By: Mackenzie Patel
Esteemed Teen Writer and Blogger
Recently, I just published by first book, Vitae Romanorum (The Lives of the Romans). Whenever I tell people this, they usually “ooh” and “awe,” while my face turns an unflattering shade of crimson. My collection of short stories was published through CreateSpace, a company that is under the umbrella of the Amazon giant. I found this website merely by luck as I was scrolling through the endless Google results pertaining to self-publishing.
Let me forewarn you: Self-publishing isn’t an easy walk in the park, and I sometimes think that going through an established publisher would have been easier. However, considering my age and the fact that this book is my very first one, finding someone willing to endorse it would have been harder than acing my AP Calculus AB exam this May. Self-publishing has sprung up recently due to the advent of the amazing internet, and it allows anyone (like myself) to be proclaimed authors. This is what I learned about self-publishing and how to make the process more efficient for teenagers with limited time, resources, and “clout” in the publishing world.
- Don’t attempt to write a thick, long-winded novel the first time you venture into the self-publishing world.
More runny text equals more editing that you have to do later on. Juggling schoolwork, sports and numerous after school activities is hard enough without having to constantly proofread 80,000 words.
- Have your parents casually look over your shoulder the entire way. Contrary to what we might think, teenagers are NOT fully fledged adults that can handle the labyrinthine world of publishing. One misstep and whoops! Your publishing company just charged a whopping $500 to your parent’s Visa card.
- Referring back to number two, make sure that you read CreateSpace’s (or any other online self-publishing company’s) fine print.
Most of their basic services are free, but the professional services in editing and marketing do cost a chunk of change.
- Become savvy about the tax system of your country.
I definitely had to do some research into tax forms, Taxpayer Identification Numbers and Employer Identification Numbers. When publishing your own book, all the profits you make (and I hope you make boatloads!) must be taxed by the IRS. Follow all the steps to get your Employer Identification Number (go here) if you are wary of entering your social security number into the CreateSpace database.
- Order multiple proof copies of your book before deciding to press the “submit files for publication” button.
Although you may slavishly labor over your text for hours upon end, I can guarantee that one pesky period will be misplaced or that the end quotation mark will be missing from the dialogue. These fixes seem trivial, but making sure your book is as professional as it can be is extremely important, especially considering our young age.
- Have other people read your book!
Your book may be your baby (as mine is!), but subjecting it to the criticisms of the world will ultimately be for the best. Give a proof copy of your book ($2.15 plus shipping per copy on CreateSpace) to your parents, siblings, and anyone else that will be completely honest with you. If it wasn’t for a third party reviewing my book, I would have never added useful historical footnotes or a hand-drawn map (Tolkien would have been proud!).
- Make sure your finished book reaches as wide an audience as possible.
When selecting channels in which to sell your novel, definitely jab the “Amazon” button. Having your “baby” on this website ensures that most people can easily find your book on the murky internet. Promote your book on social media or create a promotional video just telling people what your book is even about.
- DON’T LET OTHERS TELL YOU THAT YOU ARE TOO YOUNG TO BE A PUBLISHED AUTHOR.
Even though CreateSpace (or any other online publisher) isn’t a traditional publishing company, you still put hard work into creating a product that will hopefully amuse, entertain, educate, or inspire your audience. Also, determine exactly who your target audience is. Young adults? Weepy middle age women? Boys who like big trucks and camouflage? Since my book is about Roman history, my target audience was history nerds who would value the inclusion of Trajan, Hadrian, Domitian and Julian the Apostate in the stories.
Overall, my adventure of self-publishing was rewarding, and I would definitely consider doing it again. Writing, editing and marketing a product completely on my own (with help from my parents and friends) was so fulfilling. My book reflects who I am, and a big wig company or swanky publisher might possibly change that to make more money or reach a wider, less appreciative audience. If you are a writer, just go for it and learn along the way. Trust me: telling adults that you’re a published author at 17 is impressive and definitely a door (and window and ceiling and floor) opener.
Read more of MacKenzie’s work here
Follow Mackenzie on Twitter! @LearnTravelArt