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Arielle Ford

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Selecting a Self-Publisher Is Like Finding the Right Nanny

Posted: 10/21/11 04:09 PM ET

It's so much more than your manuscript. It's your essence, your being, your barely born baby, about to be ushered into the world as your brand new self-published book.

But who can you entrust with transforming your beloved into the printed -- and digital -- beauty it's destined to become?

That's the question every author must ask herself when searching for a self-publisher.

And the answer to that question -- which publisher you select, and how you work with them -- can have a significant impact on your book's success.

To help you navigate the process, I recently interviewed two first-time self-published authors, Kaia Van Zandt and Kevin Hansen.

While Kaia and Kevin approached the process differently, both have achieved remarkable success. Kaia, whose pen name is K. Hollan Van Zandt, wrote the novel, Written In The Ashes (Balboa Press), which has been snatched up by Academy Award-winning producer Mark Harris (Crash, 2005) as a television mini-series. Kevin's blog-turned-book Secret Regrets (CreateSpace by Amazon) has been featured on The Dr. Phil Show, and was a #1 bestseller on Amazon in multiple categories. Both Kevin and Kaia have recently gotten attention from literary agents and traditional publishers.

Here are Kaia and Kevin's insights on how to select (and work with) the perfect self-publisher for your book:

Pinpoint your priorities. When choosing a self-publisher, get clear on what matters most to you. For Kaia, the quality of her book cover and interior graphics was paramount, so the expense she incurred producing a book she loves was money well spent. Kevin, on the other hand, was thrilled to begin selling his book after investing less than $1,000.

Before choosing a self-publisher, make a list of your must-have's. Keep that list on hand when you call and be sure to ask lots of questions so you can gauge whether that company can meet your needs.

Define "total control." Kaia and Kevin both rave about having "total control" over the publishing process, and yet each of them defines the term differently. While Kaia was intent to manage the entire process, including finding her own editor and setting her own price, Kevin was relieved not to have to handle any aspect of book distribution and order processing.

Be honest with yourself about your preferred level of involvement, keeping in mind that you'll need to reserve a lot of your energy (and your budget) for marketing and publicizing your book.

Seek out a decision maker. Your initial contact at a self-publisher is likely a rep who can answer basic questions and sell services, but has little to no decision-making power. If you have any special requests, reserve them for a manager who has the authority to make them happen.

Kaia learned this lesson the hard way, when her request to skip editorial was overlooked (she'd already worked with her own editor), and her book release was delayed by several weeks.

Consider the perks. Many self-publishers offer additional services, such as book publicity and marketing support. If you're interested in these, research whom you'll be working with in these areas. If possible, speak with those publicists and marketing professionals before purchasing to get a sense of their approach and whether they're a good fit for your book.

Erase the finish line. Expect to immerse yourself fully in the entire process. Some authors say that 90% of the work happens after the book is published, when the marketing and publicity begins. Remember, this is your baby, and it's your job to make sure it thrives in the world.

Arielle Ford has launched the careers of many NY Times bestselling authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Neale Donald Walsch & Debbie Ford. She is a former book publicist, literary agent and the author of seven books. www.EverythingYouShouldKnow.com