company, so essentially we help authors from taking it from A to Z and nine times out of 10, we will redirect them into the IngramSpark system, because we believe it's the best platform.

Robin Cutler [00:01:08] Oh, I love to hear that!

Julie-Ann Harper [00:01:11] It's the truth, simple.

Robin Cutler [00:01:13] You also have another part of your service, maybe it's a website, called Author's Wish. Talk a little bit about that.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:01:22] Well, Author's Wish was set up about two years ago because what we found is, when an author came to us, quite often they didn't know what they wanted and they actually didn't know what they needed. Sometimes we can provide a professional service, but it's not going to be within their budget. They really were wanting to do the DIY approach, so rather than say, "No, we can't help you," we felt that it was our responsibility because knowledge is something that we should share. Then we went through and put all the tools that we know that would actually assist them to get their book to a professional standard and then imported into the IngramSpark system.

Robin Cutler [00:02:01] That's on a site called Author's Wish?

Julie-Ann Harper [00:02:04] AuthorsWish.com.

Robin Cutler [00:02:04] AuthorsWish.com and I invite you to go there. There's probably a lot of fantastic information that you've collected, right, that's there?

Julie-Ann Harper [00:02:14] We've tested everything that's on there. I mean, yes, it could probably do with another refresh, because technology changes on the flip of a coin, but there's things like, for example, if you can't afford an editor, it doesn't mean that you don't edit. It means you do everything in your power to get it the best it can be and even if that means you use a tool or a technology-based tool, and there's like three or four mentioned on there. Same with design, if you can't afford a book designer, then there are sites where you can go and use automatic type setting tools or word templates if that's where your budget lies, that sort of thing. It gives you options and it's about making sure it can be the best it can be with the use of technology.

Robin Cutler [00:02:59] I love that, that's really fantastic. Julie-Ann, I know you're based here in Australia, but you don't just work with Australian authors, right?

Julie-Ann Harper [00:03:10] No, up until about two years ago, most of our authors were actually US based.

Robin Cutler [00:03:14] Oh, really?

Julie-Ann Harper [00:03:16] Yeah, which was really strange, but just before I got on a plane, I was talking to a doctor in Switzerland, another lady we were helping her book and she was from Lebanon, a US client, they were all from all over the place. Technology allows us to do what IngramSpark does for books. We can be anywhere in the world and IngramSpark basically allows authors to have books distributed to the world, so technology does that.

Robin Cutler [00:03:45] Your background is out of traditional publishing in the business world?

Julie-Ann Harper [00:03:53] It was interesting. I am a traditional publisher in the sense that I have traditionally published my books or I didn't go down the print on demand path and eBooks and other things. I started out whereby I had a company that was actually helping people enter small business. I needed a book for my courses. The books that I was having to buy were $300 each participant and I thought, "I can do this." I got together with a couple of other writers and we created a business and it was in educational publishing for small business management books. Essentially, we were an indie publisher and we took that business from being just one or two courses, to basically being in every take in Australia. Then we had McGraw-Hill actually buy the publishing rights to put it into places like Office Works and everything else where small business congregated. Essentially, I started based on a need and then fell in love with the publishing world and then when I sold that company, which I was very grateful of, because I was thinking, "This is a lot of work and a lot of time." I had two companies and I needed that quality of life back. And then I said, "I'd never ever go back into publishing again." About three years after that, I was back into publishing again. And you know what, it's in your blood.

Robin Cutler [00:05:22] I can't get away from it as hard as I try.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:05:25] No. I was very grateful, because as I said, "I've learned to do what I have to teach people to do now." So, I'm not like somebody who's done one book and I can show you what to do. We've literally, we walk our talk, and we have to, because book publishing is actually a business for those people who want to treat it as a business. Some people might just want to print it for their family and friends, that's absolutely okay, but a lot of people don't realize that indie publishing is a business and there are responsibilities around that. Your book is a product. You just don't wing up a product and go, "Okay, market, now come and get me." It's the same with a book. You have to have a business plan and marketing plan and everything else, and as long as you've got the right guidance, it's doable.

Robin Cutler [00:06:13] We were fortunate enough to have dinner together last night, so I've had a little time to spend with you and get to know you, but I love how you talk about the integrity of your work that you do in working with authors and how that's really important to you personally and spiritually.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:06:34] Absolutely, for me, at the end of the day, I have a responsibility to share my knowledge, but I often say, "Look, my knowledge is free, but my time is not." I say that because I want people to know that we're here to help, but I also know that sometimes it's not us. My responsibility is to guide people into what they need, as opposed to buying a packet, which essentially is vanity publishing, or predatory publishing as we call it here in Australia, and not every author needs that. They may only need a revised cover, but they've already done their interior. They may need an edit, but it's not going to be through my editor, because it's not his genre or...we've got a team of about 30 different people globally, some in the US, some in Australia, they're all over the place, some in California. If the client needs the service, then they're matched up with the professional, but sometimes that's, as I said, "I want to do it myself, I don't need your help." But they need to know where to go for the information.

