Becoming a book publisher.
By David Joel Miller, writer, blogger, and mental health professional.
Seeing my first book in print.
Once I had completed my manuscript and printed out a couple of copies for friends to read, I thought the road to launching that book into the world would get easier. There were a whole lot of challenges to navigate. Had I known how much was involved, I might not have begun this journey of writing books.
Some of those challenges turned out to be logistical, and some had to do with technology. Technology is one of those creatures I love to hate. Without all this modern technology, self-publishing would have been impossible or out of my price range. But technology also involves a learning curve that, to my old, tired eyes, looks like scaling a vertical wall.
Let me walk you through some of the decisions I had to make and the technologies they had to study. I won’t presume to say master, but I did make them all work, sometimes, at least partially, the way they were supposed to.
Do things yourself or hire people?
You can do, by yourself, all of the tasks needed to turn your manuscript into a finished book and make it available for readers to purchase. You can also contract these tasks out to others. Which do you have more of time or money? I can’t say I had a whole lot of either.
If you’re like me and love learning, you probably want to do as much as possible yourself. I also didn’t have a lot of money to commit to hiring people to do things.
A title for my publishing company.
Picking a name for my publishing company turned out to be one of the easiest choices I had to make. Since I was electing to self-publish, I could pick pretty much any name I wanted as long as it wasn’t already in use and I didn’t include someone else’s name.
I came up with the name “Portal Publishing” with the idea in mind that I wanted my books to transport readers to somewhere they hadn’t been before.
Titles for my books.
As I began each book, a title would occur to me. So that is the title on the file where all my notes and early drafts reside. My first book was a nonfiction book. If I ever publish a second edition, it will get a new title.
With my second book, I shifted to writing novels, and my experience with titles in the fiction area has been quite different. That book started out with one title, but when I got it complete, the original title didn’t quite fit, and I hastily retitled it just before I pushed the self-publish button.
When I say my first book, my second book, and so on, I’m talking about the ones I ended up publishing. I would estimate there are another 6 to 10 books that either didn’t get completed or, once I finished them, I didn’t feel they were good enough to publish. Someday, maybe, I’ll take those unfinished and unpublished drafts and run them through the process of revising and editing and see if there’s something there worth publishing.
While the titles worked for me while I was writing and publishing the books, they’re probably not the best titles for selling the books. One lesson I learned from this was that I should have taken more time and picked titles that reflected their genre and that would attract readers.
For my nonfiction book Bumps On The Road Of Life, I used the cover creator program in KDP for the paperback edition. When it came time to upload the reformatted book for the kindle edition, I couldn’t figure out how to reuse the cover that was on the paperback. So, I launched into learning to use Canva to create my own covers. It worked exceptionally well, and I could make it work quickly enough to use it for several more of my covers.
Mastering the mechanical part of creating a cover was quite challenging. However, that process has gotten easier to use the more I’ve done it. And, of course, all the technology has improved over the years between my first book, published in 2017, and now.
There’s a vast difference between creating a cover and creating a good one. I’m firmly convinced all my books would sell better with professional covers. Having covers that match the genre of your book is a necessity if you want your book to sell well.
Formatting manuscripts twice.
Formatting a book for publication is another specialized skill. I quickly learned that it needed to be formatted differently for e-book readers, which needs to flow, than the way it should be formatted for paperbacks. This means that every book I published had to be reformatted multiple times.
Another formatting wrinkle here. Each edition needs to have the front and back matter updated, and any links in the books must be revised. If you want to publish wide, meaning with more than one publisher, you’ll have to revise that back matter and create separate editions for each publishing company.
There’s an art to writing good blurbs. Unfortunately, it takes time to master blurb writing. I’ve taken several classes on writing blurbs and other advertising copy, but if you want to do this well, you’ll need more training than an hour or two of webinars.
Writing back copy.
Just like blurbs, learning to write back copy is another skill to master. While these two and other instances of writing advertising copy are related, they’re not identical.
Uploading manuscripts to various publishers was also a time-consuming activity. In addition, different publishers have different platforms. Had I continued to publish wide, I could easily have justified paying someone else to format and maintain my books on the various platforms.
Two reasons why I discontinued my effort to publish wide.
There’s a huge learning curve with each platform your books are available on. For someone like me who has a full-time job and some other things in my life that require my attention, I needed to spend more time focused on my writing and less on the mechanics of getting my book in front of potential buyers.
I also discovered that a significant portion of my book sales came from books I had listed exclusively on KDP. So it just made sense to me to have all my books available in kindle unlimited.
Getting people to buy the book.
It’s a great feeling to have written and published a book. I still remember the first time I sold a copy. I also remember when a student in one of my classes brought in a paperback copy of one of my books and wanted it autographed. Reaching that point is a baby step on the journey to being an author with a following.
I know I’ve covered a lot of topics in this brief series of posts. If you have questions or comments, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.
Having just had my 75th birthday, I’m conscious that there will never be enough time to do everything I want to do. But I’m certainly not done with my writing journey. Thank you for sharing this adventure called life with me.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller.
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