Self-publishing, self-build, self-defence (well, this one is perhaps one step too far)… these days, we are embracing the notion of doing things ourselves to get the extra freedom of choice, be creative and unconventional, or to be able to save or earn more, or to simply avoid red tape.
Self-publishing has a long history, I remember well the Soviet ‘samizdat’, which gave people access to literature which would have otherwise been banned by the state.
Most self-published books have been and are literary works, so is this a way to bring learning materials to the world? I certainly think so, and my main argument would be that we need a variety of materials to suit different personalities, learning styles, cultural and educational backgrounds.
The one-size-fits-all model doesn’t work, and so it’s our role as educators, educational writers and teachers, to create niche products, which, with time, may actually become mainstream. It’s not an easy task to find a publisher, which will go for niche products or will be able to offer reasonable compensation to an author.
If you know that you have a good quality learning material, which has backing and been tested, you may opt for publishing it yourself the way you see fit. The advantages would be to potentially earn more and have more control with the end product, which allows extra flexibility in adapting it (for different learning needs, different markets or even just updating with time).
The disadvantage for some would be that you’d have to learn quite a few new skills and spend significant amount of time on non-writing related activities. Here are five key skills you might need for a successful self-publishing project:
1. Project management
As though it is a self-publishing project, in production and post-production periods you’ll have to liaise with a number of people and organisations: an editor, a proofreader, a book designer, an illustrator, a printing house, bookshops, universities, schools to name but a few.
2. Budgeting and resource management
Nothing comes free, and you have to be careful with how much it is going to cost you to publish your book. There are ways to save, but also key things you don’t want to compromise on, like: good editing and proofreading, professional design, quality paper, robust marketing campaign.
All the above will require investment. Great if you have some spare money, alternatively, you’ll have to ask your friends and family for support, find sponsors, advertisers or go crowdfunding.
It isn’t only about the team you’ve gathered to work on your book, but also people and organisations, which can provide feedback for your material (ideally, official references you can later use for marketing), end clients (again, individuals and/or institutes) and intermediaries (like bookstores and wholesalers). They all will have to be approached slightly differently.
5. Marketing, sales and PR
As you have no luxury of relying on marketing departments of publishing houses, cannot use their established name and as marketing professionals tend to charge a lot, you have to understand how marketing and sales work.
Given that advertising is expensive, PR skills cannot be underestimated. It’s important not only to know your target audience, but how the purchasing process works and how you can fit in there.
Now, it may sound like a lot and you’ll have to weigh whether you want to invest your time and energy in all this, rather than concentrate on just writing. The good news though is that all of these skills are transferable and can be of much use in life. In fact, you may already possess them.
Ignaty Dyakov has authored a series of unconventional Russian language textbooks, which help students learn grammar and vocabulary through fun to read detective stories. The books are available as paper-backs, ebooks and audio-books.
They are now used at universities and schools all over the world, US, UK and France being the biggest markets. Ignaty has been teaching languages, and Russian in particular, since 2001 and in 2015 became a finalist of the prestigious ‘best Russian language teacher outside of Russia’ award. Member of the Society of Authors and Chartered Institute of Linguists, he is frequently invited to deliver teacher trainings and talks at schools, universities and language shows.