Robin Cutler [00:07:39] What do you think the number one thing is that authors that think they want to become a publisher…what's the number one thing they need to know about?

Julie-Ann Harper [00:07:49] They need to know who their target audience is.

Robin Cutler [00:07:51] The target, yes. Why are you writing this book?

Julie-Ann Harper [00:07:53] Many authors think that it's just going to be the number one bestseller. My wish is that it was like that for them, but the only way they usually get there is a lot of hard work and there's definitely cheat methods out there at the moment, which is probably a whole new topic on how to use algorithms and become number one bestsellers, but your readers aren't silly. They know if you've only got two reviews on there and you say you're a number one bestseller that you've basically used algorithms and click baits to essentially get that book to where you say it's number one bestseller. Your readers aren't silly. There is a right way of doing it and a wrong way of doing it.

Robin Cutler [00:08:42] There really is. Even somebody like you with Pick-A-WooWoo, can't turn a bad book into a good book.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:08:50] No. You and I were talking about if there's one thing that we'd like to say, it's that when you ask a professional to do something, you should take their opinions, because they've got the runs on the board, they've walked their talk for a long time, they know what they're talking about. I was only using the analogy with you is like, you don't tell an electrician what to do, you don't tell a plumber what to do.

Robin Cutler [00:09:14] Or hairdresser.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:09:14] Or a hairdresser. You don't go to the hairdresser and ask them to cut your hair, but you hold the mirror and then use the scissors, and you tell them what to do and they stand behind you doing nothing. That's just a recipe for disaster. It really is. Because there's tried and true methods and publishing standards and I'm not saying you can't break the rules, because you can, but a lot of it, it's there for a good reason.

Robin Cutler [00:09:41] It's the first thing that will show your book as amateur that you don't follow those standards, you don't follow the basic order of a book.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:09:52] Yes, absolutely, and that's what we call a self-publishing signs and they're so obvious.

Robin Cutler [00:09:58] So name them, you know your things...

Julie-Ann Harper [00:10:01] There's things like the word buyer on the front cover. That's just so simple. For me, I say, "Look, you try to blend in to attain publishing standard." If you want to know what that looks like, go into a bookstore or go online and have a good look at good, traditionally published books. You want to blend, not stick out. Interior, there's a whole host of tell-tale signs. No front matter. In Australia, we have cataloging publication and we have a logo now, which is essentially pre-publication. They're important tell-tale signs that you know what you are doing.

Robin Cutler [00:10:40] I'm always amazed when I pick up a book and it doesn't even have a title page, which should always be the third page of the book, right? It should always say the title, the subtitle, the name of the author, and the name of the publisher. If I see any of those pieces missing, you know! And bookstores know. That's a self-published book.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:11:04] The one, if you got past the title page, it's like, where a chapter page usually starts on the right-hand page, on the left-hand page, if it's blank, it remains blank. No header, no footer. That means no page number.

Robin Cutler [00:11:18] It's blank.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:11:18] It's blank.

Robin Cutler [00:11:21] Blank, it's blank.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:11:22] It's so telling.

Robin Cutler [00:11:24] What she's saying is, so traditionally, the book starts on a right-hand page, not a left-hand page, when you start the text and chapters don't usually run on with each other, they usually start on either a new page or a new right page. If it's a non-fiction book, typically it has an index, and that's really, really important. What other tips there?

Julie-Ann Harper [00:11:56] There's little things that, from a book designer's point of view, it's like when you're formatting, you either have a block paragraph and a space and then another block paragraph.

Robin Cutler [00:12:11] Or you have indentation.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:12:11] Or you have indentations and no spaces.

Robin Cutler [00:12:14] Spaces, yes.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:12:16] It's one of the dead giveaways where authors think that they have to have it indented and spaces between paragraphs.

Robin Cutler [00:12:21] Yes.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:12:23] It's only a little thing, but it's a major error.

Robin Cutler [00:12:25] Yeah. The other thing I hate, and I hate this as a reader, and to me, this is a tell-tale sign, if the text runs too close into the gutter.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:12:36] Oh, absolutely.

Robin Cutler [00:12:36] I hate that.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:12:38] Absolutely.

Robin Cutler [00:12:38] Or if it runs too close to the edge, that kind of scares me as a reader.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:12:41] Absolutely. We always say the gutter margin has to be wider than the outside margin, simple as that. If you look at it and it's not wider, it's not correct, because basically, the text will flow into the gutter and you have to crack open the spine to read it. My other ones are little, but they are actually important. For example, when you've got a diagram or an image, the text starts again and should be left alone, because the eye…it doesn't need to be indented. They're just little things, but they make it so much easier for the reader to read that book.

