April 23, 2018

Three Books on Self-Publishing | Self-Publishing & Libraries

LaRue_color_newWhile your lIbrary probably already collects some of the many guides on how to write a book, this month I’d like to recommend three essential titles for your collection that can help aspiring authors take the next step to turning their finished manuscript into a clean ebook.

A smashing read

First is Smashwords founder Mark Coker’s The Smashwords Style Guide. Self-published in 2008 as Book 1 of the “Smashwords Guides” series, it has been more or less continuously updated since then. It’s short: 28,300 words or about 107 pages and is available as an ebook only.

If you’re not already familiar with Smashwords, it’s an electronic distributor for self-publishers that returns 85 percent of the sale to the author. As such, it offers one of the better deals. Besides Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Oyster, and Kobo, Smashwords also works with OverDrive, as part of our direct library supply chain.

The Style Guide is the most popular download from the service, because a) it’s free, and b) it provides a clear road map for participation. Chapter headings include:

  • Getting Started (Welcome, when it makes sense to hire out pieces of formatting, what good formatting looks like, what Smashwords publishes, how to distribute through Smashwords, understanding ebook formats, etc.)
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Formatting (pre-prep, specific formatting steps to produce clean copy, navigation links, front and end matter)
  • Post-formatting (cover, premium catalog requirements)
  • Uploading to Smashwords (including various formatting checking services)
  • Distributing (how Smashwords gets the word out)
  • Various helpful sources (glossary, videos, marketing tips, and more)

While the book is designed to guide contributors to the site, it’s clearly written and chock-full of smart advice for assembling a professional-looking product, to be of interest to anyone. At free, what’s not to like?

A library perspective

The second book, by Walt Crawford and published by Information Today in 2012, is The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing: Helping Patrons and Communities Use Free and Low-Cost Publishing Tools To Tell Their Stories. Its regular price is $49.50, but it sells for $44.55 online. Naturally, it’s available as an ebook but is also available in print, which is not a bad idea. It can be useful for newcomers to have hard copy next to their computers as they stumble through the steps for the first time.

Crawford makes a solid case for why the trend of self-publishing (or ­“micropublishing” as he calls it) matters to libraries. He defines what he means by micropublishing and thoughtfully outlines some of the appropriate roles libraries might fill. Then he walks through the steps of traditional publishing and contrasts it with the new possibilities afforded by technology. I like, very much, his short section “First Have Something To Say.” After a few more pithy observations about today’s publishing options, Crawford dives into templates, typography and layout, cleanup, and front and back matter. He also pays some attention to copyright issues and even the world of academic journals. Crawford has long been a smart trend-spotter and clear writer, and his contribution here is solid and engaging. Templates discussed in the book can also be found on Crawford’s website.

Disruptive distribution

My final recommendation is by former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki. With Shawn Welch in 2013, he published APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur—How To Publish a Book. The title costs $9.99 in ebook and $17.95 in audiobook, but as these are through Amazon, libraries may need hard copy, $24.99.

APE uses the language of tech disruption. Kawasaki and Welch make it clear that quality publishing isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be as complicated and costly as traditional methods have dictated. New technology puts power in the hands of the creator. All we need is a framework of understanding and some no-nonsense steps for getting started.

That’s what we get: a review of traditional and new publishing models, a set of recommendations for hardware and software (Mac Air and Microsoft Word, Evernote and Dropbox, among others), and titles with chapters such as:

  • How to write your book
  • How to finance it
  • How to edit it
  • How to make it not look like a vanity publication
  • How to sell your books through the usual big channels, and more.

Where Kawasaki and Welch excel is in the steps beyond the above: “How To Guerilla-Market Your Book,” “How To Create Audio and Foreign Language Versions of Your Book,” and “How To Build an Enchanting Personal Brand.”

In combination, these books not only provide direct support for a new breed of patron, they might form a popular series of programs.

James LaRue writes, speaks, and consults about the future of libraries. He can be reached at jlarue@jlarue.com

This article was published in Library Journal's June 15, 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Pam Matthews says:

    I actually found the APE book in Ingram. It’s a short (but not horrible — better than amazon) discount.

  2. Self-publishing was not easy but I wanted to know I could survive financially off my writing so after a few years and after a very successful book being published I can honesty say I figured out most of the tips and tricks of the trade I invite you next week to review this insight with me during a FREE webinar Wed and Thur! personallife-coach.com/go/how-to-get-a-celeb-to-write-your-foreword/

  3. Great suggestions! Self-publishing can seem like a daunting task if you don’t have a mentor to walk you through the process, but it’s not as difficult as many probably think. These books will certainly steer hopeful self-publishing authors in the right direction.