By Nina Amir (@NinaAmir)
In our enthusiasm to get our books written and published, we often lose sight of the fact that there’s a lot more to self-publishing a book than writing the manuscript. In this article, Nina Amir tells us the reality of the work involved with self-publishing. Do you think you’re up for the challenge?
It’s seems to get easier and easier to self-publish a book every day, especially an ebook. More ways exist than ever before to get a manuscript in the hands of readers. That’s why so many writers decide to become “indie publishers,” or “indie authors.”
While the idea of self-publishing often seems appealing—even exciting—to aspiring authors, they may not realize what becoming an indie publisher or author really means. And the job description actually may be one far removed from their dream of becoming a writer or author.
Indie Publisher = Businessperson
An indie publisher or author is a writer who self-publishes their own books by creating an imprint, also known as a publishing company. Although there are many well-established traditional “independent publishing companies” that publish the work of authors, entrepreneurial-minded authors who strike out on their own, not relying on subsidy publishers (vanity presses) to publish their work, are known as “indies.” If you decide to do the same, you become responsible for purchasing ISBN numbers for your books and also managing all the production stages necessary to get your book to press.
The main point is this: You officially create a start-up publishing business. You become a new business owner, an entrepreneur. You gain the title of “publisher.”
Here’s the rub: Most writers don’t want to be businesspeople. They want to be writers. In fact, most aspiring authors are a lot like me, and when the word “business” enters into a conversation they suffer from what journalist Ted Koppel called the MEGO factor (My Eyes Glaze Over).
Yet, more and more often these very same writers become indie publishers and authors despite the fact that starting up a business is the farthest thing from their minds. They simply decide to self-publish a book and don’t realize that this act makes them entrepreneurs.
Get Willing or Get a Team
Indie publishing success requires a huge amount of business savvy. Lacking that, it requires the willingness to learn the necessary skills to run a business or to assemble a team to help you run your new start up.
Why? Because your new start-up publishing business, your “independent publishing company,” doesn’t just require that you write a great manuscript based on a marketable idea. It also requires that you:
- Hire a professional book editor (or editors).
- Hire professional designers (interior and/or cover)
- Hire an expert to convert your manuscript to a mobi and/or epub file.
- Purchase an ISBN and bar code and file for copyright (and more)
- Upload your files to the appropriate book distributors (and all that goes with that).
- Track finances.
- Plan all promotion for your book.
- Analyze sales.
- Manage subcontractors.
- Meet deadlines.
Notice that while some of these activities are distinctly publishing oriented, others are simply business oriented. The latter include tracking finances, analyzing sales and managing subcontractors.
Let’s say you are not put off by the need for business savvy. You are willing to become an entrepreneur—or an authorpreneur—and create a start-up publishing businesses of your own. Or you’ve jumped into indie publishing and now have need to wrap your arms around entrepreneurship to keep your business afloat. What business necessities do you need to succeed?
8 Publishing Business Necessities Every Indie Author Needs
- A Definition and Vision of Success
It’s extremely difficult to achieve success if you don’t know what it looks like for you or if you haven’t defined success for yourself. While the publishing industry defines success in terms of book sales, this might not be how you previously have defined success. As a publisher, sales must become part of your definition. If you want to publish a successful book, you need to know how many sales that will take. Must you sell 500, 1,000 or more copies per year? A “break-even analysis” will help you determine this, which entails knowing what it cost to produce your book. Beyond this, how much money do you want to make? What’s your vision of success as an author and publisher? Without such a vision, you may flounder around never knowing what steps to take to succeed.
- A “Resources Necessary to Complete the Book” Calculation
Before you begin any business, or any project, you want to be sure you can afford it. Aspiring authors are often shocked at the cost of editing a manuscript, for instance, which can prove much more costly than design. You won’t be able to complete your break-even analysis without going through an exercise to determine what resources you need to complete your book. At the minimum, these can include:
- ISBN numbers
- Ebook conversion
- Bar codes
- Review copies
Be sure you have the funds to take your project to completion before you begin.
- Long Term Goals
Most companies have monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, and annual goals to meet. This helps them continuously move toward their vision of success—their long-term goal—by achieving small successes along the way. As the publisher, it’s up to you to create the goals for your company. These can be goals for when and how to publish your book, how many books to publish per year, how many books to sell per year, or how to promote each book. Your long term goals can also include how much money you plan to earn from your book.
- A Promotion Plan
Be sure you create a sound promotion plan for your book. Although each book will have an individual promotion plan, consider creating an umbrella promotion plan for your company that you can apply to all your books. Tweak it for each book depending upon the market. Promotion helps sell books, so this is an important aspect of the book publishing business.
- A Profit and Loss Statement
To keep track of how your company fares financially, you need a profit and loss statement. This allows you to determine if your start up is getting out of the red and into the black. You need to know if your company is actually making money—or if you are losing it. Good businesspeople keep close tabs on income and expenditures.
- Deadlines, Contractors and More
It’s important to build deadlines into your planning. This ensures you get your books published in a timely manner. It also helps you work with contractors. This why having both a timeline with deadlines built into it and a list of contractors and their deadlines are good additions to your list of business essentials. If you have additional resources upon which you rely, create this list and add it to your essentials as well.
- Ways to Brand Your Business and Sell More Books
A good publisher always thinks beyond one book. In fact, you’ll sell more books if you write more books. And you’ll earn more money as an author if you brainstorm additional ways to build a business around your book, such as courses, coaching, teaching, or speaking. Consider how you can brand yourself—and make more money—with books, products and services.
- A Business Plan
The most successful start-up companies are based on sound business plans. Additionally, every book should have its own business plan. Before setting out on your new entrepreneurial venture, create a business plan for your publishing company. Then create a business plan for every single book you plan to write. Each book is a new product and a new business center. No traditional publisher ever publishes a book without first determining its viability; this is done by studying the book’s business plan—the book proposal. The previous seven essential actually could—and should—go into your indie publishing company business plan.
If you decide to become an indie publisher, also become a savvy new publishing entrepreneur. Take the time before you publish your first book to create a business plan for your book and for your company. This will help ensure that your start-up company thrives and enjoys a long life, which means you have successful career as an indie author.
Nina Amir, is the author of How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time (Writer’s Digest Books). Her new book, The Author Training Manual: Develop Marketable Ideas, Craft Books That Sell, Become the Author Publishers Want, and Self-Publish Effectively (Writer’s Digest Books, March 2014), teaches aspiring authors how to create a business plan for a book. Nina transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, authorpreneurs and blogpreneurs. Known as the Inspiration to Creation Coach, she moves her clients from ideas to finished books as well as to careers as authors by helping them combine their passion and purpose so they create products that positively and meaningfully impact the world. A sought-after author, book, blog-to-book, and results coach, some of Nina’s clients have sold 300,000+ copies of their books, landed deals with major publishing houses and created thriving businesses around their books. She writes four blogs, self-published 12 books and founded National Nonfiction Writing Month, aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge. www.ninaamir.com