I love self-publishing! As a poet I used it for a couple of my more experimental projects and when I entered into this business I knew I wanted to continue the craft to make my work available for anyone.
While many entrepreneurs are into self-publishing and understand it as a way to showcase expertise and build a little passive income, there can sometimes be a misplaced sense of doubt. There’s a sentiment that exists that unless your work is published by a traditional press or publishing house:
No one will read it
It won’t be taken as factual or valuable
You won’t make money on it
While that certainly might have been true at some point, today the industry is so over saturated with books that anyone can write, make money, and become an expert without a company, big or small, backing them. A 2013 Forbes article  cites that there are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000,000 books published every year and I’m sure that’s only risen in the six years that have followed the article’s publication. This seems daunting, but I actually think it’s exciting! Publishing has become is less about industry and more about your audience.
What do I mean by that?
People aren’t reading 1,000,000,000 books every year. It isn’t physically possible. But from those million, people are finding the authors and ideas that they’re most interested in and, what’s more, they’re willing to get specific. From stock market tricks, to bird watching on specific lakes in specific states, to running poetry workshops for students with developmental disabilities, self-publishing allows authors with a niche to profit. Presses and Publishers would have to pass on these texts, no matter how well written, because they’re too specific and wouldn’t attract a wide enough readership for the production of the books to be profitable. Self-publishing, however, allows these authors to get their ideas and information out to the readers who need and want them. It might only be the people on your mailing list, but that’s still a stream of income. And it’s an income that strengthens your relationship to your clients and customers as they get an in depth look at your thoughts.
Obviously, people push-back saying that self-publishing allows lower quality, under researched books to enter into the market. And that might be true. But have you read some of the books that are being published by traditional houses today?
If you don’t know how to go about making a book, that’s fine. I didn’t either. That’s why my first two education texts are simply downloadable PDFs. I like this format because it doesn’t need to be hosted by a third-party site like Amazon, the reader can download it to read digitally and print a physical copy if they want, and it allows me to keep costs lower without the production over head that goes into having a paperback made.
At it’s simplest you can just type up a word doc and export it as a PDF. Done.
I’d recommend getting a bit fancier and cleaning it up in InDesign. That said, it took me time to learn that (both the lesson that texts are worth cleaning up and InDesign) myself. I ended up using the free month trial of LinkedIn Learning to get an InDesign tutorial. There’s a lot of great content out there both behind pay gates like LinkedIn Learning and for free on YouTube to help you navigate InDesign and similar programs that can spruce up your document.
I took the InDesign course specifically because I knew I wanted to start putting together collections of children’s poetry again and for that to happen I’d need to work in with trade sizes and industry formats. In terms of actually getting a book made, there are a couple different platform options out there but my favorite three are: Lulu, Ingram Spark, Amazon KDP
I ended up using Amazon in part because it has instant market recognition, when I say my book’s on Amazon people know what to expect. It also has an easy interface and payment method.
(As a side note, Lulu is great for working on books with students because there’s an option to publish privately. This keeps the work only with in the community you choose and still results in market quality books.)
My intent was to make How Do You Butterfly into an e-book for Kindle as well as paperback, but making the e-book proved too difficult. My partner who works in publishing pointed out later that children’s books are rarely e-books unless they have the backing of a big publisher. The reason for this isn’t because of any philosophic standard or anti-screen time ethic of the publishing industry, but rather, it’s just too difficult to make a good looking children’s e-book. The old software still being used for both the Kindle and Nook simply can’t handle all of the illustrations on a page of children’s literature being directly uploaded.
Publishers have employees who can reformat the image files and slowly upload them to look good with this old tech. I do not. I still wanted to offer an e-copy though, especially because I could keep it a little cheaper for readers, so I went to back to my old friend the downloadable PDF.
With three books currently out and more in the works, it feels so good on a personal level to have my work out in the world for people to read and on a professional level it’s nice having a little money coming in for something I only had to work on once.
Self-publishing is a technique I'd definitely recommend to anyone out there with an idea they want to share. Don’t wait for someone else to give you the okay! It’s your idea! Worse case scenario, no one buys it. Even then, you have a piece of content you can bring with you to pitches, interviews, conferences, and the like to showcase a history of your thinking and that you have the self-discipline and skills to put your vision out into the world.