A friend of mine recently asked me for some advice about writing and publishing a book. I dont consider myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I have gone through the process and gained some experience. I felt more comfortable telling him my story and asking him a series of questions rather than giving him advice. The first question was "do you have a story to tell?" Whether fiction or non-fiction, if you dont have a good story to tell it is unlikely you have a book in you. Secondly, "are you passionate about telling your story and have the time to invest in it?" Once again, without a passion and the time it is unlikely you will have the drive and determination to get it across the finish line. Thirdly, "do you have at least $1000 to spare on getting your book to market?" Does not matter what route you take, its going to cost you money. Free publishing (paper copy book) is not actually free.
If you can answer yes to all three questions, then you have a fighting chance. Self publishing can be a bit of a minefield. There are so many predators out there wanting to take your money off you whilst promising you world fame and book signing deals in return. It can be really difficult to separate these leeches from the genuine people who want to help you. Research, research, research are the three key tenants in getting the help you want and can afford. The choices are wide and varied, just like the picking of the type of book you want, the paper it’s printed on, hard or soft cover and any eBooks options. Much to think about. But it’s all doable on whatever budget you set yourself.
However, before you spend a penny - write the book, well at least 90% of it, enough of it to know that you will get it over the finish line. Don’t worry about format, chapters or size just write it all down, the book will eventually came together - including the title. It is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, once you have all the pieces you can hang them all together in a book. I wrote a one page summary of what my book was about right at the start and revisited that page regularly to make sure I was on the right track and also to ensure the book reflected my ideas and any changes I wanted to make. It sort of became my instruction sheet, my guiding light for writing and assembling the book. A version of the summary then became the back cover telling the reader what the book is about. I must have changed that summary twenty times or more during the writing of my book. I also looked at other books in the same genre. I wanted my book to be a little different in a special way. So I come up with the idea of a memoir based around motorcycles, the adventures and mishaps I had, and the effect riding can have on your physical and mental health. Mix all that with a bit of brand history and other interesting facts from the three continents I have lived, and voila! I produced the story of my life centered around my passion for motorcycles and motorcycling. Most importantly, I told my story in the way I wanted to tell it.
The final pieces of getting the book out there are editing and marketing. Both are emotive subjects for authors and both can be money pits. You can spend $$$$ on just one of them and depending who you talk too you will get different responses about their effectiveness. If you want to write a book purely for the satisfaction of writing a book, use your friends as editors and social media for your marketing. If you think you have a best seller then you need to invest in proper editing and marketing - but there are no guarantees it will become a best seller. I engaged the services of a publishing coach ($600) and did just about everything myself with her guidance. That process worked for me. I learnt heaps, saved lots of time, own the rights and have sold a couple hundred books - I am happy with that. The whole experience cost me around $1200. If I sell 600 books, I will break even - but making money was never my intent. I just wanted to write a book and share my story to anyone who was intereted. There is something quite satisfying about seeing all your hard work published in a book that is being read by people all over the world.