Kay Stoner has a great resource center called Independent Publisher Fast Track. I came across it earlier this month after Kay posted a comment on my blog. Her site is loaded with great information for authors who are looking to get published. I'm intrigued with what she has to offer and I thought readers of this blog might be interested as well; she graciously accepted my interview invitation, and the first installment is below.
JW: So what caused you to want to launch the ipubfasttrack.com website?
KS: Because I'm absolutely thrilled by the new print-on-demand technologies that are making quality self-publishing a reality for many writers who may have been frustrated or silenced by the traditional book publishing industry. There are a lot of great new self-publishing resources out there, and it's easier than ever to get your work into print. But there are also pitfalls, which can undermine the success of even the best-written book. Completing a book is a major accomplishment, but if your printed product doesn't do it justice, then the impact of your overall work can suffer. I've seen a lot of self-published books, of varying levels of quality, and some of them have made me cringe --they may have been well-written, but they were clearly using either faulty software or they hadn't been shown how to make their work look great. It really isn't necessary to settle for a poorly designed book, just because you're doing the job yourself. There are many excellent tools out there, as well as a lot of information to enable authors to produce the highest-quality, best-looking book they can. I wanted to create a place where everyday writers could come to get practical information, inexpensive tools, well-designed templates, and insider techniques, so they can do their work justice with high-quality book production.
JW: What are a few of the more important things you've learned as you've self-published with Lulu?
KS: First, always do a test print run -- or two, or three! You can print up a sample version of your book with only the cover art and a few sheets as "filler" to see if your cover is going to come out the way you expect. And you can print up a single copy of your complete book before you make it available to the world, just to check the margins, see how it looks, and see if there's anything you need to change, before you order a larger run of books for reviewers.
There is a "learning curve" (albeit small), to the Lulu process, and the last thing you want, is to get held up at the last minute, by unexpected twists or complications. There's nothing more irritating, than being almost done with your book -- but the cover doesn't turn out exactly like you want, or the interior is "off" somehow, and you have to go back to the drawing board.
It can really mess up your promotion schedule, when that happens. It's well worth the extra dollars, to make sure everything will come out fine before you launch your book.
Second, pace yourself. Self-publishing with Lulu is so easy and fast, that you can easily go into "indie publisher overload" and get so carried away publishing new books, that you forget to fully promote the books you already have published. I suggest putting together a complete production and promotion schedule for each book you publish and sticking with it from start to finish before you begin your next project, rather than trying to publish a bunch of books at the same time. I've found that it also helps with credibility, if you tell people you've published "a book" instead of "15 books" sometimes they have a hard time believing that you're really capable of writing and publishing all of that quantity -- and quality, too!
Third, make sure you produce the best-looking book you possibly can -- interior and exterior -- so that people take you seriously. Spend the money on an ISBN -- it makes you look truly official. (Because, of course, you are!) And if you don't know your way around a graphics program, then invest the money in professional help. Guru.com is full of freelance artists and graphics folks who can create great-looking work for very low cost. Or post your plea for help on craigslist.org.
Fourth, stay organized! Keep your files in the same folder on your computer, and make backup copies on CD. If you publish a number of books, you may lose track of where you've put everything, so having a well-organized file management system can be very helpful.
Last but not least, never, ever give up. Don't be afraid to try different things, like different titles and different cover designs. It's cheap and straightforward to do that with Lulu. And don't be put off my surprises beyond your control. There have been times when a book I was working on came out looking a little funky, and I either got online and chatted with a live Lulu rep, or I tried to re-format my book again. I got the help I needed, and eventually I got the book looking like I wanted. Don't just throw up your hands and say, "This doesn't work! Lulu is awful!" I've found them very willing to help, and my experiences have turned out good, in the long run. There's a whole lot of information online at Lulu.com. Sometimes the quickest way to solve a problem, is to talk to a live rep.