Robin Cutler [00:13:20] What about a widow at the top of a page?

Julie-Ann Harper [00:13:22] Look, I literally have got...

Robin Cutler [00:13:25] Tell people what a widow is.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:13:28] No, I'm not going to, because we'd be here all night. But essentially, there's things like widows, orphans, ladders, mirrors, and runts. I don't know if that's the terminology.

Robin Cutler [00:13:39] I don't know runts.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:13:39] A runt is like a word at an end of the line, at the bottom of the page, sticking there by itself.

Robin Cutler [00:13:45] That's not an orphan?

Julie-Ann Harper [00:13:47] It can actually be considered an orphan, as well, but it's also, we can call it a runt. It's like a runt in the litter. Like with animals. There's all these little things that we just go look, they're tell-tale signs.

Robin Cutler [00:14:00] We're geeking out on book design right now.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:14:02] Yeah, we're really, really enjoying this.

Robin Cutler [00:14:07] Because some of you may or may not know, I started my publishing career as a book designer, so I'm really passionate about the way a book looks.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:14:16] We should be passionate if it's our book, as well, because essentially, the whole idea is to get your book to a trade publishing standard, so that it blends in the marketplace and doesn't stick out like a sore thumb, because you've got all the self-publishing tell-tale signs. It screams self-published. Only tonight, we listened to a lady from a bookstore who said, "I can tell straight away. I only have to open one page and I can tell that it's self-published."

Robin Cutler [00:14:44] What about imprint? We talked about that and all of you weren't here tonight, we did an indie publishing forum here in Melbourne and had like, over 100 people here, it was really a fantastic event, but one of the questions was about whether or not as a self-publisher, you should have a publisher imprint, so what's your thoughts about that?

Julie-Ann Harper [00:15:08] Well, I think that everyone on the panel, two people on the panel said no and I had to put my hand up and say, "Oh, I sort of disagree."

Robin Cutler [00:15:15] I disagree, too.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:15:15] Yeah. For me, I actually think it's incredibly important, because at the end of the day...

Robin Cutler [00:15:22] To have an imprint.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:15:22] …have a publishing imprint, because that's one of the tell-tale signs of self-publish.

Robin Cutler [00:15:29] I think so too.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:15:29] Indie publish, I prefer to call it. But for me, it's about, you are a business, so you are the face of the business as the author, but you need to be able to brand your book. Now, you can brand your book with a publishing imprint logo, you can brand it with a style. It really is one of those crucial advantages to be seen as an indie publisher, as opposed to being seen as a self-published author under their own name.

Robin Cutler [00:16:01] Yes.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:16:04] There's a real difference in professionalism there, in my book.

Robin Cutler [00:16:07] Yes. And you know, what I say, I say make it grand and glorious.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:16:12] Nice expression.

Robin Cutler [00:16:14] I think it's really important, too.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:16:16] I'll give a quick example. If I had to set up my company as Julie-Ann Harper, it wouldn't have worked.

Robin Cutler [00:16:21] It's not as memorable as Pick-A-WooWoo.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:16:24] No.

Robin Cutler [00:16:24] No.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:16:25] Pick-A-WooWoo has opened many, many a door, but it's important to have a brand name, because that will leverage you into the marketplace.

Robin Cutler [00:16:33] Plus, as your author business and your publishing business evolves, you don't know today that that's going to happen and at some point, you may publish other people.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:16:46] Quite an option, they do. We do a number of authors who start with us just doing one book and then they end up being a publisher of that particular genre, they found a niche, and we act as just an author services company for them and still maintaining the standards, which they need to maintain as a publisher.

Robin Cutler [00:17:07] Well, I loved meeting you, Julie-Ann, this was fantastic! I wish you were going to be with me my whole time I was here in Australia. I can't wait to see more kangaroos, I saw one yesterday. Anyway, I just really love all that you do and all the work that you do on behalf of authors.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:17:27] Well, I think it's the fact that we get to do what we love and that to me is fantastic, but then equally, we get to do it with a system like IngramSpark that I am the biggest advocate for. Because without that, too many of our authors would've just been getting into more and more predators of practices, which is sad to hear and we hear many sad stories. IngramSpark has been a game changer for the publishing industry. You showed that example of what's actually happened in our history of time. This is actually a game-changer, an absolute game-changer…for every author out there.

Robin Cutler [00:18:03] Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Julie-Ann. It's been fantastic to talk to you.

Julie-Ann Harper [00:18:09] You're welcome.

Robin Cutler [00:18:10] Thank you all for listening today. We hope these episodes inspire you on your own publishing journey and if you're ready to publish today, please visit IngramSpark website. For more tips on publishing like a pro, subscribe to our podcast and weekly blog or check out our free online self-publishing courses available in the IngramSpark Academy. Talk to you soon.

Create an IngramSpark account