How I Went About Self Publishing by Robert Shepherd

I am excited to introduce you to another new writer. Traditionally, I take Tuesdays to invite book marketing experts to share their knowledge and I invite authors to share their experiences and advice. Today, we have Robert Shepherd who will take us on his journey of self-publishing his books. With all the choices out there, it’s always good to get the perspective of someone who has done it themselves.

How I Went About Self Publishing
By Robert Shepherd

Hello Everyone, firstly, it is nice to meet you all. Secondly, I would like to thank Tony for asking me to share my experiences of self publishing with you on his blog.

Before I begin, I think it is only fair to say that I am still learning the how to do just about everything, and people like Tony have taught me a lot about what to expect when publishing and marketing your work. We are all learning and I think we always will be. This is why I was so keen to share my thoughts with you, because I learn from you just as much as you may learn from me.

Now Self Publishing your work yourself, how do we go about it?

Right, you’ve just finished writing your book and now you want to get it printed up and share it with the world.

Well, you have a plethora of self publishing companies that are baying for your attention and your money. So which do you choose? We all face that question and it always comes down to: No. 1 – personal choice & No. 2 – Cost. At the end of the day it is ultimately your choice as to which one you pick. But you should be sure it is the right one for you.

I wanted to share my work as soon as possible and show my closest friends and family. This was also key element to my choice of Self-Publishers because we never can tell what may happen next and this book would be my legacy to them to remember me by. The Legacy aspect is a large contributing factor to having my work saved online where it can be viewed and a copy purchased, so I will always have something for people to remember me by.

Another reason I chose to self publish my work, except that shockingly, I didn’t have big name publishing houses and companies beating my door down for my signature to print my stories, was that I have total control over my work, from which pages get included, the cover design, the ISBN identification, previews that get shared on Amazon etc, the price of the finished product, the description and even keywords that are used to find it in online web searches.

I think most of you are the same too. You want to share your work with your kin and friends first, the world second and lastly to have a legacy to keep on the shelf long after you have gone.

I, like so many of you, did and still do, operate on a strict budget. Therefore I/We don’t have excess money to throw around at getting registered with companies and signed up to buy publishing “packs”. For those that do, these are indeed very useful places to go and help you to avoid having to do most of the promotional work yourself, for the rest of us, this is mainly not an option.

Once I had finished my work and chosen my publishers, I needed to get started sharing my work online.

I chose Lulu.com. This was for 2 main reasons: (1) A friend tipped me off about them and (2) They are FREE.

Lulu.com do not charge authors to get started for uploading your work. They are “print on demand”, therefore they print and charge by each copy. They charge the price you set and then they take their cut from that price and you get your royalties. The print costs are also included in to the overall price. However, you should be advised that they do have a minimum price that you can charge for certain book styles and sizes.

Because Lulu.com are print on demand, you, crucially need to do the leg work promoting your book. Lulu require you to upload your work from your PC using a PDF file. This is your first challenge. You need to edit your work using a a word or office software suite that has the ability to change your work into PDF format. Personally, I use Open Office, but there are many writing suites out there that offer PDF formatting options, again the choice here is entirely yours.

So now you have written your book, formatted it into PDF format and chosen for instance Lulu.com to publish your hard work. The next step is to take the plunge and sign up to your self publishers. In this case Lulu.com. When you have completed the necessary details to start with, you will be directed to another page and asked to start producing your work. They will ask if you wish to start a “new project”, click to do so and you’ll be on your way. Here all you have to do is follow all the onscreen instructions and you’ll have your work saved as a file as a new project. Once you have loaded the PDF file containing your work you can start designing your cover. You can pick a design from lulu themselves or choose to design your own, using text and pictures from your PC. You are however restricted by picture quality, type and size of pictures you intend to upload, certain image files may not be allowed or may be too large to use.

My advice is to hang in there and stick at it. Persist with it, it’s mainly about reading all fine print, all instructions carefully and good old trial and error. If something doesn’t work, go back and try something else. This is what I did. It is worth trying out different ideas, after all, a design you like the idea of, may not work out so well when you see it on screen. This was how in the end I managed to get a unique cover for my book. I had designed it, copied it and saved it onto my computer then uploaded it using Lulu’s cover design feature and tinkered with it until I was happy with it. Now I have a copy sitting on my book shelf to show people and to remind me of my hard work. The pride is immense.

