Self Publishing — Blog Post #1
When my manuscript contained all the material I wanted to include, I started looking into the options for publishing. I had looked online a few times but I had been focused on writing to this point. With 125,000 words in place I had to decide what to do next. While I was looking online for information about copyright issues I found a web site written by a professional editor, Jane Friedman (janefriedman.com). I liked what they wrote and their approach. They offered various services for an hourly rate, one of which was reviewing a book project at a high level.
I fully understand the author viewpoint that I have written what I wanted to write and I don’t need anyone telling me what to do. At the same time, I also want what I have written to reach as wide an audience as possible. I wanted to pay for a professional to review my book project in general and offer their perspective on the best option for publishing.
While I was visiting Jane’s website I saw an ad for her e-book, Publishing 101. I decided to buy the Kindle version and read it before I contacted her. I’m glad I did because this book made it clear how much the publishing business has changed in recent years. I had written several technical books back in the mid 1990s and they had been published in the traditional manner. The biggest change was the many self-publishing options that didn’t exist in the past. Perhaps the most important thing I learned from reading this book was that whether you are working with a publisher or self-publishing, you are responsible for marketing your book. A publisher may help, but, it will still be largely up to you. I recall how little my publisher helped market my technical books twenty years ago.
Jane’s book also explained that in order to promote your book, you really have to have an online presence. I had a website that I setup years ago that I used to make my resume available online and to list my publications and presentations. It wasn’t much more than a listing of documents. I had never blogged.
I wrote a list of questions and emailed them to her. We setup an appointment for Skype. Jane was very helpful and listened carefully to what I had to say. Since I had emailed questions in advance, she already knew about my project. She told me that my manuscript was a long shot for traditional publishing, and publisher or not, I had to consider starting an online presence. She was gentle with this, I assume because authors are generally resistant. The image of an author working in obscurity whose work is then published to great acclaim is a fantasy. Most authors are introverts who want to work in obscurity, which conflicts with the need to develop an online presence and market their work. She said my project sounded like a how-to book or a memoir. We discussed a working title. She recommended two books that cover memoir writing, I’ll discuss these both in a later post.
I talked to Jane December 10, 2014. From reading her e-book and talking to her, I had a lot to think about. I had to decide what to do next. I had already done the work to write my manuscript, so it seemed dumb not to do what was necessary to see that manuscript get as much exposure as possible. Knowing nothing about what I was about to do, I decided to simply jump in, no resistance, no whining. I had heard of WordPress before, that it was the software used for blogging. One of the first decisions I had to make was how to setup a WordPress website. In Jane’s book, the options were discussed. You could setup a site at WordPress.com for free, but then, you wouldn’t have your own separate site. It would be free, but I wondered what restrictions there might be on what I would be allowed to setup. I also wanted my site too look like I was taking this seriously.
The other way to go was to pay the money to have my own hosted site. When I setup my existing website, I used Yahoo hosting. As part of that process, I paid to have my own domain name, brianhitchcock.net. I decided to use the same domain name for my new website. I looked online and read reviews of the various vendors that offered WordPress hosting. I found that Yahoo was not recommended and GoDaddy was. I didn’t want to use the decision of a hosting vendor as an excuse to delay setting up my new website. The next day I created an account on the GoDaddy website and reviewed the packages they offered for new websites. I knew I didn’t know what I was doing and I knew I wanted to get going soon. There were different packages at different price points. One of them included SSL support, which I knew was needed to have a more secure website. SSL is needed so that the communications between users and a website are encrypted. The GoDaddy package I was considering said that having SSL also made a website move up in the Google rankings. I don’t know how much that matters, and the package was more expensive, but I decided I wanted to have SSL in place to provide better security right away.
The GoDaddy package, for two years of hosting, was $180 which works out to less than $8 a month. It included my domain name and SSL and the WordPress software. There was a one-time fee of $10 to transfer my domain name from Yahoo. The GoDaddy package included automatic updates to WordPress as they became available and made installation of the software very easy. They also backup my site and provide several email accounts. I had been paying Yahoo $12.95 a month for my original site and that didn’t include anything other than the domain name.
At this point, one day after speaking with Ms. Friedman, I had a new website hosting vendor, a new website with SSL, and all I needed to install WordPress. Now what? I didn’t know it then, but it would take about four months for me to get my new website setup the way I wanted it.