Updated: Jun 24, 2020
Independent publishing used to be an expensive and time-consuming process. Not anymore.
It used to be you had to have money to independently publish your work (often called self-publishing). You had to partner with a printer willing to print dozens or hundreds of copies of your work, then you had to buy it from them before you could sell it. Then you had to find book retailers willing to put it on their shelves.
Wait, you gotta have money to make money? How many aspiring writers do you know who already have money???
Now, in our modern online world, you can bypass all of that.
Indie publishing often gets a bad wrap, because technically anyone can do it. It's just as easy for your angsty teenage cousin to publish her alarmingly enormous collection of bad slam poetry, as it is for a dedicated author to publish the next Great American Novel.
But the fact is, the work still has to be good to sell, so what's the difference if "anyone can do it"?
There are three main advantages to indie publishing over traditional publishing:
It's quicker, easier and costs almost nothing (if you do it through the right channels--don't fall for companies trying to seel you "publication packages" for hundreds or even thousands of dollars). Your work is ordered online and printed on-demand, so there's no need to pre-purchase stacks of copies.
There's no need to put together a submission package, send it off to publishers (which takes research to discover who's accepting what and exactly what they expect your package to contain), then spend six months waiting and hoping that someone will even read your manuscript, let alone buy it.
You maintain complete creative control over the stories or graphic arts you've spent months or even years lovingly crafting. There are no publishers requesting edits you may hate, because you are the publisher.
My work is published through two channels: Lulu, and Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Lulu is my go-to, so here I'm going to walk you through their incredibly simple process of creating your book and making it available for sale today.
1. Create an account, which takes no more time than creating a social media account. Name, email, password, confirm password, and you're in.
2. From the main page, select Create from the menu at the top, then select whether you want to create a print book or an e-book. The process is nearly identical for each, and when you're done creating the format you select, it'll prompt you to create a version of it in the other format; this is optional. (My examples are for how to create a print book, but again, the process for making an e-book version is very similar.)
3. Select the size, type of paper, interior print, binding and cover finish.
4. Enter the title and author name. These can be changed at any time, until you make the book publicly available (you can set it to private access until you are ready to do this). Once the book is made available in the marketplace, title and author name are locked, and a new edition must be created to change either. [NOTE: If you want to have a free ISBN assigned to your project, chose "Publish on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more" at this step to be taken to a page where the ISBN will be assigned and you can download it along with its barcode for your records. Don't forget to change access to private on the project review page (step 7) unless you're ready to publish your project to the marketplace.]
5. Upload all files you wish to be included in your book, in the order you want them to appear. Word files must be .docx, .pdf, .txt, or .rtf; image files must be .jpg, .png, or .gif. You can upload a series of individual files or one master file you've already created (I believe the latter must be in PDF format). Lulu will then format and create your print-ready file (this can take a couple of minutes). When your print-ready file is complete you can download and review it. There are back buttons at the bottom of the page throughout the process, so changes can be made at any time.
6. Lulu will then launch its Cover Wizard, where you will design your book's cover. You can use one of Lulu's basic premade designs, or you can design it yourself using templates, or even from scratch using a huge variety of fonts, colors and layouts. Make sure you have the proper permissions for any images you may use for the design. After Lulu makes the print-ready cover, you can download it, review it and make changes.
7. You will then review the details of your book before either making it available for sale on the marketplace or retaining private access to await future additions or changes before you publicly publish it.
8. You can then go to your My Projects page and select [Revise] next to your project's title. This will pull up the details of your project, where you can make the project explicit (18+) if appropriate and edit details such as the category, description, publisher, language, county, keywords and copyright license. You can also create a preview and adjust the pricing from this page.
Edit project details from this page; to create a new revision, click the button in the top right:
For some reason, editing these details isn't an option while creating your first revision. You must access the project from your My Projects page to pull up this page and edit the details. However, the process for creating subsequent revisions will include pages from which to do this.
9. Then comes the only step in this process that costs anything--and it doesn't necessarily have to. If you want to make your book available through retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble (as opposed to offering it exclusively through the Lulu marketplace), you will be required to purchase a proof copy so you can review it before approving it for worldwide distribution.
But most authors would want to do this anyway--there's nothing more exciting than seeing your work in print for the first time and placing your book on your shelf next to those of your heroes--and you get it at cost. My proof copies all cost less than $10 each.
That's it! Eight simple steps through which Lulu thoroughly walks you with clear instructions and a simple easy-to-navigate interface.
Of course, my ultimate dream is still to be picked up by a major publishing house. If nothing else, a deal with a major publisher includes marketing, which can be the single biggest hurdle to getting your work to sell (but we'll get to that another day).