For those who may not know, an imprint is defined as, per Wikipedia: “An imprint of a publisher is a trade name under which it publishes a work.” As a writer, if you self-publish, then you are technically a business owner so it’s a good idea to have an imprint or trade name under which you bundle your works. You might even use different names “as brands to market works to various demographic consumer segments.” (Wikipedia) You must be a jack-of-many-trades as you take on the roles of writer, editor, publisher, project manager, funding specialist (if you’re looking into crowdfunding your publication), and more. It’s a huge undertaking and there are pros and cons to be weighed before making the commitment.
The following tips are from an article written by Amy Collins for the November/December 2019 issue of Writer’s Digest:
Remember, there are NO SHORTCUTS in self-publishing. Nope. Ain’t gonna happen. Unless you want to put out a poorly written and edited manuscript with a cheesy book cover that doesn’t sell well …if at all. Self-publishers may have a smaller budget so they will want to skimp on the important parts: editing, layout, proofreading, cover design, etc. My advice is DON’T SKIMP. Nothing wrong with looking for affordable options – just know that you WILL get what you pay for, which may or may not end well for you and your book. Remember that this part of the process is for your readers, not you (your part was writing the story, whatever your inspiration), so do your best to put out a worthwhile product. And this step is vital if you want bookstores and libraries to consider purchasing copies of your book. It needs to look and read as professional as possible. Do your research and do your best to choose wisely.
Amy’s Pro Tip: “Budget for every element of book publishing: development editing, copy editing, layout of the interior, cover design, marketing, sales, distribution, and printing as well as every element of starting a small business.” (My tip: include accounting and taxes in this list, since this is a business and will likely be separate from your other work.)
“While self-publishing is a viable option if done well, the marketplace is flooded with sub-par, poorly written, self-edited, book-shaped objects that have not gone through the proper care every book needs before being published.” ~ Amy Collins
Caveat Emptor: WATCH OUT for Those Vanity Publishers!
I wrote on this very topic in a previous post. Luckily, our watchdogs at Writer Beware® keep the writing community up-to-date with the who’s who of fraudulent or questionable “publishing houses.” (And if you’re not subscribed to that blog, accrispin.blogspot.com, shame on you.) There have been and continue to be issues with royalty payments, fees padding, and unscrupulous owners offering restrictive contracts that may or may not take away your copyrights. READ every line of every contract and don’t be afraid to ask QUESTIONS.
Amy’s Pro Tip: How do you know whom to trust if you want to avoid a nightmare situation in partnering with a self-publishing company? Sites such as Writer Beware highlight offending companies. Other resources that offer a guide to the hundreds of author services out there include The Alliance of Independent Authors self-publishing service guide and the Independent Book Publishers Association Advocacy Committee’s list of nine criteria on what it means to be a professional hybrid publisher.
Even though self-publishing has been around for more than ten years, indie publishers continue to have difficulty building their reputations, thereby making it harder to garner attention from readers and retailers (not Amazon but the brick-and-mortar businesses). There can be issues with accepting returns (for example, do you have a way for retailers to return unwanted books?) and a lack of trust in the quality of your product (so go back to Tip #1).
Amy’s Pro Tip: “Build your credibility and reader base with consistent outreach. Approach established book reviewers, but don’t forget to keep asking for reviews from your readers as well. Researching book reviewers and requesting reader reviews is a practice that should continue for the life of a book.”
Fellow Authors are Your Friends, Not Your Enemies
I admit to feeling a bit competitive and unwilling to read some books in the same genre (Chinese medicine) as my nutrition book. Somehow, I believed, my information was superior. That is just not true. There are so many wonderful options out there; it would actually behoove you to read a few books within your genre. Get to know the authors who write stories like yours; connect with them on FB and other SM; see who’s following them and leave comments. Who knows where these connections could lead you (and your stories).
Amy’s Pro Tip: “Find the bestselling authors in your genre and follow them on social media. Read their books and help where you can. Enjoy getting to know their readers. Authors can do so much for each other if they put aside the crazy idea that “it’s either them or me.
Write reviews and post in your author newsletter about the authors you truly admire; start building friendships. Soon, you will have a large, supportive group of authors ready to do the same for you because they genuinely want to help a fellow author. Offer to be a beta reader and cross-post for your favorite authors on their launch days.”
In the end, how our books do out there in the digital world/global community depends solely on our commitment to their success. There are many steps to take in publishing your own works but the rewards are greater if you adhere to the above advice. Like any other business, it’s best to have a plan so you can leave your imprint on the world.