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Self-Publishing Smarts - Dollar Stretcher Guest Blogger
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Self-Publishing Smarts

by Heather Seggel

Everyone's an author these days­. The urge to put your thoughts in print no longer requires an agent or publisher, just a manuscript and internet connection. From e-books to print-on -demand services, there's a glut of new material being produced daily. If you want to join the fray, here are a few ways to keep your costs down while boosting your potential audience.

First and by far most importantly, have a truly well-written manuscript. If you're going to pay to have a novel printed, first pay someone to proofread it no less than two times. Many of these books are sent out for review as finished products, but are full of misspelled words and run-on sentences. If you want people to read your work, make it easy for them to do so. Don't trust yourself to find every mistake. Pay a college student to proof it, and ask friends to review it and mark it up as well. Then fix the trouble spots. Now you've got a manuscript.

Are you absolutely set on printing? There are many good services out there, from Trafford and iUniverse to Lulu or Authorhouse, and it's worth shopping around to find the best terms to fit your needs and budget, but consider publishing electronically, too. You upload and format your work, make it available for sale or free, and if it sells, the distributor takes a small cut. This is good for your wallet and the environment. Many of the books people publish as trade paperbacks are 50 pages or less in length and could be easily read on an iPad, Kindle, or computer screen. Why waste paper? I've published two e-books with Smashwords and found the experience to be, if not profitable, both challenging and fun.

Whether you go for print or electronic publishing, know that people truly do judge books by their covers. If the art is blurry or the text is hard to read, you come across as amateurish. If there's a description of the book on the back cover and it's full of sentence fragments and misspellings, that's a big STOP sign to a potential reader. If you know anyone with graphic design skills, ask them for help once you know the specs required by the publisher you've chosen. Or steal my no-cost, no-brainer technique: Just write the title and your name in clean, bold type on a solid color background. It's plain, but at least it doesn't count against you.

Assuming you've got a well written, thoroughly edited book to your credit, now you need to put yourself in front of readers. Send a press release to your local papers and see if you can schedule a reading locally, but also look at the type of book you've written. If it's a cookbook, get in touch with local markets and gourmet shops. Local history books have a place in bookstores, but also contact the museums and businesses that emphasize regional products. Keep finding angles that deviate from the expected and you'll find your audience.

The boom in self-publishing shows no sign of slowing down, which means you're in good company but also competing for readers. Polish your work and plan a marketing strategy before you start the presses and you'll be better positioned to succeed.

Heather Seggel is a freelance writer, book reviewer, and the author of 7 Gateways to Self-Published Success (7gateways.weebly.com/). She lives and works in Ukiah, CA.

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