This is a 6 part series called What I Hate About Self Publishing. Part One: The Overview. Part Two: Scams. This is Part Three: The Education Challenge. Part Four: Time. Part Five: Quality Assurance. Part Six: Lack of Marketing. The conclusion.
Today, The Education Challenge
One of the biggest challenges in the world of indie publishing is just how many different things you have to learn in order to be able to do it well. If you want to truly “DIY,” you have to learn:
- Cover design
- ISBN registration
- Print buying
- eBook production and distribution
- Physical distribution
- Collateral Material Design and Production
- Accounting and other legalities
I’ve been publishing books for 12 years. I’m a fair hand at editing. That means I have a decent grasp of the Chicago Manual of Style, some absurdly particular grammar, and some overall concept of what makes readers happy. I’m a great typesetter. I’m great with the print buying and the legalities stuff. I’m decent, but still learning when it comes to cover design and eBook production. I have a good grasp of marketing basics. I know almost nothing about the PR world. That’s what I’ve learned from 18000+ hours of work on the ins-and-outs of book publishing.
When someone decides to self-publish, they are immediately confronted with hundreds of different pieces of input. This blog post is one of the many posts they’ll come across while googling “how to self publish.” They could read for a year and still have lots more to consume.
That’s actually the biggest reason the scams succeed. What happens, usually, is this cycle of Energize – Research – Depress – Give up – Re-energize. It’s at that point that someone swoops in with a “pay this much, we’ll do it all, don’t even worry about it,” sort of an offer. The author, fast-approaching the depression stage, says yes, writes a check, and spends the next 5-12 months wishing they’d kept researching.
But the authors who stick to the do-it-yourself path still have an onerous task to try to accomplish. At the end of the day, you have to learn so many inane things that the typical person just doesn’t think about. Things like, that section at the beginning of the book, is it a forward or a foreword? How should the page numbering work? Do you leave the page numbers on an otherwise blank page? On the cover, should the word “by” be beside your name?
One of the most important things you can do for yourself — not just in publishing, but in life — is figuring out what you want to be good at and putting effort into getting good at it. The reality of the education problem for self-publishing is that you need to cultivate really good sources, hire a really good team, and learn enough so that you can ensure excellence in the final product. You need to be working with people that are worth working with.
Of course, all of this information does one other thing: it keeps you from shipping. Learn what you need to know to create a great product. Not a perfect product, just a great one. Then, ship it like it’s going out of style. You could go on learning forever, but at some point, you’ve got to start creating and delivering great product. Don’t get so caught up in Ingram Spark versus Create Space versus whatever else that you don’t deliver a great reading experience to your audience.