DIY publishing

Author Amelia Smith will lead a workshop on self-publishing.

Self-published book by local author Amelia Smith. Courtesy Amelia Smith.

Authors who self-publish their work are gaining more and more legitimacy every day. There are now countless success stories for self-published books, such as “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “The Martian.” Still, some people continue to think of the self-publishing option as a last resort — a way to get your book out there after the rejection slips have piled up.

Author Amelia Smith, who will be leading a self-publishing workshop at the Chilmark library starting next week, would disagree. “I feel like people still don’t necessarily understand the potential of self-publishing,” she says. “People see it as something you do if you can’t get traditionally published. That’s not the case. There are lot of advantages.”

Some of those advantages include control over design, the ability to make changes easily after publication, and the elimination of a middleman sharing the profits. “You can actually make a lot more money once you’ve covered your expenses,” says Ms. Smith, who is also a freelancer for The Times. “People make money at it with sales that wouldn’t ever hit the New York Times best seller list. Still, it’s very competitive.”

Ms. Smith knows of what she speaks. Since 2012 she has self-published six novels, a novella, and a short story. All are available on Amazon as both e-books and print books. Her books fall into a couple of different genres, and include a five-book historical fantasy series called “Dragonsfall,” a Regency romance titled “Scandal’s Heiress” and a fairytale-like novella, “Eddystone Light,” about a man with a bit of a fishy past.

Local author Amelia Smith will lead a four-part self-publishing workshop at the Chilmark library. — Courtesy Amelia Smith

The dual incentives behind self-publishing for Ms. Smith were both practical and artistic: “With the fantasy series, I had done a few drafts that I sent out to agents. I wanted to finish the series. I didn’t want to get caught up with a publisher, because if the first book didn’t do well, they wouldn’t want to finish the series.”

She published the first book, “The Defenders’ Apprentice,” in 2012, and has kept up a steady pace since then. Now Ms. Smith is excited to share with other authors what she has learned about the self-publishing business, through both trial and error and extensive, ongoing research.

The workshop will include four weeks, with each week covering specific topics. For those interested in self-publishing, Ms. Smith recommends attending the entire series. Others who are intent on finding a traditional publisher, or have already self-published, will still benefit from week four’s lessons on marketing.

Week one will be in an introduction to publishing, goals, expectations, and budget, including basic info on the process.

“I think anyone can do it,” says Ms. Smith. “But to do it well, there are a lot of steps, and you need to do each of them really well. Anyone can take a rough draft and put it up on Amazon, but in order to publish a book as well as it can be done, you have to go through several rounds of editing.” Ms. Smith recommends that you not only self-edit, but that you also either recruit a qualified friend or hire a professional editor, as she has done with all of her books.

Week two will focus on packaging and placement, and will cover, among other things, writing a blurb and cover and book design. “Cover design is really important, and is one of the things that most authors hire out,” says Ms. Smith, who actually designs her own attractive covers. “There is some really bad cover design out there.”

Week three will cover prerelease marketing, formatting, and distribution, the major retail platforms, and uploading. Week four will be dedicated to marketing — perhaps the most difficult step of the process.

“There is a lot to it,” says Ms. Smith of the marketing piece. “You have to think about product pricing, placement, and promotion. You have to start thinking more like a business person to self-publish well.”

Though it may sound daunting, according to Ms. Smith, there’s a lot of help out there on the Internet, and tools that can help every step of the way.

“The goal of the workshop is to get people to know what they need to do to successfully self-publish,” says Ms. Smith. “And also to define success for themselves.

“Self-Publishing Workshop” with Amelia Smith, four weeks starting Wednesday, March 7, at 5 pm at the Chilmark library. To preregister, call or stop by the library, 508-645-3360.