Being an independent publisher means working with little-to-no budget, so exploring how to optimize low cost publishing options is par for the course. While Problematic Press is financially unable to publish everything that’s awesome, we’re not too concerned about creating competition, and so we’d like to encourage and enable other upstart literati to embrace guerrilla publishing. This brief guide will introduce the uninitiated to a basic publishing strategy to potentially reach a global audience, while emphasizing a Canadian context.
Welcome to guerrilla publishing in the digital age of globalization!
STEP 1 – Learn Your Rights and Responsibilities
Before you begin this guerrilla publishing journey, you should brush up on the rights and responsibilities of content creators. (And, acknowledge my disclaimer: I am no legal expert, nor am I a tax expert; you’ll be responsible for your own actions.) In general, be upfront and respectful with your collaborators. They have rights, too. And, consider the Canadian context of publishing. For instance, in Canada, copyrights are assumed upon creation of a work, meaning you needn’t register your copyright anywhere. However, it is up to the copyright holder to protect their own works, because no one else is looking out for it. Another Canadian consideration is that publishers are required to submit copies of their books to Library and Archives Canada, in what’s known as the legal deposit. These are a few things you should look into before you begin publishing. Remember, self-publishing your work usually means many more hands-on, D.I.Y tasks are in your future.
STEP 2 – Develop Your Content
The next thing you’ll need is material (it’s also really the first thing you need, but we won’t debate the semantics here). If your plan is to publish a book, then that means you need a manuscript. Whatever genre you’re working in, your manuscript should be thoroughly edited, as every error present is the bane of your credibility. Beyond your flawless manuscript, you’ll need front matter, a bio, ad copy, a table of contents, and so on. Be sure to get on top of that, too. You’ll also need a book cover, which likely means artwork. Handle whatever you’re competent at on your own to save costs, or you could recruit assistance from your friends or professionals. Once you’ve got all the bits and pieces together to make a finished product, then you can begin formatting it all to fit the criteria of our online printers.
STEP 3 – Formatting Content for Online Printers
There is a whole, humongous plethora of self-publishing and e-publishing services available online, and you can explore as many options as you like, but we’ll suggest the following because they offer international distribution for zero cost. That’s nigh unbeatable.
Three services that cover most of the bases are CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, and Smashwords. CreateSpace provides you with a trade paperback print copy of your manuscript, and they offer streamlined distribution through Amazon’s many online sites. You can upload and distribute your book with them for potentially zero cost. Kindle Direct Publishing is great for linking the ebook to the print edition, but they only produce ebooks in Kindle format. Nevertheless, they, too, provide this distribution at no immediate cost to the publisher. Besides those two Amazon companies, it’s also a good idea to use Smashwords to reach readers on different devices and through different online retailers. Again, Smashwords allows publishers to upload and distribute content at no immediate cost. The companies earn their portion of the revenue as sales accrue, which is why they don’t charge fees upfront like some vanity publishers do.
So, you’ll have to review the content and format guidelines for CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, and Smashwords. This means going back to format your files to meet their requirements. This part can be a bit tedious, but the work is worth it once your book is on that virtual shelf! The good news is if you can create a .doc and a .pdf of your book, then you can get it out there using these online companies.
As for the Canadian context, there are a few things to consider. For one, Canadians can utilize these American printing and distribution services, but unless you file all the proper tax documents then they’ll withhold 30% of your royalties. This means you’ll need to apply for a tax number with the IRS before you can take advantage of trade treaties between our countries which remove that withholding. It may be easier to work with a Canadian company, like Blurb, because they can distribute through Amazon as well, but this tax situation shouldn’t arise since they’re based within Canada. Secondly, Canadians can acquire ISBNs for free from the government by registering titles through the Canadian ISBN Service System (CISS).
Once the files are finalized, complete the submission process with each distributor, inputting your ISBN, setting price points, distribution channels, and so on. Then, with just a few clicks, your book will be available online for all of your eager readers!
STEP 4 – The Publishing End Game: Promoting Your Book
Once your book has been published, you’ve entered the end game. Now, you need to spread the word about your new book. There are many ways you could do that, ranging from paid advertisements to blog posts and social media. Maybe consider having a book launch, doing public readings, giving interviews, or creating a video log. If you have some promotional copies, you might send some to reviewers or hold a giveaway. If your finances are limited or non-existent, then consider devoting some time to blogging and social media, which only cost your time and effort. At this stage of the guerrilla publishing experience, putting in so much of your time and effort should be a given.
STEP 5 – Repeat, and Enjoy
Repeat, and enjoy!
Otherwise, if this all seems like too much of a mess, then you should recall I founded this publishing house called Problematic Press. This is exactly what the name implies.