Things to consider before you self-publish

Many had asked me on how to get the ball rolling to publish your own book. Self-publishing is a no joke business. You might get demotivated along the way. There are lots of hurdles that you have to overcome before you can see and touch your own book. That is why, I consider Submitting to Allah a personal triumph. :)

I am going to write more about my own experience together with Mr H in publishing our own books. But for this post, I will outline to you the basic points that you need to know before you decide to self-publish your own book.

1. A good manuscript.

Even though you can write whatever you like because no one is going to reject your writing, you also need to gauge the interest of your readers. You have to know what is the genre that you want to get yourself into so at least your books will sell. After all this is your investment. You don't want to end up with stack of books lying around your bedroom, do you?

I took two weeks to complete this book.

2. Apply for ISBN

You can apply for ISBN number from the National Library. Read more about it here. The application can be made online. They can also email you the ISBN number and bar code so that you don't have to pick them up. However, it is advisable for you to self pick-up the ISBN number and bar code because it is not that clear if it is scanned and email to you. A blurry image of the bar code will definitely affect your book. If you are planning to sell your books in the bookstores then they need to scan the bar code to keep it in their system so you need a clear picture of the bar code.

3. Proofreading service.

You need someone to check your writing. This is a must. If you give your manuscript to the publisher, they will help to find you one. But since you are self-publishing, then you need to find on your own. I just googled and found a few. You have a lot of choices online, so don't worry. If you want to use the same proofreader as I did, just drop me an email and I will give you her contact. She did a terrific job with my manuscript. It was not that pricey and she even returned it back to me before the actual deadline. Very fast service!

4. Professional designer.

A beautiful book cover is very important, as that is the first thing that the readers will be attracted to. Initially, we bought a software to make our own cover, but it did not turn out well. After Mr H had converted my drawing into the software, we showed it to our families and friends. They thought that it was a cover design for children's colouring book, hahaha. Oppps! I had to engage a professional service to do the cover design. And I think it is worth every penny that I paid for the service. You can see it for yourself now. I am very, very proud of the cover design. You too, can upgrade from something that looks like a children's colouring book to a professionally drawn cover design, hahaha. 

Now, does this really look like a colouring book? Hahaha.

5. Printing.

This is one of the mistakes that we had made. Prior to printing the books, I received so many negative comments about my book that I was afraid to print many copies. So I go for digital printing. That's the only place that accepts small scale book printing. I printed 200 copies at first and 80 copies were already sold after 2 days! If only I had known, I would have gone for off-set printing from the start. The minimum order for off-set printing is 1000 copies. So because of all the negative remarks, I decided to go for digital printing which costs me half of the sold price. If I had used off-set printing then the cost is way more cheaper and I might spend more on promoting the books as well as gaining access to local major book stores. Well, we both learned from this mistake, and will definitely go for off-set printing after this. But, if you are not sure and want to test the market before you start selling, then maybe you want to set aside some money for digital printing. The minimum order is 20 copies. Try printing 20 copies first and then if you feel that the readers are attracted to it, you can go for off-set printing after that.

Fresh from the oven.

6. Added value.

My books have bookmarks attached to them. It was my idea to add value to the book. Of course there was cost involved. But I think the books look prettier with the bookmarks, so we decided to amortize the cost. You can do a lot of other things too to add value to the book. Maybe a calendar, a small notebook or a pen... bearing the same design as your book cover.

My pretty bookmarks, designed by the same designer for the book cover.

7. Where do you sell?

I think this is the most difficult part. I am lucky that I have many students who are also excited to read my writings, hahaha. Thank you guys! And I had to thank my hardworking Marketing Officer, Mr H, who would go out of his way just to promote my book. Seriously, I am too shy to be in front promoting the books. So Mr H is my knight in the shining armour, hahaha. Because of him, we already have the books selling at few bookstores around Klang Valley and also Seremban. He is sooo brave. I am glad I am married to my own Marketing Officer, hahaha. So we can negotiate on the salary. *wink. The way I see it, you really have to be brave and confident. For someone shy like me, it's a big NO for marketing. 

My book is now at The Platform, by Aisya Ali. It can also be found at many other book stores. Read here.

8. You must have some savings.

Without some savings, you will not go anywhere. Remember you are a self-publishing entity and that means no one is helping you in the process. You need money to pay for proofreading, designer, printing and promoting your books. You will only earn after your books start selling but how do you market your book if you do not have any money to start with?

9. Do not listen to people.

There will be haters, there will be non-believers, and it's time for you to prove them wrong. It's because that I listened to all the critics that I made mistakes while printing. And I had to bear all the costs. So just believe in Allah's will. Do what your heart told you and pray. InsyaAllah everything will turn out fine. Put the critics behind you. That's where they are supposed to be, behind. You are not one of them, so stay put and accept the challenges!

Malay Mail had written an article on my self-publishing journey.

Good luck! 

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