RootsTech: Self-publishing tips offered for the family historian
Lisa A. Alzo remembers what it was like to be a self-published author a decade ago.
"Ten years ago, if you were self-published, you were looked down upon," Alzo said. "Now the stigma is gone. Anyone can be an author and reach a wide audience."
Alzo, a freelance writer, author, instructor and lecturer, made the statement to a gathering of more than 75 people at the RootsTech Conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on March 22. Her presentation was titled, "Do Your E-Book Right: Self-Publishing Secrets for the Family Historian."
Alzo, who has more than 22 years experience in the field of genealogy, used personal examples as she talked about how to take an idea from draft to publication; options for self-publishing; how to choose the right platform; and tips and tricks for formatting, distributing and marketing your book.
Self-publishing today requires little or minimal upfront investment with zero inventory. Best-selling authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling are even doing it, Alzo said.
Despite her vast personal experience, Alzo warned the crowd to be on their toes. "Take in what I'm saying here today, think about it, let it sink in, then ignore about 50 percent of it because that's how fast the market is changing," Alzo said.
Important steps for self-publishing should include research, planning, writing, editing, layout, publishing and selling/sharing, she said. Before beginning, however, authors should research and know their audience, have a plan that includes a budget, set some goals, spread the word and ask for help, Alzo said.
An e-book author should also consider elements like the number of illustrations, the use of color images and if potential readers prefer print or digital books, she said.
"It takes time and concentration, and you've got to be a little tech-savvy, but you can do it," Alzo said.
When it comes to distribution, an author must decide whether to go with single or multi-channel distribution.
Single-channels only sell books through one channel or device, such as Kindle Direct Publishing or PubIt! by Barnes and Noble. They do not offer assistance in converting e-book files, although they accept a wide range of file types for download, Also said. Amazon Kindle is responsible for 50 percent of e-book sales in the United States, she said.
Multi-channel services act as middlemen and push work out to multiple retailers and distributors, reducing the amount of work for an author. Examples include Smashwords and BookBaby, she said.
Alzo spent most of her hour discussing the various methods and options for publishing an e-book and formats for converting files. She also advised future authors to consider hiring someone to design a cover and edit the manuscript.
Based on her personal experiences, Alzo discussed self-publishing and print-on-demand platforms such as CreateSpace, Lulu, Smashwords, Kindle, iPad, as well as tools like Evernote, Google Drive, Microsoft One Note and Scrivener. Alzo also briefly discussed pricing your book.
"Remember that most publishers will take a percentage of your profits," Alzo said. "I usually set the price of my books at $16.95 and receive $6 per book."
With so much to consider, Alzo said, "It's possible to get so caught up in the idea of self-publishing at a professional level that you suck all the joy out of self-publishing." She encouraged those present to be alert to constantly changing services and tools and understand their rights as an author.
"My best advice is to keep your files in a simple format to be able to adapt to whatever happens," Alzo said. "You have to be ready for a change at a moment's notice."
For more on Alzo, visit her website, www.lisaaalzo.com.
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