How to Self-Publish Your Poetry or Any Other Work Like a Pro: An Introduction4 min read

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No publisher? No problem.

Last week, I debuted my poetry collection Dystopia and Derelict Dreams. It appeared on several Amazon’s charts like Hot New Releases in Poetry and also became a best seller in some poetry categories. It was a good start at least. Now that it is creating a buzz among the community, people started asking how do they get a hard copy. I always point them to Amazon since there’s actually no hard copy available yet until now. The funniest part was when some even went as far as asking the Anvil Publishing booth at the 38th Manila International Book Fair for a copy!

As much I’m happy that people are getting interested on my work, I want you to know that my poetry collection is self-published.

Surprised? Yes, it is. There’s actually no market in poetry in the Philippines and as a poet, it is a letdown. Since I do work as an editor in a major publishing house, I took to creating the poetry collection myself. Because why not? It’s a second nature for me.

Before we start, there are some things you need to know about the industry you are about to enter:

  • If you are self-publisher, it is very likely that you cannot distribute your book to brick-and-mortar bookstores like National Book Store and Fully Booked. Why? These premier book stores do have Book Buyers who choose what kinds of titles are to be sold in their stores. If you can provide a minimum copy these bookstores require and if you have a strong market as a self-publisher, then you’re good to go.

In my future posts, I will share a tip how you can have your self-published book in a real book store.

  • As a self-publisher, you cannot be able to apply for an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for your book. Therefore, you cannot also create a bar code to put on the back cover. This makes your book less professional-looking. This is one of the major drawbacks for us indies since book stores require bar codes for them to sell your book. The National Library of the Philippines is the government agency that issues ISBNs.

In my future posts, I will share how you can obtain a legit ISBN not from NLP.

  • As a self-publisher, you cannot also obtain a Cataloging-In-Publication (CIP) data block for your book. This CIP data block is also issued by the NLP. The purpose of this data block is for librarians to easily catalog your book. I know you are familiar with this. You can see it on a copyright page of a book.

Below is sample CIP data block:

  • There’s a stigma in self-publishing. The book publishing industry is divided into two: traditional publishing and self-publishing/independent publishing. Writers with agents or writers who submit manuscripts and get accepted by a publishing house fall into the first group. Those who do the work by themselves or hire freelancers to work on their book projects fall into the second group.

As for the second group, since the manuscripts are not being screened by a reputable editor of a publishing house, the projects suffer as a whole. That’s when the stigma arises. Indies are getting slammed by critics because of this. Because their projects do not undergo “traditional publishing,” some assume that their works are not worth it. Critics even say that the works of indies are of low-quality even though that’s not actually true (well, for some).

This happened to me once. When I announced that I am self-publishing my poetry collection, some people actually laughed. However, when I told them my affiliation, that shut them up.

  • You don’t earn much—or anything—by self-publishing your book. After doing all the hard work of writing your manuscript and formatting it, to having it off the press, there might not be an actual return on your investment. Printing the book is just half the battle.

Well, unless you have a responsive market—you can pass. However, if you are just a novice, don’t expect too much. Royalties will not befall upon us that easily, sadly.

In my next blog post, I will discuss the self-publishing process and will introduce the basics of formatting manuscript for print (assuming you already finished yours!).

Thank you for reading! If you have comments, suggestions, or questions, please feel free to drop them below.

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