Monday, 21 December 2015

How to self-publish a work of non-fiction; pitfalls and handy tips

This year 2015 is the year I wrote my first book - a work of non-fiction entitled Stress, Trauma and Unresolved Emotion in Chronic Disease. It was, to my knowledge, the first time that someone has addressed the biochemistry, physiology and psychology together in one book reflecting my personal interests. I started research formally last September, and completed a 'how to write a book course' which , although giving me some useful tips, turned out to be a bit out of date and more geared towards those who want to get a publisher, whereas I wanted to self-publish as I knew I could get it out quicker.
  1. Writing the manuscript
    I used Word which I know is not what professional writers use, but once you set up a Styles template makes producing an index (aka Table of contents or TOC) much, much easier. You can also move parts of your document around by looking in Outline view so you don't have to scroll through thousands of words.

    I was told that around 30 - 70,000 words was ideal - in the end mine was over 80,000 but as it was quite technical in places and needed a lot of explanation I deemed that ok. There is an important payoff between length and cost so this is important.
  2. Proof reading
    I got a friend who specialises in this to do the proof-reading - don't attempt to do it yourself as you will not notice errors. Even after this was done there were still some that escaped so I would say get it proof-read professionally and then maybe read by someone you trust to see if they understand it and it makes sense.They can also point out anything that they notice that may have been  missed.
  3. Kindle version
    I then went on to the Kindle self-publishing website and found a template which enabled me to copy and paste into which made the kindle pages the right size (6" x 9")is industry standard and paginated accordingly. After that it was simple to check the layout and make any necessary changes using their tools.
  4. Print version
    For the print version I knew I'd have to do a lot more work; I chose to use CreateSpace which is an amazon company dedicated to self-publishing print to order books. Now, some of you may grown but it has been invaluable in the help they give you and the easy interface with amazon, which, after all is the biggest bookseller in the world. I did some research on alternatives, which work out slightly cheaper per print copy but then you had to pay more up front print costs which, since I had no idea how many I'd want, seemed not a good idea. The point after all, is not to have to order loads of books that you then have to store. Print to order is exactly what it says. They're only printed when someone orders a book and then you get your royalty payments accordingly.

    This proved to be quite tricky and took almost as long as the proof-reading as the system has to be re-published too each time you make an alteration to the text. So make sure your manuscript is finalised before publishing to the online tool.
  5. Images
    These proved very tricky indeed - getting royalty free images is vital so either your own or ones which are clearly marked as such. you may need to search for these online and check. Also size is an issue here as in order to print well, some of the images I'd used in my kindle edition were not good enough for the printed version as the resolution must be much higher for print than for the web. In the end where I couldn't find a better quality image I had to reduce the size of the images - and keep re--publishing an proofing til the online tool accepted my version (it has some inbuilt checks here).
  6. Printing
    The issue of colour or black and white is crucial - I wanted a colour print but it turned out that the cost to make a profit would have meant the retail cost to the buyer would have to be around £25 - not likely to sell well for a first-time author no-one has heard of!! So I chose to go for a colour cover (using my own artwork and again their handy design tools) and a b/w interior. It's come out fine, very clear and although I would have preferred colour of course, it still makes sense as the greyscale is quite well-defined for some of the more complex diagrams that require you to map to a key.

    Anyhow when I had to judge what a good sale price would be and determined £5.99 for a Kindle version £7.99 for a 300 printed page book was ok (actally this is cheap but as an unknown author I didn't want to price myself out the market). Each author needs to make this choice for themselves. you will also need to judge whether you want to give Kindle unlimimted rights to the digital version which gives you more royalties but means you can't advertise it anywhere else e.g another bookseller or on your own website.  you can reassess this after 90 days and change your mind.

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