Daily Thoughts 185: 5 DIY Publishing Tips

Author's selfieI spent the last few days working on replacing a kitchen sink. Do-It-Yourself home repairs are a lot like DIY publishing. Both take time, expense, and the outcome isn’t always the same a professional might do. It can be better. Or it can look like the job done in our kitchen before we moved in.

I’m not a professional anything when it comes to home repairs. I use books and online resources to figure out what to do, what the codes are, and best practices. Then I do my best.

I ran into a number of obstacles on this project. If everything was standard it would have been a relatively simple matter to drop in a new sink. Since nothing was standard, that wasn’t going to be the case. The sink didn’t quite fit, necessitating cutting the opening slightly wider. The new sink is deeper and the drains are offset from one another, so the original T-arrangement of the drain wouldn’t work (and wasn’t done correctly anyway). So the drain had to be redone too. I still have to tweak it just a bit, but it’ll be much easier to maintain now. Eventually, we plan to replace the cabinets and I’ll probably change the drain again then. But that’s not right now.

The whole project involved multiple trips to the hardware store, crawling under the sink, and more. I ached from it all and felt worn out. I’m not used to doing that sort of work!

5 DIY Publishing Tips

DIY or ‘self’ publishing involves doing more of the work yourself. It’s a bit different than an independent publisher who hires others to do the work. I enjoy the DIY approach because I like to learn how to do things. I want to pursue illustration, design, coding, accounting, and all of the rest. It can be hard at times, but it’s always interesting. Like any DIY activity, there are easier and harder things to do. Here are my recommendations for writers considering this approach.

1. Upload Your Own Files

Don’t pay someone to upload your files to sites like the Kindle Direct Platform. If you need technical help creating the files, fine. Then take the file and upload it yourself.

Screenshot of the KDP interface

The KDP interface and other similar forms for Kobo, Draft2Digital, and Smashwords provide an easy way to add information about your book and upload it. Whatever you do, don’t give someone a percentage of your income for simply filling out the form!

2. Create Your Own Accounts

Along with the previous point, create your own accounts with the various sites used to distribute your content. You don’t want someone else controlling these accounts, receiving your money and reports. Since you’re going to upload your own files, you’ll have your own accounts anyway. Account setup is also simple. You fill in your details, tax information, and bank accounts to receive monthly payments for your copies sold. The same thing is true whether you’re publishing print or e-books.

3. Don’t Pay Percentages

Here’s the thing about publishing. It’s easy. Even if you don’t go full DIY, hire people to do a job with a clear one-time contract. So you might hire someone to design your cover or interior. If you can’t or don’t want to create the necessary files, hire someone to do that work. Don’t pay anyone for a percentage of your work. That’s a good way to overpay. A good example of this is a ‘publisher’ who sets up to create books for writers, all published through their account, and who sends money and reports to writers. Without a clear audit method, there’s no way for writers to know if the publisher is ethical.

Hire skilled people when you need the help. Use clear contracts (see below). Pay them and take care of the rest yourself.

4. Use Contracts

Don’t hire anyone to do work without a contract. It should be obvious. A contract is good for both parties and should include key details regarding payment schedules, deliverables, deadlines, and what happens when things go wrong. It protects both sides. You can’t make unreasonable revision requests, and the person hired knows what’s needed to get paid.

Consider too, the copyrights involved. If you’re hiring an artist, for example, to do cover art, what rights are you licensing? Don’t assume you can turn around and use the cover art on merchandise. If you want rights to do so, you need to license those rights. Make sure the contract covers such details. Get a lawyer to take a look when necessary. I’d consider asking an intellectual property lawyer to draw up some standard templates that you’ll use when hiring people to do work for your publishing efforts.

5. Don’t Get Overwhelmed

Just as tackling a DIY home improvement project can seem overwhelming, so can a DIY publishing project. Both involve improvements to your property. Your new kitchen might increase (or decrease) the value of your house. What you do with your DIY publishing project can likewise increase or decrease the value of a project. In either case, you can take the time to learn and put in the work yourself, or you can hire help. Typically, it’ll probably be a mix of things you’re comfortable doing yourself and those you want to get help doing. Whatever you decide to do, take your time. Consider your options. Even if you end up hiring someone, learn about whatever it is you’re hiring them to do! I might read up on a repairing a foundation and still hire someone to do it because I decide that it isn’t something I want to do myself. Being informed will help me with any negotiation on the contract.

Have Fun With DIY Publishing

No matter what, have fun with your DIY publishing projects. It can be great fun to create a book. I’m starting my Massive Reboot project because I want to create collectible hardcover editions. It sounds like fun to me. Not necessarily to anyone else. It pushes me to improve my skills. So have fun! Do the parts you want and be smart about what help you need.


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This blog post by Ryan M. Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.