10 tips and things to know for authors and self-publishers

As a self-publisher, you are your book printing house in one and the same person and have to take on all the activities that the classic publishing house would otherwise do.

Legal issues (image rights, quotations etc.)
Typesetting, layout & cover design
ISBN processing, entry in VLB
Print calculation, print processing
Marketing, social marketing
Processing enquiries (from readers, from the book trade etc.)
Placing orders, sending orders, storing books
People often underestimate the amount of work, time and especially what they have to be able to do or learn in order to publish a book.

When publishing your own book, you should therefore take a few basic things to heart.

1) If possible, do not do your own proofreading and editing.
As the author of a text, you have already read it so many times that you simply won’t notice mistakes – in spelling as well as in content – the twentieth time you read it.
Get friends to help you, preferably two – one corrects spelling and punctuation for you, the other draws your attention to errors in content and style. If your friends cannot find the time, we will of course be happy to help you.

2) Find test readers who correspond to the target group of your book and ask for detailed feedback.
Is the text pleasant and fluent to read?
Is the content understandable?
Does the reader feel addressed?
There are certainly certain questions that have special relevance for your book.

3) Take care of a good cover design.
After all, they always say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Don’t judge a book by its cover. Nevertheless, the cover often plays a considerable role in the purchase. Many buyers feel addressed by certain colours or even by certain motifs, some are now even “defining” for an entire genre: stairs always go (an amusing article in the FAZ from 13.10.2013 on the subject of cover design). Most important, however, are a pleasant-to-read typeface and a good title! (If you can’t think of anything for the title, try the book title generator 😉

4) Consider whether you want to apply for title protection for your title.
What is title protection? (Info page at Wikipedia)
What is title protection? (Info page of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association)
Where can I apply for title protection (e.g. at the Börsenverein)?
Ask and research in the VLB (Verzeichnis lieferbarer Bücher, only with registration, chargeable) or at buchhandel.de which titles are already available.

5) Pay attention to a pleasant sentence structure, i.e. the good readability of the text.
This topic is very extensive and you can always learn more. However, the most important criterion is and always will be the legibility of the writing. More on the subject of book design can be found in a detailed article on Wikipedia. If you want to delve a little deeper into the subject of typography, you can find useful information e.g. in the Typolexikon or on the website typefacts.de, where you will also find a list of books on typography that are worth reading. A practical handbook is, for example, Reading Typography by Willberg/Forssman.

6) Consider a reasonable retail price.
The retail price is an important factor for the success of your title: In Germany, every book published with an ISBN is subject to fixed book prices, i.e. in simple terms, you set the retail price before publication (the easiest way to do this is in the VLB (subject to a fee, with registration)) and are bound to this for at least 18 months. Only after that can you change it.
The retail price must be reasonable, regardless of whether you only send your book directly to buyers or whether you distribute it through bookshops. Only then will it be bought. As a self-publisher, of course, you also have to think about profitability; after all, you finance the printing costs yourself and bear the risk. The following applies: the higher the print run, the lower the production price of the individual copy and the cheaper you can make the retail price. Here you can calculate without obligation what your book might cost to produce: To our online calculator.

7) Consider which format best suits your book.
In the meantime, three formats have established themselves on the German book market, which can also be found in the Spiegel bestseller lists: The hardcover, the paperback and the paperback.
The hardcover is the most expensive to produce, but also generates the most sales. This format is used for first publications or for bibliophile editions. The paperback is the cheapest variant and is mostly used for literature that is read “on the go”. It is printed on very thin paper and only in black and white. Paperback is the term used for all books that meet neither the paperback nor the hardcover criteria. Read more about the different types of books here.

8) Clarify all legal issues before printing.
Are you allowed to use all the images you have chosen? Have you had this done in writing?
If you do not know the image sources, you should either refrain from using these images or research them until you have the consent of the copyright holder. This can sometimes take a lot of time and, of course, incur costs. In the meantime, however, there are many image databases on the Internet where you can find image material for your books at low cost, sometimes even free of charge, and where you can view and acquire the rights of use directly online. Examples are Fotolia, istockphoto or Pixelio.
Are you allowed to use all quotations in this way?
Have you made all quotations sufficiently recognisable?
If you use your own photographs: Do the chosen images perhaps infringe the personal rights of the people depicted?
If you do the typesetting and layout yourself: Do you have the rights for the font you use for commercial use?
You should clarify all these questions before printing and publishing your book. It is best to get all consent forms from photographers or illustrators in writing. Of course, you can also hire a photographer/illustrator, all your rights & obligations will then be set out in a usage agreement.

9) After publication: Take care of good social marketing.
Most book purchases are made because of personal recommendations from readers to friends. That is why many publishers are now active on Facebook, Twitter and Co. They are represented there, but often still act very cluelessly. The social media managers are often young publishing house employees who have to answer many questions about many books in a style prescribed by the publisher. This is where you can score points as a self-publisher: As the author of your book, you can connect with your readers in a much more authentic and direct way. Every reader is happy when the author answers them personally!

10) Don’t take your readers’ criticism personally, take it seriously.
As an author, you are often confronted with opinions about your book. Not every one of them is positive. You also have to be able to deal with negative criticism. How you do this will influence whether or not the criticising reader will read a new title of yours again. Show your readers that you take their suggestions seriously and incorporate this into your new book, for example. Read here how bloggers or other authors deal with criticism.

Of course, this list can only serve as a suggestion and can only give you a brief overview of what you need to pay attention to as a self-publisher. We hope we can help you a little with this information.

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