Having been raised by an academic who learned everything from a book, when I decided to return to New York City to be a professional actor, I sought out a manual called How to Be a Working Actor. Unfortunately I’ve found a lot of “how to” books contain pithy and not very useful advice. But the one thing that stuck with me from this one—I think because I was shocked that it was actually in there—was about appearance. The book said when you go to auditions you need to be clean, body and clothing, and that you should show up on time. It was the cleanliness part that threw me: did people actually expect to get jobs if they had a trail of dirt and flies around them like Pigpen in the Peanuts cartoons?
The point is, if you are self-publishing nobody cares if you iron your shirt, but your book has to be clean, combed, and polished for its audience. Here are four things you need to do to make this happen:
- Get an editor. There are many, many freelance editors out there and by looking at different online resources that cater to writers (such as www.wherewriterswin.com) you will be able to find your own. I’ve been quoted an hourly rate of $50/hour, but there are some that are higher and some that are lower, depending on their experience levels. Your book needs to be readable and as free of basic grammar mistakes as possible. It will be tossed aside by reviewers if they look at a couple of pages and it’s clear that the book has many errors.
- Get a book designer. You may not know about these folks, but they are important. Your book, whether sold in e-book or print needs to be formatted appropriately so it looks professional. A designer will paginate, insert chapter headings, justify margins, and make sure that your book isn’t screaming “self-published” to a reviewer, bookstore, or reader.
- Register your book with the Library of Congress. You can go to the website for directions on how to do this. Consider investing in having someone who knows what they are doing to provide the “in catalog” data for libraries. This looks like some kind of secret code to me, but it’s necessary for providing librarians with the information they need in order to shelve the book. I’ve used the folks at www.fiverainbows.com to help with this.
- Set yourself up as a publishing entity. Don’t publish the book with your last name as the imprint. Take the time to consider what you want to name your business, because publishing is one. Try your hand at a simple logo or get a friend who likes to play with graphic design to draft one for you. No matter how you do it, it will serve you better to have a publisher name associated with your book. There are so many independent houses these days, it is getting harder to differentiate between the “self-published” and the “traditionally published”. Many independent presses are going the route of self-publishing when it comes to printing their books, and their distribution is no different from what you can do. They may have staff, like editors, who can help you, but their actual process isn’t so different.
Stay tuned for more book business news about the mysterious world of back matter, front matter, jackets and back ads.