Self-Publishing Tips from Hilary Custance Green

Hilary Custance Green is the author of Border Line, recently published in both paperback and e-book format.Border Line by Hilary Custance Green

I was lucky enough to read the opening chapters of the novel last year when Hilary was still working on it. The idea behind the book is intriguing:

‘Grace, racked with guilt, is searching online for ways to die and she finds Daniel. Like a pied piper he leads her and nine other people on a trek across Slovenia. For twenty-one days they share stories and secrets, play games, surprise themselves with laughter… and make their final decision.’

I will definitely be downloading Border Line to my Kindle because I want to know what that final decision is.

Hilary self-published the paperback version of Border Line, doing all the work herself and not using CreateSpace. She’s very kindly put together some pointers to help anyone else thinking of doing the same:

Last December (2013), I found myself at a Christmas party explaining that yes, I had written a third novel and also a non-fiction book on POWs in the Far East, and no, neither had been published yet. The truth is I had been looking for an agent for both the novel and the non-fiction book for several years. I had had nibbles, but no bites. I resolved that no further Christmases would pass without a publication.

There are multiple self-publishing routes, mine was total DIY. This is a possible, but not necessarily a wise thing to do. I took the name Threadgold Press in 2008, for my second novel, and floated, rather liked flotsam, through the self-publishing process. Things have changed since then. Today, unless you are writing about food outlets in a three mile radius, or walking on your local hills, you are going to need both print and eBook. The simplified basics for print are:

• Give yourself a name and apply to Nielsen books to buy ISBNs.

Hilary Custance Green

Hilary Custance Green

• Allocate one ISBN to your print book and another to your eBook.
• Choose a printer and get estimates. A litho print run (min 300) is expensive up front, but cheaper per copy then Print on Demand (POD).
• Think of a publication date (ideally 9 months plus ahead), subtract the months that are bad for publishing books, add 2 months for things to go wrong (they will), and register with Nielsen book data. You will need blurb, price (when dreaming up the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) don’t forget the cost of postage), BIC code (category of book) etc ready.
• Set the text. I bought a soft version of Adobe InDesign and taught myself.
• Create cover – actually don’t – spend the money on professional design.
• Edit. Once again, professional is best. Failing that, find your most educated friends and bribe them to read with a red pen in their hands. Anything they have to read twice, or makes them gag, yawn or feel uncomfortable, needs your attention – listen and believe.
• Proof read. That means read it yourself and correct, print out a copy, hand it to a friend, make corrections, print again and find a new victim, and so on many times. Again, better still, pay someone.
• Send MS to printers, renegotiate number of pages, correct e-proofs etc
• Join Amazon Advantage – a nightmare and they take 60% discount, so you sell at a loss, but if you don’t join them, Amazon take many weeks to deliver your books.
• Create an Advance Information Sheet (AIS), with all the basic book data.
• Create a Press Release, an up-to-date website, cook up a launch party, find somewhere to sign copies on the publication date.

Finally, you are legally obliged to deposit a copy of any new publication with the British Library within one month of the publication day.

Remember, if you choose this route, writing will stall for some months. Almost every action, depends on information that is not yet ready. You become a designer, proofreader, editor, marketing manager, salesperson, IT consultant, office girl, driver… BUT you end up with a physical copy of your book for minimum outlay.

Hilary – I’m in awe of what you’ve achieved! It sounds like a phenomenal learning curve but what a feeling of achievement when you hold that physical book in your hand and then people start buying it!

Visit Hilary’s website to read about how she’s promoting Border Line.

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  1. #1 by Julia on December 17, 2014 - 4:05 pm

    Wow: just wow.

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on December 17, 2014 - 6:41 pm

      Exactly, Julia – we don’t realise how much is required to produce a print book!

  2. #3 by Anne Harvey on December 17, 2014 - 4:06 pm

    Interesting to see another person’s approach to getting one’s books printed. My choice was dictated by a small budget, the reason I decided to go through Createspace. More later.

    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on December 17, 2014 - 6:43 pm

      It’s good to see all the different approaches. I guess there’s pros and cons to them all, Anne.

    • #5 by hilarycustancegreen on December 17, 2014 - 9:27 pm

      I would be interested to compare the Createspace route and outcome. It didn’t exist when I first self-published (my second novel), so I had my ISBNs ready and knew some of the ropes, when I came to publish my third. I assume it is less hassle, but less control, perhaps?

      • #6 by Sally Jenkins on December 17, 2014 - 9:30 pm

        I think it is supposed to be less hassle but I’ve no experience of it. I hope to have a guest post on this subject in the next few weeks so hopefully that will be enlightening.

  3. #7 by Nicola on December 17, 2014 - 7:07 pm

    Many congratulations to Hilary and thank you Sally for sharing this post. Extremely useful information. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and continued amazing successes throughout the new year.

    • #8 by Sally Jenkins on December 17, 2014 - 7:17 pm

      Glad you found it useful, Nicola. Best wishes to you for 2015.

    • #9 by hilarycustancegreen on December 17, 2014 - 9:37 pm

      Thank you Nicola, I tried to comment on one of your blog posts, but I’m not a google member and can’t start joining anything more. Happy Christmas to you.

  4. #10 by hilarycustancegreen on December 17, 2014 - 9:23 pm

    Thank you, Sally. My first book was published by a small independent publisher and when I first held a copy, I wanted to cry. It was stash full of errors, both mine and ones introduced by the publisher. I had only been given 48 hours to correct the proofs and most of my corrections had been ignored. At least this way, any remaining errors are all mine.

    • #11 by Sally Jenkins on December 17, 2014 - 9:28 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Hilary. It’s amazing what you’ve achieved single-handedly. I can only imagine how proud you must feel.

      • #12 by hilarycustancegreen on December 17, 2014 - 9:51 pm

        Um… only very fleetingly and I’m not sure about the single-handed, friends and family play all give feedback. Mostly I feel very amateur and in constant catch-up mode as I discover things I should have done. There does seem to be some magic in having got three books published, outside bodies react better. I’d love to get back to writing though…

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