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The No B.S. Beginner's Guide to Getting Published

Getting published is the best thing happen to a writer since the word processor. (Or maybe that moment when Paris Hilton decided NOT to write any more books.)

Either way, self publishing does represent the BEST, most accessible, path for writers to make a living from their writing. And, I should know, because if it wasn't for getting self published, I'd still be churning out 400-word, keyword-laden tattoo articles.

But as wonderful as getting published is - and it does kick serious ass - there are quite a few questions about getting published. Namely: "What the hell is self publishing?" and "How do I use it to get published?" are some of the most common questions about getting published answered. (Have ya got a self publishing question? Let us know over at our Facebook page.)

Getting Published Question #1: Okay, I'll bite. What IS self publishing?

Well, it's probably easier to start off by describing what self publishing is NOT. It's written material "published" for public consumption - whether in electronic or paper form - but NOT published by one of the big 7 traditional New York publishing houses. (This will include your Simon and Schuster, Wiley, Random House, etc.)

Getting Published Question #2: This means most self published books suck, right?

Yeah, well, that used to be the case. Back in the Mesozoic era - or as we like to call it...the 90s - self publishing usually meant forking over about 10K to some "vanity publisher" who would send you a hard-bound printed copy of your book. (Which you'd then force friends and loved ones to read.)

But today, self published books are often not only as awesome and kick-ass as traditionally published books - but they can make the author significantly more in royalties. (The royalty split on the Amazon Kindle Publishing platform is 70% to the author; 5% is the norm with the traditional publishing model.)

The REALLY exciting thing is that movie development folks - who tend to throw stupid amounts of money at authors - have started buying up self-published literary properties. (And self published non-fiction authors are "starting" to make headway on major media networks, such as "The Today Show."

Things for us self published authors are looking bright, indeed.

Getting Published Question #3: Sounds pretty cool. Is there any reason I wouldn't want to go the self published route?

Well...if you're a non-fiction author who does NOT depend on book sales for revenue - and instead you're using the books as a lead generation tool to drive folks to your marketing funnel of doom - then, if you're offered a traditional publishing gig, I'd probably go for that.

However...if you need to sell books to eat and make car payments, then there's really NO incentive to the traditional publishing route.

Getting Published Question #4: How hard it is to get self published?

Define "hard."

No, but seriously it really depends on what you want to do. If you wanna just publish a digital version on the Amazon Kindle platform of your tome in eBook form. (That can literally take 15 minutes.)

If, however, you want to self publish a book in print form, that is a WHOLE other time suck. (I go over a lot more tips in my "Book Printing 101" section.)

On the whole, I heartily recommend newbie self publishers START with Amazon and work their way from there. (It's easy, and it's where the most sales are.) If you want to learn more about Amazon self publishing, check out my Kindle Publishing Secrets section.)

Getting Published Question #5: Can you actually make money from getting self published?

Yes, I make a full-time living from self published books. (It is not, however, a get-rich (done in a weekend) formula. But it can be done. (And tons of people have done it.)

Getting Published Question #6: How long do self published books have to be?

Another good question. Again, it depends on their eventual destination - and the genre of your book. My non-fiction self published eBooks sit in the 10K-15K range. (Some longer, none shorter.)

My fiction eBooks tend to be a bit longer. (About 20K or so.) But...this is far shorter than the usual fiction book. (Which is about 60-75K.)

If you PLAN to self publish a print book then you'll have to be closer to the 45K-55K range. (Otherwise your book will appear as skimpy and light as a....)

Getting Published Question #7: Are there certain genres that sell better than others?

Oh, hell yeah. Nearly 90% of all the eBooks sold on Amazon are fiction. And if you write in the romance, mystery, YA or sci-fi/fantasy fields you are in really good shape. (For more info on fiction self publishing, head over to my "How to Write a Book That Doesn't Suck" section.)

Now, this doesn't mean you non-fiction authors out there are totally screwed up. I make MOST of my income from non-fiction books. The key thing is you gotta a) distinguish yourself from the crowd (be shocking, be different, have attitude, take a stand) and b) you gotta deliver on the promise of your title.

If you can do those two, you can RULE any category - partially because most non-fiction authors are as boring as a Congressional vote. (If you want some more non-fiction self publishing goodness, head over to my "How to Write a Book That Doesn't Suck" section.)

Getting Published Question #8: Are there any self publishing costs I should be aware of? (What will this cost me?)

You mean, aside from your genius?

So...there are essentially THREE big self publishing costs to be keep in mind. You'll need:

1) Manuscript Formatting Software (Scrivener/$40) - Microsoft Word will drive you batshit crazy after awhile. So you're going to need something to format and organize your writing. There are many solutions but Scrivener is my personal favorite. (It's cheap, it totally works.)

2) Copyeditor for your book ($75-$150) - This is VITAL. Do not skip this. Nothing gets bad reviews quicker than grammatical and syntax errors. I use a freelance site like oDesk to handle all my copyediting duties. (But you can locate talent wherever you like.)

3) Kick-ass cover for your book ($50-$150) - Again, this is SUPER important to the success of your self published book. To find graphic designers, I like to head over to the freelance site Elance. (A bit more expensive than oDesk, but it tends to be worth it.) However you go about it make sure you're very clear about what you want. (And do research in your genre. Find out what other authors in your category are doing with their covers.) total you'll need about $350 max. (A bargain if you plan to make this a career.)

Getting Published Question #9: Aside from Scrivener, which self publishing software do you recommend?

Honestly, whatever the HELL gets your book done. I actually write most of my books in notepad. (I liek NO distractions.) But whatever app, tool, resource, doo-hickey helps you get your book done is cool with me.

What I would STAY away from are self publishing software solutions that PROMISE you'll be a bestseller. (Sorry, it just doesn't work that way.) Although...makes me wonder what kind of "software" the author of "Fifty Shades of Grey" used.

(check out my self publishing software and tools resource for the books, apps and goodies that'll make you a super awesome writer in no time.)

Getting Published Question #10: Are there any self publishing companies you recommend? (Or any self publishing companies to avoid?)

I think this depends on what you mean by "self publishing companies." In the self publishing world there are:

1) Distribution Platforms (such as Amazon KDP, Smashwords, Audible, Barnes and Noble, iBookstore, etc.)

2) Service Providers (Anybody who provides a service or tool to help you get your work into the self published netherworld.)

As for the first, again I'd recommend you start with Amazon. And then build out from there. (You'll figure out which self publishing platforms are worth your time.)

As for the second category, as somebody who has published over 35 books I will tell you I'm skeptical of MOST service provider model self publishing companies. (Remember MOST folks who made money in the gold rush sold shovels, not gold.)

Now, if there's something you HATE to do or don't have any clue HOW to do: such as formatting a manuscript or managing your Facebook page or programming tweets promoting your self published books...then by all means delegate that crap. (I hate it as much as you do.)

But...if you get an offer from a company guaranteeing - "for the low, low price of Five Thousand Dollars" - to "handle" the entire self publishing process for you, THINK very carefully before plunging ahead.

The self publishing tools out there are getting easier and easier to use. (And more effective each day.) And if you plan to write more than one book, which I hope you'll do, you'll want to learn the publishing process from the inside out.

And then pretty soon you'll be the one answering the questions.

Michael Rogan

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