My Plans for World Domination

Last Monday, I was honored to speak at the local high school about my “career” (hold your snickers, please) as a self-published author. I was afraid I had little to offer since I’ve been at this officially for only 3 months. But I’ve had others recently ask me about my experiences with the process, so I thought I’d share them here. **Disclaimer: If this does not pique your interest, I promise I won’t be offended if you click away now.** Self-publishing has dramatically changed in recent years with the progress of digital technology, especially in the areas of eReaders and digital (i.e. print-on-demand) printing. Before, a self-published author had to invest considerable $$ to see a book published. This is not necessarily the case anymore. So that this post doesn’t run too long, allow me to share just a few experiences and thoughts. If you have additional questions about it, I’d be happy to answer them as best I can.

First, I believe in the power of writing because the greatest influencers in the world are often authors. My dad often quoted Hitler who once claimed he would conquer more nations by pen than by sword. Communist propaganda proved that sentiment to be a correct one. When a person writes a book, they are engaging in a very powerful process that has the potential to change the world. Authors write, not for the money as much as for the opportunity to influence others.

There is much to commend about self-publishing. It brings a higher margin of profit, and it does not require the substantial $$ investment traditional publishing requires. Using CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon, I spent all of $35 to set the book up for printing, including securing its own ISBN and purchasing the expanded distribution option so that it was available in places like Barnes & Nobles and Books a Million. Also, I had complete control over the process, and I didn’t have to wait a year to see the book hit the market as I might have with a traditional publisher.

But there is also a dark side to self-publishing, and it’s the fact that the average book sells only 75 copies, half sell 0 copies. The key, I have found, is to market the book like crazy. Such requires you to be shameless, so if you have been annoyed by my incessant promotion of “Epic of God,” I can only offer an apology… with an asterisk.

I’m not going to describe the process of writing a book; you should be able to figure that out on your own. I must say, though, that I was grateful for the technology that helped me along the way. Programs like Dropbox, Evernote, Logos Bible Software, etc., proved indispensable. Once a manuscript has been completed, however, I want to mention four things you absolutely must attend to.

You need editors

At the encouragement of a friend, I reluctantly asked some friends to edit the manuscript. They found tons of errors. It was embarrassing. Even after they were finished and the initial copies of “Epic of God” had been printed, I still found one error per chapter. Again, embarrassing, but it underscored for me how important editors are. Editing services exist, but they can be pricey. For “Epic of God,” it would have cost me $1500-2000 to have it edited. I have a kid on the way, so that was not a viable option. I AM NOT saying that such $$ is ever poorly spent. But if you can get family members and former high school or college English teachers to edit your work, do it. Just make sure you have several people read the manuscript and offer input. You will be grateful. Editors wield a frightening red pen, but it is necessary.

You need great layout

Microsoft Word is a great program to write your manuscript. I used it. But if you also use it to lay out your book, I will be able to tell when I read your book. It will look neither classy, nor professional. I paid $30/month subscription to Adobe InDesign and did the book layout that way. I was very proud of the finished product.

To lay out a book well, pick up various books and notice things like character and line spacing, drop caps, font choices, etc. Some fonts don’t go well together. This is something you have to develop an “eye” for, and I’m not claiming to be the wise old man on the issue, but you have to be aware of it. As with your manuscript, ask for constructive criticism on your book’s layout until it looks professional. Incidentally, there are tons of resources online to help you develop a discerning eye for this.

You need a great cover

As with layout, you need to learn to have an eye for a good cover. I walked through bookstores and looked at 100s of covers to figure out what I liked and didn’t like. I paid a few $$ to a guy in Atlanta who has done awesome graphics work for me in the past. I had high expectations, yet he still managed to exceed them. I have heard from several people that the cover of “Epic of God” is “WOW!” Say what you want, we ARE a culture that judges a book by its cover.

covercompare

I had already designed my own cover for Epic. As you can see, it was terrible. Pay the $$ to get a “WOW” cover.

For what it’s worth, this is one of my favorite covers ever. I’m not even sure what the book is about, but I want to read it just on the cover. See what I mean?

You need to market it faithfully

Plenty of authors write great books that are worth the time to read them. Problem is that no one knows those books exist. I personally see marketing as a means to expose the book’s message, not to make a tidy profit. If you are into writing books for the $$, you need to find another line of work. But if you want to influence people’s thinking, you need to market your book. Social media is a great place to start, and the risk of annoying people, I’ve tried to give “Epic of God” lots of exposure through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. I have also asked favors from people who are influential. Those of you who have graciously mentioned the book on your blogs, Google Hangouts, etc.----I am forever grateful for your kindness.

Submitting the book to review services and contests has also helped. I also had small business cards printed up with the book cover, tagline, and a brief description on the back. Book signings are good too. But I’m telling ya, word-of-mouth is still the most effective means of increasing your book’s exposure. If someone raves about a book to me, I’m much more likely to read it.

I hope this information helps you, and if you are interested in publishing a book, let’s talk!

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