Tell me your dream as a writer. Is it having ideas to write? Is it finishing your manuscript? Is it publishing the book and seeing it physically on your hand? Or even better yet, selling it in bookstores nearby your house? If those are your dreams, then luckily, I got you covered. In this article, I’m about to unleash all the secrets to self-publishing a book.
To start off, I would like to ask you to dream. Yes, that’s right. I want you to think far off, way ahead than you can imagine. Think five or ten years ahead and what you want to be as an author. Perhaps you want to win competitions, or you want to publish different genres, or you want to specifically publish a book per year before you reach 30 (the latter was my goal actually!). In any case, make some goals to motivate you to write.
Here’s a quick example on my strategy. I knew I wanted to begin writing short stories in English. Reason? Simple. English is a universal language and therefore, I could reach larger audience by writing in English. Short stories? Well, because I’m concerned with the shorter attention span people have these days. Besides, I’m not a famous author hence short stories would be a safer bet for new readers: they can try a bit of my writing style, just like they taste a piece of chocolate cake.
Next, ideas. Ideally, you come up with brilliant ideas right away from Day-1. But of course, we know that it is not always the case. My advice is for you to look back and collect different writings you have created before. Polish them and use it for your book. Better yet, you should read more books to inspire you to write. It’s true. To write better, you have to read more. (Or in my bestfriend, Carissa Atrianty’s case, you should watch more movies. That could be helpful too!)
For my books, I focused on novella-length (30,000 words or 150 pages of length) books. The first book “Orphic Tales” is a collection of science fiction short stories set in 31st century Mars. The second book “Kaleidoscope” is a collection of short stories, ranging from mystery, science fiction, life drama, humor, historical fiction, fanfiction, and fantasy. The third book “Solivagant” is going to be three travel novelettes through Italy, Indonesia, and Japan. I know they sound crazy – they discuss different topics! But it is possible to write, if the topics interest you. You should only write on the themes that resonate to you. Having said that, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to follow me: sometimes, it’s better to focus on a theme (Young Adult, Romance, et cetera) than trying different themes at once.
For publisher, I select the ones that benefitted most to me. Through a web search I found Jejak Publisher (https://jejakpublisher.com) located in Sukabumi, Jawa Barat. Compared to other Indonesian publishers, they readily accepted my English manuscript. I then chose the Gold Package for IDR 500,000 for publication package. In addition to Jejak, I use Draft2Digital (https://draft2digital.com) to publish my eBooks to different online distributors: Apple, Barnes & Noble, Rakuten, Scribd, Angus & Robertson. There’s no upfront fee but there’s a percentage on how much author’s get per sale and a minimum amount to take out the money from D2D.
Now, I’m going to spend some time on editing. Neither Jejak nor D2D have English editors for the manuscript. But I strongly encourage you to invest in editing. You as an author are responsible for the quality of your book. Afterall, who appreciate it more than you do? Having said that, I recommend you to try using Scribophile (www.scribophile.com) for English writings. It is an online writing group that provides review and critiques for fellow writers. There’s also Shalini (https://digitalreadslibrary.com/) who can help comment on your manuscript, giving insights as a reader. But if you’re writing in Indonesian, then Jejak Publisher got you covered. They would gladly edit your manuscript to better your writing. A quick note here, you can totally use the praise from the comments and reviews to promote your book!
So! You finish writing, you finish editing, you finally self-publish it. You’re done, right? Wrong. You still got the hardest homework to do, which is marketing and promotion. You have to reach out to your friends and family and offer them the book. Tell them you’re writing and you’d appreciate their support in buying the work.
But here’s a cheat sheet I’m handing you. You can also contact independent (indie) bookstores to help market your book. There is POST at Pasar Santa, Aksara Kemang, Transit Bookstore in Jakarta. There is C2O Library and Collabtive in Surabaya, Indie Book Store or Toko Budi in Jogjakarta, and Kineruku in Bandung. If your book is written in English, don’t hesitate to reach out to international markets! Contact Books Actually in Singapore and Better Read than Dead in Sydney, NSW, Australia.
I’m now giving you the draft I send to these stores.
My name is… (explain who you are. Tell them a little about you: Indonesian self-published author, working with Jejak Publisher, et cetera). I’m interested to distribute my book at … (name the Bookstore).
Information about my book: “…” (Write the title here)
Description: … (Write a description or blurb about the book)
Please let me know if this is a project you’re interested in and if there are terms and conditions. Thank you and I hope to hear back from you soon.
… (Your name)
… (Your email / website)”
Not all of them will reply to you. In my case, I got six replies out of sixty bookstores I contacted. But always keep your head up and be positive. With meticulous effort and courage, you will be able to bring your book out there for your readers to buy. Good luck and keep contact!