Okay, it’s winter and everybody is locked down with a lot of time on their hands. This column aims to inspire you to get busy and use your free time wisely.

What form of self-publishing is right for you? After my last article on self-publishing generated a lot of interest, I thought I would revisit the topic and give you a more specific overview of your publishing options after you write “The End” on that manuscript. Don’t let it be “The End” of your writing adventures, because your journey to publishing has just begun.

Your options are: do-it-yourself, use a book aggregator, mix and match publishing services or hire a full service publishing company.

1. What skills do you need to do it all yourself?

If you have no budget and you would rather not spend money before you make money, you could embark on a rugged do-it-yourself regime. That’s how I started. After I completed my story, the next thing to do was to make sure it was the best it could be and that all the pieces of the story “puzzle” were neatly arranged. I would call that a revision. Then I confronted the fact that I was woefully rusty on my grammar and punctuation skills. Not willing to hire a $20 per hour proofreader and editor, I started to study hard. I knew I had to be able to explain the function of each punctuation mark, why it was where it was and what it was doing in the sentence.

After I pulled through the revision, editing and punctuation to the best of my ability, I was ready to put my book on Amazon for sale. Time to format the book: size, trim, fonts, page breaks, page numbers, interactive chapters, etc. I diligently did my research to overcome each obstacle.

Then comes the cover design. Amazon Kindle does have a free cover creator, but you will need at least a photo to upload. A good place for inexpensive, royalty-free photos is Pixabay. The gorgeous photos and artwork are mostly free for commercial use, and a donation is optional.

Finally, when you have completed all the steps to prepare your book for Kindle, you get to the online previewer to see how your book will look on the various devices. Sometimes it gives you trouble. The elements like spacing and chapter headings don’t line up where they are supposed to be, so you have to keep tweaking and re uploading the book file until it looks acceptable. When you are satisfied, hit publish and within 24 hours, a published author is born.

That was just for the eBook. With your eBook, you can make updates to your manuscript and re upload the changes at any time. However, with the paperback, you would have to go through the process of unpublishing and starting over as though it were a new book.

To sum it up, in addition to literary skills, you need proofreading, editing, computer and design skills, and an abundance of patience and tenacity to get your book up and running.

2. How do I prepare my book for an aggregator?

What is an aggregator you ask? “An aggregator is a publishing service that allows you to upload your manuscript in one place and then distributes your work to multiple retailers.” – Draft2Digital

This is still a free do-it-yourself option. All you need to do is upload your file and your cover art to Draft2Digital. They promise to do the technical formatting for you. They get paid when you sell books, so there are no upfront costs. This saves you a lot of time and effort in submitting and formatting your book for multiple platforms.

3. How do I mix and match publishing services?

If you do not feel confident with your own editing or design skills, there are many places where you can find help without spending a fortune. Sites like Fiverr, Upwork and 99designs offer you a community of freelancers who can handle skills from proofreading to marketing to ghostwriting and everything in between at reasonable prices.

The bigger self-publishing companies offer standalone services and multi-tiered publishing packages. For example, you could order a cover design from one of them without signing up for everything they offer. This is a way of getting the right expertise for your book, but still doing some of the work yourself.

4. How do I find a company that offers full publishing services?

You do want to do your research and be careful, because the costs of these services can get high. For full assistance with every aspect of self-publishing, the prices range from $1,000 to $10,000 per book. I have not used these companies personally, so I cannot recommend them through experience, however, when I search “self-publishing companies” these came out on top, so they appear to be some of the best available: Book Baby, Scribe Book Publishing Service, Mill City Press, Dorrance Publishing Company and Book Printing.com.

Each of these companies offers an impressive selection of services. The advantages of using one of them would be in high quality proofreading, editing, designing, illustrating, marketing services and experts you can call on for help.

Doing it all yourself can be tough and you will make mistakes. I haven’t even tackled marketing techniques yet, because I haven’t had the time, and my first self-published book went on the market in 2015.

Working with a full-service publishing company will probably yield the most professional results with the least hassle, but Draft2Digital is a pretty good option for beginners with no money to work with. Which company you choose depends on how much assistance you need or want.

If you really honestly and truly believe in yourself and in your writing, keep pressing on in search of readers and, one day you will find your success.

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