You’ll need to also pick your book type and size, these range from A4, US Postal, A5 and so on.

After you have designed your cover you’ll need to complete a section giving details about your book, title (obviously), description about your book and most importantly, you’ll need to set a price for your book. Again a reminder, as I said earlier, the minimum price of your book will be dictated by the book type and size that you chose when you produced your “new project”.

Lulu is an ideal publishing site for first time authors and writers as well as more proficient ones alike. It is free and easy to use and navigate & has excellent on screen instructions and guidance and FAQ sections.

Provided that you follow the instructions and guidance you receive on the way, you will be a self published author in no time at all. It took me about a day in total, to sign up, upload my work, design my cover and finalize my work, including the pricing and ISBN identification (which lulu can provide free, unless you already have one that you wish to attribute to your book (here again lulu can provide guidance as to how to do this).

All costs are fairly obvious. You are charged the set price you provided when designing your “project” and for postage. However, a trick I found and used, when I wanted to share the first copies of my book, was to go back and click on the “edit” or “review” icon next to my book in the “my lulu” page. I then clicked to edit the pricing options. Here I deleted the price making it free to purchase. I then ok’d the changes and went back to “my lulu” and clicked on the “purchase” a copy icon next to my book title and ordered the number of copies I required. By doing this, you are only charged for the shipping, and by purchasing several copies you also save on separate shipping costs. Once I had ordered my copies, I then went back and changed my pricing back to normal again and saved it. This is not ideal, but it does save you paying full price as well as postage and packaging.

Well by now you will be able to sit back in your chair, back aching, neck sore, eyes strained and brain fatigued and know that you are now a Self-Published author. Lulu.com does provide extra services for it’s customers beyond the basic print-on-demand service, such as publishing & marketing as well as many others, but you need to remember that these all come at a cost and they are not always cheap. Therefore it is always advisable to check these out thoroughly first before choosing to use them. They are very useful, provided that you have the money spare to pay for them. However, if you are on limited finances, then you will need to undertake all the promotional and marketing legwork yourself.

I will be perfectly honest here and let nobody else tell you otherwise, promoting and marketing your book all by yourself is hard work and at times completely frustrating, but it is necessary if you want to get exposure for your work.

However, some neat tricks are to utilize the power of your computer. If you have windows movie maker or similar software, you can make up a video trailer to promote your book, which you can then place up on you-tube and other sharing websites. Be careful though, make sure that if you are using any music on your video, that you adhere to copyrights. If you are not already a member, use social network sites such as Facebook and Myspace. These are a great way to build a readership and maybe even a fan base and also provide yet another avenue to promote your book via excerpts from your book and by sharing your book trailer that you made, which can be done via you-tube. Click on the share button and you can share it on all the main social networks; Facebook, Myspace, Bebo Twitter etc. All this helps create readership and promote your work. Also next to your books title on Lulu.com you will find a “Promote” icon. Click on this and you can generate a code, HTML etc and place it on your Facebook or Myspace page leading people directly to your Lulu.com storefront where they can view and purchase your book. Be sure to place this icon on status’ and comments wherever you can to promote and provide a constant visibility for your work.

You will find many features available on Lulu.com and or on other self-publishing websites, that can help you promote and market your book(s), however I wanted to share with you how I got into self publishing and how I went about it in the first place. Once you have done initially you will soon learn the art of it and will be well versed and proficient in working out where else you want to promote your work and how.

I am available on both Facebook and Myspace and hopefully, I will be proud to count you as one of my readers and myself as one of yours. Thank you.

Robert Shepherd is the author of Life With Boris Karloff (book and audio), The Human Condition, and The Human Condition Vol. 2. You can find them on his Lulu author page.

15 Responses to “How I Went About Self Publishing by Robert Shepherd” Subscribe

  1. roatanvortex January 11, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    I started reading this article with great interest, which then switched to apprehension as I approached the part where you shared which self-publishing venue you chose… whew, Lulu! I am in the process of self publishing my first book and Lulu was the one I chose to work with too. So far so good! One thing that I had to take into consideration is that I live on a small Caribbean Island. With Lulu’s assistance, I am able to offer the “The Roatan Vortex–Insider’s Guide to Life on a Caribbean Island” through Amazon for my North American readers, as well as I will purchase wholesale copies to sell at the cruise-ship docks, and tourist stores on the Island.

