Published author and regular BookBaby Blog contributor Scott McCormick is embarking on a new publishing effort — a self-published book. In this 10-part series, he’ll chronicle the process, from initial call to the execution of the marketing plan, to give our readers insight into the self-publishing process.
About a year ago, I did something that seemed special to me, but which probably a thousand other writers did on that very same day: I finished writing a book. In my case, this book was a humorous young-adult fantasy novel called The Dragon Squisher.
I tried to get it published the traditional way, but honestly, my heart just wasn’t into it. I’ve done all that already with the Mr. Pants books, and the whole sending-manuscripts-out-to-agents thing is just so tiresome and frustrating, I decided I’d rather go the self-publishing route. So I contacted BookBaby.
Since I write blog articles for the BookBaby Blog, I figured I’d chronicle every step of the self-publishing process to share with you, my fellow independent authors.
This is not meant to be a review of BookBaby or an advertisement, and I am not being given special treatment. I’m just another customer, getting the same experience as everyone else, with the exception that I will be interviewing the various BookBaby employees who engage with my project along the way to gather as much helpful info for you as possible.
So, that’s my preamble to this series, and that brings me to the focus of this entry…
Placing an order for your self-published book
Let me start off with what will probably be the most important tip for this entire series: If you are looking to self-publish your book, make sure you call BookBaby (877-961-6878). Although you can place your order entirely online, believe me when I tell you that you owe it to yourself to get on the phone.
Call them if you are in the process of shopping around. Call them to ask them any questions about anything related to publishing your book. Call them if you are ready to order. Their customer service reps — who they call Publishing Specialists — are there to answer questions and they get asked about EVERYTHING.
These folks have each dealt with hundreds of other authors who have gone through the very experiences you are going through. If nothing else, it helps to talk to someone for whom every step of this process is second-nature. If you think your project/situation is different from the norm, chances are they have spoken to someone else who’s already gone through what you’re going through or whose project is similar to yours. This can be very comforting, because, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first glance, publishing a book can be very confusing.
My Publishing Specialist is Patrick Aylward, a BookBaby veteran. I asked him how long his conversations with customers were, typically. He said many factors affect that, including how much research an author has done leading up to the call (he suggests first-time self-publishers read the 5 Steps To Self Publishing guide), but that initial conversations sometimes last as long as an hour.
I am getting copy editing, so we ordered that service first (which makes sense) as well as marketing (which was surprising to me). Patrick walked me through the ordering process, which literally took about five minutes. He had created an account page for me, so I logged in, saw the two services (editing and marketing), and followed the instructions. I uploaded my manuscript, and that was that. (I’ll give more info about how to format your document for editing and also for publishing in future articles.)
Random things I learned
- Republishing. According to Patrick, about 10% of orders that come in to BookBaby are from authors trying to republish their books. Some of this is from authors who published through various publishing houses that have since gone out of business, leaving authors stranded in terms of their existing books, but most of these projects are from people who either published with other companies who messed up their books or from customers who messed up their orders all by themselves. For example, customers who decided not to order editing services (only to find numerous errors after the book has been printed), book cover design (people hire their friend who designs websites but has no concept of bleed), or interior formatting (only to discover too late that their page numbers are all messed up).
- Marketing. I mentioned I was surprised about placing the marketing consultation order so early in the process. BookBaby has partnered with a publicity firm based in Cherry Hill, NJ, Smith Publicity, to offer three different kinds of marketing consultation. I’ll go into this in more detail once I actually participate in the consultations, but according to Patrick, it’s never too early to plan and begin marketing your book. He’s even had clients who have changed their book’s title due to their marketing consultation.
- Book release date. One recurring problem Patrick hears about is from authors who set their release dates too early, which impacts their marketing efforts and book-launch events, like release parties and book signings. (Musicians do this, too, as I remember all too well from my time at Disc Makers.) On the surface, scheduling a release party seems like it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out, (depending on what you order, it can take about eight weeks to get everything.) But there are many variables in place, and some of them are outside of BookBaby’s hands. One major variable is Amazon — it can take one to three weeks to create a print listing and then Amazon requires at least a 28-day presale period after that.
Depending on what you’re ordering, Patrick recommends you plan a release party 120 days from when you place your order. That seems like a long time, but that way you have accounted for all the variables and have plenty of time to do some marketing. (Of course, coming from the traditional publishing world, 120 days seems like an impossibly speedy publishing process. If you’re lucky, your book comes out around a year after you sign your contract. Heck, it takes about six months just to get a contract from the time you have an agreement.)
That’s it for now. I’m expecting to get my editing back next week (it’s a 6-8 day turn) and I’ve already been in touch with Smith Publicity, so those will be my next articles.
Feel free to comment below. If you have any questions for me about any of this, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, hey, if you’re 12+ and into humorous fantasy novels à la Terry Pratchett or enjoy the humor of Douglas Adams and P.G. Wodehouse, then be on the lookout for The Dragon Squisher!
Self Publishing Lets You Take Creative Control
How To Work With A Self-Publishing Company
Six Myths (and a Few Facts) About Traditional Publishing
If You Don’t Pay For Book Editing, It’s Going To Cost You
Panic For Fun And Profit: Submission Deadlines And My Book Series