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February 2012

7 Top tips for self publishing your autobiography

By Sean McManus

People love to read autobiographies: they can be inspiring, uplifting and educational. If you have a remarkable story to tell, one way you can share it is by self publishing a book about your life. There are lots of different ways to do that now, and it need not cost too much, either.

Here are some top tips on publishing your autobiography:

  1. Be commercially minded. If you're publishing your book partly to make money, be realistic about its appeal, and look for ways to broaden it. Everyone lives a unique life, but that doesn't necessarily mean that people want to read about everyone's life story. Focus on the most interesting aspect of your story, think of who might want to read it, and keep that reader in mind while you write. Don't spend hugely on publishing your book unless you're happy to write off the expense or you have confidence you can recoup your investment.
  2. Be professional. It's well worth getting professional editing and proofreading help. It will make sure that your book is easy to read, so that your readers can focus on your compelling story, rather than being distracted by any mistakes in writing. All the best authors have editors, so there's no shame in getting an experienced editor to look over your book before you publish it to everyone. If you want to sell your book, you have to produce a professional product.
  3. Use a distribution intermediary. The tricky thing with publishing is not actually creating the books. It's getting them into places where people can buy them. There are lots of different approaches you can adopt. Some self publishing services can get your book into stores like Amazon but might cost upwards of £1000, which can be difficult to recoup. These services often advertise in the back of writing magazines and newspapers. Lulu.com enables you to self-publish for free (see my tips here). You pay for any printed books you order, and your readers can buy direct from Lulu.com or from the Apple iBooks store. If you pay Lulu for a distribution package, you can also get your print book into Amazon. Smashwords enables you to publish ebooks for free which can be distributed through the Apple iBooks and Amazon Kindle stores, among others.
  4. Plan publication before you begin writing. Depending on how you intend to publish or distribute your book, you might need to write it using a different template. It will save a lot of time if you can adopt the final template from the beginning, otherwise you might have to spend days converting your copy from one template to another and checking the quality.
  5. Check the layout. The best way to create a layout that works is to copy it from a professionally published book. Pay attention to spacing, margin and font sizes, particularly. Your default word processor template won't look good on a printed page. Your book publisher/distributor might be able to provide templates you can adapt for your layout.
  6. Don't confuse distribution with marketing. Having your book available in the shops is only the start of your journey. You need to persuade readers to go to the shop and buy your book. Find blogs that might review your kind of book, send a press release to relevant magazines and newspapers, and have a launch party. Spread the word!
  7. Have fun! Writing a book is hard work, but it's a fantastic experience. All you need is a computer with a word processor, and you probably already have those. So get stuck in!

More advice

You might also be interested in my article 'How to write a novel'. and 'How to publish your book with Lulu'

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© Sean McManus. All rights reserved.

Visit www.sean.co.uk for free chapters from Sean's coding books (including Mission Python, Scratch Programming in Easy Steps and Coder Academy) and more!

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