  2. Cheryl Pickett January 11, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    First, thank you Robert for sharing your story. As Tony said, it’s great to be able to learn from other concrete examples.

    I would like to clarify something if I may though especially for those who may be new to this whole world. The term “self-publish/self-publisher” is used in so many ways these days and it can be confusing especially when one is trying to research what the options are. I know because I was there not too long ago.

    In the purest form of the word if you, the author, own the ISBN and hire out the rest of the tasks or do them yourself you are the publisher, you are “self” published. Others use the term indie or independent publisher. Another big key here is you also keep the profits, the entire difference between cost and profit.

    If on the other hand you use a company who gives you an ISBN and then either sets things up for you or helps you do so, and then pays a royalty (part of the part that’s left over after costs) that’s the other version of “self-published”. True, the author decides when to publish, what to publish etc. but would not be the publisher.

    Lastly, In either case, using a partner company or going it alone, more often than not, the majority of marketing is left to the author.

    Again, I hope that this is helpful for those who are new to all of this or who may be lost or confused on their path to published.

  3. Tony Eldridge January 11, 2011 at 7:03 pm #

    Excellent point, Cheryl! With all the variations of “Self-Published”, and how we use the terms, it can even make those of us who have been doing this for a while a little confused. And with technology changing as fast as it is and allowing more people access to put their dreams into book form, I suspect that we will put even more publishing paths under this self-publishing umbrella.

    But you bring out a great point. Every path has it’s own descriptive term. When we get serious about putting our book into the marketplace, we need to make sure we understand the different processes and the terms that go with them. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Rob Shepherd January 11, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Thank you for your invaluble comments Cheryl. You are very right. I use the term “Self Publishing” loosely but not in vain. As Tony said there so many descriptions these days and your comments have helped a great deal to explain these. Being fairly new to this myself your comments explaining the differences have helped me a great deal.

    Thank you too roatanvortex. I am glad it worked out well for you. Your book sounds facinating. I would like to stress that I am not endoursing Lulu, but only use it as an example as to the process I went through in the hope that it sheds some light for others. Thanks for the comments, I appreciate them all.

  5. Tara Maya January 12, 2011 at 7:36 am #

    Thanks for this article. May I ask why you chose Lulu over Amazon’s CreateSpace program?

    Tara Maya
    The Unfinished Song: Initiate

  6. Karen Cioffi January 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    Thanks for the Lulu.com details. I’ve used Lulu for two books, but never mastered the use your own cover and ended up with their generic ones.

    One day I’ll have to redo them.

  7. Rob Shepherd January 12, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    Hello Tara, thank you reading and I am glad you liked it. I chose Lulu for two reasons really, the first is that as I said in the article, I was advised about lulu by a fellow writer, they suggested I try them out when I mentioned that I was hoping to turn “Life With Boris Karloff!” into a short book. I checked them out and was surprised at how easy it was for myself in particular to use. The second reason is that at the time I was ready to get my work printed, Amazon’s CreateSpace Program was not in operation. I am intending to take a look at it for myself, to see any advantages or shortfalls of it. Thank you so much, once again for commenting Tara.

  8. Rob Shepherd January 12, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    Hi Karen, you are very welcome, a lot of what I know, I have learned through fiddling and exploring. As I said, if you get stuck, they have very good FAQ and contact sections where you should find answers to any questions. My advice again when loading pictures is to keep going. Bear in mind that images that have been scanned on to pc may end up being too large a file or contain too much information, sometimes it all comes down to the quality of the scanned image. If you have problems loading an image, one trick is to try editing it on pc before trying to upload it to lulu. But you will find an image you can use. Again lulu give you on screen advice to help you to pick a suitable image file. I hope you succeed and shall be looking out for you on lulu.

  9. Rob Shepherd January 12, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    Thank you Karen and you are very welcome. The main thing to remember is that an image scanned from pc may be difficult to upload to the cover designer depending on it’s quality or size. Lulu do give you advice on what image files and sizes they accept to help you though. Hope you succeed. I will look out for you on there. Thanks again.

  10. Hilary Melton-Butcher January 16, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    Hi Tony and Rob .. how interesting to hear how you did it .. and to get the tips from yourselves and from other commenters.

