So a week or so ago I spoke about why you might want to self-publish a book of poetry. Now I'm going to talk about the first few things I did to get my own project rolling.
Do Some Book Learnin'
First thing, I educated myself on what this bitch would entail: how to format a book, how to format an eBook, and what POD means. I would recommend these books to get your feet wet:
--Self-Printed, The Sane Person's Guide to Self-Publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard - Also self-published, this book is full of step-by-step, no-nonsense, tough-love advice. I couldn't have done what I'm doing without this book.
-- The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine - This is a market study on most of the self-publishing services out there. You must read this book to know how to be a savvy shopper. I was able to avoid an overpriced, poor-quality offer from a local publisher because I had read this book.
-- Sell More Books! by J. Steve Miller -- This book is good for two reasons: one is that it is full of typos and layout disasters, which exemplifies, in every detail, the pitfalls of self-publishing. But like my grandfather once said, you can learn something even from from a fool. Which brings me to the second reason to like this book, although the production of it may suck, the marketing advise in this book is still very good.
-- Find the latest book on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and the latest book on social marketing. Internet rules change so fast, you need a book published no earlier than 2011.
Create a Publishing and Marketing Plan
Publishing entails a zillion details, so you need to make a to-do list. It all may look overwhelming but remember, as actor Sherman Hemsley taught me in one episode of Amen, you can eat an elephant one bite at a time.
You also need a separate marketing plan. All the how-to guides on self-publishing agree on this fact: you need some real educating in marketing to sell your book.
Assets, Companies, Permissions, Introductions
- Set up a website. You have to at least have a website if nothing else. You can do this for free on WordPress.
- Self-publishing is remarkably affordable to do these days. But most guides I've read recommend you spend some cash on three items: your profile photo, your book design, and an editor for your book. I found a professional photographer I knew, Stephanie Howard, to take my profile photos. I've also researched the book designer and editor I want to use. They say this is the most crucial aspect of your project, a respectable cover. It's worth paying for. And if Sell More Books! had hired an editor to catch all the typos, the book wouldn't seem like something done by an amateur.
- Most poets love to begin their poems with an introductory quote to give the poem some gravitas. But you can overdo it. When you publish, you need to make some hard choices with those quotes because, unless the quote is from a piece of work in the public domain, you will need to seek permission to use it from the original publisher. This could take up to eight weeks to obtain and you should be prepared to hear the answer No. Do your poems lean on these quotes like a crutch? You should be able to live without them. I have two quotes left in my manuscript and I'm still waiting to hear back from the respective publishers, Discover Magazine and HarperCollins.
- You don't have to start an LLC book company to self-publish, but you can if you want a creative logo on your book jacket or your own ISBN number (alternatively, you can use the ISBN provided by CreateSpace or the POD-publisher of your choice). In New Mexico, it costs about $35 to form an LLC and $35 more to obtain a business licence.
- I also arranged to have my first poetry mentor write the introduction to my book. This was probably the most sentimental piece of the project so far. This person taught me (pretty much) everything I know about crafting poems. My first semester with him was truly life changing and I was honored he agreed to contribute to my first book.