Berkeley CWC volunteer Cristina Deptula caught up with the speaker of this Sunday’s meeting for some questions about independent publishing. If you don’t know Joel, he is an award-winning book designer, blogger, and writer. He speaks regularly at industry events and is the author of A Self-Publisher’s Companion and coauthor of The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide. Joel is a columnist for Publishers Weekly, and was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 10 people to follow in book publishing. He runs a number of helpful websites such as TheBookMakers.com, offering full service book production for authors and publishers.

Come out to our Sunday meeting to ask Joel your own questions about indie book publishing.

Joel-2014-headshot 300xHow does an author decide when to self publish and when to seek an agent and a traditional publisher? What sorts of books do you think are best served by each form of publication?

​Several elements go into this decision. Traditional publishers will be looking for books that will be sufficiently profitable to justify the expense of publishing them. Some authors may not want to wait the 1 to 3 years this process takes, and others want more control of their publications than is afforded in typical publishing contracts. Authors who have ready access to an audience for their books, or who are innately entrepreneurial, are likely to have the best results from self-publishing.

What are some big mistakes to avoid when self-publishing that make your book look unprofessional?

​The worst mistake is to publish a book with an “amateur” cover. It will mark your book as an amateur production before anyone even has a chance to open the book.​ Similarly, publishing a book that hasn’t been edited by a professional book editor isn’t a good practice.

What are some tips to make your self-published book stand out?

​Again, do yourself a favor and hire a professional cover designer and editor. Beyond that, look at the market you are entering. What does your book contribute that is not available? Does it do something better than any other books in the market? Or do it better, more extensively, or in greater depth? Why do people need this book?​

How can authors get self-published books noticed by media and bookstores? Are there hacks to the process or is it still a matter of calling and emailing place after place and dropping off copies?

​There’s no shortcut to marketing a book. Self-publishers can run review campaigns to print, electronic, and online media just like any other publisher. They can advertise on social media sites, build community through blogging or sharing their stories. There are no “magic bullets.” Most self-publishers will not have the assets to attempt a national marketing campaign with offset-printed books, a marketing budget, and a national distributor, all of which are necessary to go beyond consigning books to your local bookstores.​

What’s worth spending good money on as an author and where can a self-publishing author save cash?

​Use free reviews before you pay for any. You can find cover designers who charge very reasonable fees. Editing and cover design are the places to spend your cash. Use a template for your book interior, it will save you a lot of time and money with designers and formatters.​ Partner with other authors who publish books that appeal to the same audience and run promotions where you split the cost. Develop a blog and grow an email list, nothing you can do will pay off as well.

Whether or not you have questions for Joel, we hope to see you this Sunday at our monthly meeting at Preservation Park. Remember, though Joel speaks at 3:15, the meeting starts at noon with support groups to help you resolve issues in your writing or your book marketing…or just network with other writers over tasty snacks and coffee. Doesn’t your writing career deserve a little time this week?

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