    Rob you mention your book is ‘short’ .. do Lulu do all sorts of different length books – I guess they do, within different categories of self-print.

    Thanks – very intersting .. cheers to you both – Hilary

  11. Rob Shepherd January 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    Hi Hilary, Thank you for your kind words, it is nice to know that you found it interesting.

    I quote my book as being short in length being that it is short in terms of typical fictional book length, i.e: Life With Boris Karloff! is less than 100 pages. But this is for good reason. Firstly it was written with the intention of being an easy read in down time and whilst on breaks away, but also because of it’s design. It is written in journal format and thus unless you write down a persons lifetime, the format lends itself to a shorter span. It was written to cover the period of the narrator(s)/Journal writers change in life and circumstances and thus their experiences within this period. I could have extended it beyond this period but I wanted it to still be accessible in terms of possible reality, given it’s fantastical content. Typically most of us only journalise a certain amount of our life in a diary, most of us tend to only write in our diary up to a few months or so than we find that unless we set the time aside to write in it, we end up leaving it. I wanted our narrators journal to end abruptly due to circumstances. Lulu don’t really have a minimum set length for books, but it may depend on the book style you are choosing to have your work printed under. Photo albums and formal journals I believe may have a minimum page limit but it is always worth checking with the site and their FAQ section to check these for certain. Lulu offer a wide range of book styles and therefore the length does tend to be varied, as of yet I am not aware of any major restriction on book length.

    Being that my work is mostly fiction then the minimum length is not so much an issue for myself personally. If you are writing fictional work yourself too, then I would say that you would not need worry about the length of your work being a problem in it getting printed, but it is worth reading the onscreen guidance when choosing a book style that you wish lulu to print under, this will show any minimum page requirements etc and therefore you can pick the right book style for you. You will find that certain book styles will show be flagged up in the “project” making process as not being suitable due to file size. This is generally the biggest hold back when picking your book size.

    For example, I was not able to use “journal” or US Postal sizes for my books as the files were too large for these. Once again I can only offer advice as to say that it is mostly about trying out different book sizes until it is accepted for your file size. I would love to have originally printed my book under a “Journal” book size, to keep the feel and authenticity to the work but I found that now the A5 book size I choose actually works much better and gives it more professional feel and look and helps it to stand out. As an extra note I would like to say that it is always immensely useful to pay attention to all messages or guidance that lulu puts up when you are uploading work as this also helps you to find a book size and cover to fit your work.

    The handiest thing about the site is that you are free to continue to edit your work, from content to cover even after it is saved and promoted. So you can continue to tweak it until you feel you have found the perfect finished product.

    Thank you so very much once again Hilary, your comment is much appreciated. Much love to you. – Rob

  12. v March 1, 2011 at 1:33 am #

    I really liked your article. If you go to vincestead.com you can get your book done for $200, and get it listed on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and make money from the book, and the digital downloads people buy. You won’t find a cheaper price. You can go to this link to see more info about it:

    http://www.vincestead.com/Make_A_Book.html

  13. Rob Shepherd April 10, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

    Thank you V. I appreciate your kind comments very much. I shall take a look as soon as possible thank you. Thank you for sharing this informaton, very useful thanks.

  14. Anonymous May 4, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    Thanks so much for the Article Rob, as I faced all the confusion about publishing, I elected to do all my printing, cover work, book binding, the whole ball of wax. What a lot of work to wear all those hats, and it hasn’t been cheap either, but it was fun to learn as I am a perpetual student anyhow. This keeps evolving and the learning curve is steep. Now I have discovered Kindle and I love the idea of being able to carry a complete library on one thin device. Like the guy said though, “Let me know how that works out.”

    What I have discovered is that the writing part is easy, then comes the real work of publishing and marketing and all the confusion that goes with it. With some experience under my belt I have become more relaxed and not so frustrated.

    I am currently reviewing the whole process, and as I become more relaxed, the unpleasant work is more enjoyable. Thanks to all of you who have been willing to share your experience so freely.

  15. turndogmillionaire December 21, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Some good tips here, Lulu does seem like a good platform to use. I would say i think it’s important to build a foundation, or author platform before you start publishing though. I’m actually currently writing my own marketing strategy for aspiring authors, so reading articles like this is a great help.

    Good guest post, and thanks again

    Turndog Millionaire

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