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Since we created ExtendConnections, we’ve been pleased to receive messages from several people who wrote a book after they retired, and that led us to think that maybe more of you are interested in doing the same thing. Everyone has a story to tell, and we have been astonished by the stories you’ve told us of what you’ve accomplished both in your careers and in your lives after retirement. We hope that more of you are thinking about writing your stories – but once it is all down on paper, how are you going to share it with the world?
Publishing is always a possibility, but never a requirement. But if you do want to publish, finding a publisher can be a painfully long and often disappointing process. First you need to find an agent who’s willing to represent you (or take your chances and self-submit, but that lowers your odds of acceptance considerably). Instead of going through the tumultuous world of traditional publishing houses where rejection is the norm, you may want to think about self-publishing. Self-publishing is more and more popular these days, and it grants you complete control over the creative, marketing, and distribution process.
Who are you writing for, and are you going to publish?
Once you understand your audience, you will have a better idea of how to get your story into the world. The scale of your intended audience may influence your publication choices.
You may choose to write your book for yourself alone. Writing gives you perspective, it allows you to recall memories long forgotten, and it can lead you to understand new aspects of your life and your relationships, your accomplishments and your mistakes. You may find that what you write about is not nearly as important as what you learn from the process. Writing is a growing experience and you don’t necessarily have to share it with anyone else.
Your audience may be your friends and family. Self-publishing is an easy and reliable method of getting your book out on this smaller scale. Having a great story to tell doesn’t mean that it has to top the New York Times best seller list. Sharing your writing by giving your children a copy of your book for their birthdays or distributing it at the next family reunion can be the perfect way to share your work. Lulu.com is a perfect place to start for the self-publisher with a smaller audience, plus you won’t have to invest as much time or money.
You may want to reach a larger audience. If you chose to self-publish for the masses, you should also be thinking about marketing your book. Getting the word out should start during or even before the writing process begins and you should be prepared for a greater time commitment and financial investment. Self-publishing is a great tool to share work with small groups and mass audiences alike.
How to Self-Publish
Thanks to the power of the internet, self-publishing is easier than ever. All you need is a computer, a word processing program, and access to the internet. Websites like Createspace, Blurb, Booktango and Lulu are all great do-it-yourself publishing resources.
The first steps are:
- Format your document to fit the size of your book
- Convert your document into a PDF file
- Find or create cover art and convert it to a PNG, JPG, or GIF file.
- Upload your files onto the self-publishing website of your choice
- Receive a proof of your book in a couple weeks
- Make additional changes by uploading new files
Self-publishing isn’t free of course. If you are looking to reach large audiences, keep in mind that production costs per book can range from $5-12 and quality cover designs can cost $4000-8000.
The only thing easier than self-publishing your own book is self-publishing your e-book. Not only are the production and design elements simpler with an e-book, but they’re also cheaper. The average self-published hard copy sells for $13.99 while a self-published e-book costs anywhere from $.99-5.99. It’s tough for self-published hard copies to reach the bookstore, but with e-books, the barrier to entry on the virtual bookshelf is much, much lower. Millions more people have access to your book if you choose to put it online.
Watch out for editing “packages”
It certainly sounds appealing to send your work off to a company that will format, fix up, and smooth out the rough edges of your book before it goes to publication. But these editing packages are costly, ranging from a few thousand to over $25,000. Sometimes they can help you pull together a great, well-polished book, but beware, as there is no such thing as satisfaction guaranteed. For the author looking to publish on a smaller scale, editing solution packages may not be necessary. For the author hoping to reach far and wide, make sure you weigh the pros and cons. Or perhaps you can engage a friend who taught English or worked in communications to help you; this arrangement has the advantages of your work being read and polished by someone who knows you and can help your “voice” emerge clearly in your writing.
Create a unique title
No one will be able to read your book if they can’t find it. On a Google search it should come up in the first couple results. So, with an increasing number of self-published books available on Amazon.com, it’s important that your title be easily searchable. Don’t pick a title with too many other words and phrases associated with it. If you name your book, “Secrets to Gardening,” a search for your title will probably produce a handful of “how to” gardening books and a few links to online versions of “The Secret Garden.” Instead, a unique title like, “Beneath my Potted Plant,” will yield search results directly to your book.
Design your book cover to look good small
Because your book might not go straight to the bookshelves, it is important that it stand out online. Amazon searches result in a list of tiny thumbnail book covers and their accompanying tiny descriptions. It is important that your cover design stand out from the crowd no matter the size.
You are allowed to bargain and ask questions
Ask as many questions as you can of the publishers you are considering. Make sure that you know exactly what is included in your publication package and if you have any problems or concerns, voice them. Many self-publishing websites often offer special deals that are easy ways to save. Even if the promotion is no longer available, feel free to ask for it or inquire about receiving a few free copies of your book. They may not have much leeway, but it’s a simple question that could pay off.
It can be done!
Some of our Extend Health members have already written and published their own books across a wide range of genres and topics, and are available online today.
James from North Dakota wrote an epic historical novel based on the life of Opechancanough, his Native American ancestor.
After a career in communications, Richard wrote and published many books including two adventure-romance novellas, an advice piece, and a non-fiction business volume on PR and marketing.
Inspired by the struggles of watching her parents age, Paula wrote a non-fiction advice piece filled with stories from her own experiences on the emotional, financial, legal, and medical aspects of aging.
These are just a few examples from those in our community who have already embarked on the writing journey. They prove that self-publishing is an effective tool in sharing thoughts and creativity with a larger audience. But if you have the time and talent to go the traditional route, go for it! Gloria’s book, “Who is Gloria C?: Her Story,” chronicles the first thirty years of her life living in Jamaica, and was published by Xlibris Publishers.
If you have written a book or are thinking about doing so, remember that the process doesn’t end when you put the pen down. Publication is the next step and can be equally as important as the writing itself. But the publication process doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive if you know how to approach it. Go online, be creative, be aware, and ask questions.