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Author and Publisher of Family Histories, Social Histories and Biographies

Martin Playne' s Publications



Self-publishing a book sounds very daunting to most first time authors, however confident they are with word processing on computers. They would love to avoid hefty printing fees and all the complications of marketing and distribution of the completed book. Secondly, why should an author go through all the trouble of setting up page sizes and left and right hand pages and so on? Why not let an author just get on with writing the next book? However, the publishing industry is facing high costs, and competition from on-line publishing. This means most authors, especially ageing new authors, will not have much of a chance of finding a publisher willing to invest in them.


There is an up-side though, the author can retrieve more reward for his effort, and not just get back a few dollars per copy sold as royalties from the publisher. For better or worse, the author retains total control of the content of the book - both its content and importantly its design.


So I decided I could assist first-time self-publishers with a commentary on problems that I faced during the process, and how I overcame them.


 First Tip:  Keep your total number of pages to less than 320 pages in the printed book. This should ensure that the weight of the final book is less than 500g (depending of course on the type of paper used). Why is 500g critical? Many postal systems charge substantially more once the parcel weight exceeds 500g. Postage can easily exceed the cost of the book - so it is an important consideration.


Second Tip: Get your marketing and promotion plans established well before you do the print run. Marketing and promotion is a totally different ball game from researching, writing and editing.


Third Tip: The appearance and image of the front cover of your book is critical - it is the first thing seen by the reader and by the buyer. It really helps sales if people like what they see.


Fourth Tip: Prepare a comprehensive index including all surnames, even of people who are a minor part of the story e.g., a fellow passenger on a ship, a fellow committee member, and the like. Why? Well, the first thing family historians do is to go to the index to see if an ancestor is listed.


Fifth Tip: Include a large number of maps and illustrations. Maps and plans are fairly easy to make yourself, and hundreds of 'out of copyright' historical paintings,  prints and photographs are avaialble free from the picture collections held by public libraries.


Sixth Tip: Well before you complete your writing and get your book printed, prepare all your marketing tools - your own website,  your blogsite, Twitter account, Facebook page and so on. Make your contacts with local bookshops, start your publicity on radio and in the press. I have been far too late setting all this up.


Seventh Tip: Enter your book for awards and prizes, but be realistic. Some entries require multiple copies of your book to be sent and a substantial entry fee. Winning an award or a commendation will help sell your book, as well as giving you a great feeling of personal achievement. Also it will help you judge the quality of your work relative to others.


Eighth Tip: Keep your website up to date and make regular blog entries on your blogsite. Let people know you are active. Link your blog to Twitter, Facebook and other social media.


Ninth Tip:  coming soon