The Self-Publishing Chronicles: Part One

As mentioned in an earlier entry, I’ve decided to self-publish a collection of my music-related writings. As of today, that book officially has a name: Off the Record Collection: Riffs, Rants, and Writings about Rock.

As I prepare the book for launch, I thought I’d chronicle my steps along the way to help other prospective self-publishers with their efforts.

The idea of going D.I.Y. can be intimidating and liberating all at once.  Beyond creating a manuscript (no small feat), I’ve had to give serious thought to cover art, book title, copy editing and critique, incidental expenses, formatting of the manuscript and cover, which P.O.D. (print-on-demand) service to use, “ebook” distribution, marketing, and pricing.  As daunting as that all seemed at the beginning of my journey, it’s also been profoundly uplifting to take charge of my work and independently build a platform for it.

Here are some things I’ve been working on since I first had the idea to publish in December:Print-on-demand service

I’ll be using CreateSpace to publish the softcover version.  Amazon gobbled up the self-publishing service years ago, and has since created some nice synergies between the two platforms.

I also considered Lulu, one of the more well-known P.O.D. sites.  During my exploratory efforts, I created an account on Lulu and published a softcover version of an early draft.  The software was intuitive and simple to use, and the book I printed was well-bound with professional-looking paper stock.

I could have happily stuck with Lulu, but CreateSpace/Amazon was more in my comfort zone.

Cover art
Lining up the cover art has completely stressed me out because it’s the aspect of self-publishing I have the least knowledge of. I can barely use Photoshop, let alone throw together a competitive image to sell my book. The need to have a striking cover consistent with the publishing milieu required me to throw myself at the mercy of my creative friends. One of those creative friends has tentatively agreed to help, but he’s also insanely busy.  I’m hoping we can figure something out, but I haven’t ruled out asking my four-year-old to make a nice picture for me using her most vibrant crayons.

Copy editing and critique

In a perfect world, a self-publisher should pay the freight to have a professional copy editor rifle through his manuscript.  Since 65% of the copy in my book has already been seen and read, and because I can’t afford to pay a copy editor, I tried a different approach: I asked three of my more intelligent friends to attack the book’s grammar, syntax, and ideas.

They each have wildly different skillsets and approaches to language.  Furthermore, they each understand my “voice” and how it needs to be expressed.  So far, I’ve received feedback from two of them, and am expecting input from the other one soon.


An ISBN is a non-negotiable, must-have, for a book; P.O.D. services won’t let you publish without one.

Most P.O.D. services will let you buy one of their ISBN numbers; don’t do this.  While it’s much cheaper to go that route, choosing that option essentially turns part of your book’s ownership over to that service.   For example, if I had used one of CreateSpace’s ISBNs, I wouldn’t be able to publish it through another service because CreateSpace would be the listed as the “publisher of record.”  From

“If you are a new publisher, you should apply for your own ISBN publisher prefix and plan to identify and circulate your books properly in the industry supply chain. You may encounter offers from other sources to purchase single ISBNs at special offer prices; you should be wary of purchasing from these sources for the reasons noted above.” 
To properly establish my newly-minted imprint (Haaf-Onion), it was imperative to have absolute control over the book.
Though it was more expensive and I truly can’t afford it, I went ahead and bought my own ISBN and bar code from Bowker.  The ISBN was $150, and the bar code was $50.   I’m $200 in the hole already, and this publication was meant to be a down-to-the-bone, no-frills endeavor.
I’ve entertained the idea of creating an audiobook version for Off the Record Collection.  In order to do that, I’d need to purchase another unique ISBN.  I think voicing an audio version would be a blast, but I’m not ready to lay down an additional $200.

To be continued…


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