Guest blog post by R L Hanslow

I became a self-published children’s writer in December 2020, it was the year that changed everything for most people and I was no exception.

It allowed me to throw caution to the wind and just do it. Big girl panties were well and truly on.

If you’re reading this you’re either an avid reader of Fiona’s blog, one of my friends or family members (hi guys!) or you want to know how you too, can become a self-published writer.

Self-Publishing Tips

You’ve got the idea, you may even have a full manuscript and you’re at the, “What the H E double hockey sticks do I do now? “stage. Firstly, take a deep breath. Inhale for four, exhale for six, and we’ll get through this together.

My first self-publishing tip is this: Be realistic and define your version of success.

There’s a good chance you’ve got something incredible in your midst but traditional “success” won’t come overnight. It’s a gruelling path but one that can be rewarding in more ways than just making money. If money is your main goal it’s probably best to re-think your career choice or add side hustles.

The Basics of Self–Publishing

These are the three most common ways to self-publishing your book:

  1. Self-publishing completely by yourself. With this option you can of course hire the freelance assistance you may need but you cover working with retailers and distributors to sell your book. You can also be your own distributor.
  2. Self-publish by paying a service company to assist you.
  3. Work with a hybrid publisher.

I chose to go down option one for my personal circumstances, so the knowledge I have has come from trial and error in this process.

I submitted to publishers and I, amazingly, got positive feedback each time but as I’m classed as an ‘unknown author’ they won’t take the chance of giving a traditional contract (Where the publisher pays you for your book) and only offered me hybrid contracts (where they ask you to pay anything from £2,000-£10,000 to publish your book with them and they can make any changes they want).

I was told by author Alison Belsham that you should never accept a contract where you have to pay money to a publisher and I’m so glad of that advice.

guide to self publishing

Print On Demand vs Offset Printing

The next steps would be to tackle 3 key factors. These factors will help you to see which avenue is best for you and whether it would be best to do print on demand (POD) or traditional offset printing. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How/where do you plan to sell your work?
  • Where do you want to drive sales?
  • What is your budget?

I personally use Amazon KDP which is a free way to publish your book on Amazon on e-book, paperback and hardback form and the only charge is a percentage taken off any sale you get.

You get any royalties owed to you automatically every three months. This is a great option overall, but especially if, like myself, you don’t have a large budget to play with.

Side note: If you’ve got a book with a lot of illustrations or are catering to children, I wouldn’t recommend e-book formats as they don’t translate well at all and the demand for children’s e-books isn’t there like adult books. 

Printing Your Book

I also print my own copies of my books as the books made using KDP are a different size, paper texture etc than I’d personally choose so I use Digital Printing UK where I can choose everything for myself including the quantity.

After my first book, I learned that doing a pre-order campaign is a great way to determine how many books you’ll need before getting carried away and ordering more than you can store, sell or afford.

If you are going down the children’s book or illustrated book route, please bear in mind that costs for these will be higher than just text-based books.

I am lucky to be able to collaborate with my husband, who is a skilled graphic artist and illustrates my books but if you don’t know someone personally, there will be this added cost also.

Hybrid Publishing

If you choose to get someone to publish for you or feel that you are in a position to hybrid publish, please do be extra careful. More money doesn’t always mean you’re guaranteed success and there are a lot of scammer companies out there who will take your money and never do a thing they promised you.

Do your research on the companies and publisher before you sign anything or send them any money. Look at their websites and have a separate search for the authors and books they say they’ve helped previously.

It might sound like an obvious thing but when you’ve worked so hard on something and you’re just desperate for it to be put out there, these companies can make it sound like they have the solution to all your problems.

guide to self publishing

Editing Your Self-Published Book

Before actually selling your book, I would recommend making sure your book is edited to a professional standard. As my books are children’s books, I am able to make the edits I need to, however, if you have three hundred plus pages, I’d recommend a professional editor.

Sales Channels for Your Book

All authors/writers would love to have their work on the shelves of Waterstone’s, WH Smiths and even on the supermarket shelves and this doesn’t necessarily have to be a pipedream for self-publishing but be prepared for it to take a long time and some hard graft behind the scenes.

To even have your book looked at by the likes of Waterstones or libraries, you have to be registered with Nielsen and then further contact the wholesalers and suppliers to set up an agreement contract with them.

Gardners is the main wholesaler for Waterstones and then once you have confirmation of set up you then apply to Waterstone’s via their Independent Publisher scheme. For libraries, you will find Gardners and Askews and Holt are two of the most popular wholesaler and each has its own requirements to be on their seller list.

If you want to start by just selling on Amazon KDP or alternatives I’ve recently discovered Draft 2 Digital and Ingram Spark that are perfectly acceptable and will be a lot less hassle for you in regards to printing, shipping etc.

Amazon KDP also gives you a free ISBN which helps with costs and it does offer help in regards to marketing but this part isn’t free and depends on your budget.

You can also sell on your own website if you plan to give out to only family and friends etc, to begin with, you don’t need the use of an ISBN but if you plan to sell to the public, wholesalers, suppliers etc you must buy an ISBN.

What is an ISBN number?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is a unique thirteen-digit code specifically generated for your book. You can easily register for an ISBN online, I personally use the Independent Publishing Network website however Nielsen have options to buy on their site and many others also.

The cost of an ISBN is around £89 and some companies may charge extra for barcodes. If you plan on selling your book in paperback and hardback you will, unfortunately, need a separate ISBN for each format. The good news is, ISBNs never expire so once you purchase them, it’s yours and you never have to renew.

There is a legal requirement for all UK publications that have ISBNs whereby once your book is registered and published, you must send one copy to the British Library within one month of publication. You have a legal obligation to do this and supply any further copies for them or any of the six National libraries in the UK that request copies.

guide to self publishing

Promoting Your Self-Published Book

This is the part you really need to keep your own defined success in mind and keep grounded. Social media is a great tool for promotion, however, ask yourself if you are prepared to dedicate hours every day to posts, following trends etc. You will find a lot of people who are willing to review your book, especially on Instagra for a small fee.

Make sure your book has a good blurb or tagline. It’s always the attention to detail that catches the eye of buyers, you want them to want your book. In the same vein as this, having a good author bio can also be an advantage.

If you have a text-based book you also have the option of maximising your distribution via the likes of Google Play Store and Apple iBooks, you can even think about doing your own audiobook. I would definitely recommend joining the Goodreads Author Program as with a network of over 65 million members, it makes it a useful promotional platform.

Lastly, I know writing can be enjoyed in solitude but making writer friends will be a great help on this journey, not just for promotion but also for support and rejuvenation when you need it the most.

Final thoughts

Self-publishing isn’t for the faint of heart or those who want to make a quick buck. It has been one of the most exhilarating and mind-blowing experiences for me so far and I’m still learning as I go. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Fiona for being such a wonderful mentor to me and giving me this opportunity.

If you are ready to take on the journey, I wish you all the luck in the world and by all means, please contact me or connect with me on social media via my website Made You Co. There you will also find more of my writing work and how to purchase my books.

Love hard. Be fierce. Horns high.