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Self-publish in 3 easy steps

MANILA, Philippines - Self-publishing is a brave, new world.

Pinoy authors need to be here when the local market is finally ready to embrace it.

Who doesn’t know Amanda Hocking? You would probably remember her as that previously unknown author who sold more than 1.5 million books and made US$2.5-M in 20 months.

She’s the writer who led a revolution in self-publishing and changed the face of the book-publishing world forever.

Zoom in on the Philippines and you’ll discover a dearth of courageous authors who have the daring to publish AND market their works on their own.

There are some who have e-book versions of their original print editions, but there are only a handful who have ventured into self-publishing.

The reason could be that, unlike in the US, the local reading market is probably not ready for e-books.

According to the 2012 Readership Survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) for the National Book Development Board (NBDB) and partners Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL) and Vibal Foundation, among those who read non-school books, only 6% actually read e-books. 

In the Philippines, Mina V. Esguerra is one of the few authors who have met with self-publishing success. She is the author of My Imaginary Ex, Fairy Tale Fail, Love Your Frenemies and Interim Goddess of Love.

Fairy Tale Fail won for Esguerra the 2012 Filipino Readers’ Choice Award for Chick Lit. 

Esguerra is also convinced that Filipinos are behind both as readers and authors. “I am surprised that not that many Filipinos are there yet," she wonders because e-publishing has no cost to it and is very convenient both for readers and authors.

Although it is understandable that many may not be comfortable yet with the technology and are clueless on how to be both publisher and marketer at the same time, Mina argues that there are companies that offer help to writers.

The formula

Esguerra is not a full-time novelist. Yet.

She has a young daughter and part-time work so she needs to try harder to find more time to write. “But I want people to know it can be done,” she shares. “I used to give two hours a day to writing, but now I’m lucky if I can get 20 minutes a day. It’s difficult, but I try.” 

She believes that self-publishing can be a fulltime job. Hocking is also one of her inspirations.

Mina says that in the US, the authors who are really spending time on self-publishing (both the writing and marketing aspects of it) have been able to quit their jobs and do the work full-time. 

“It’s a combination of writing a good book, writing a book in the right genre and actively engaging readers and other writers,” she reveals.

Mina says that if an author writes more and markets more, then this type of work can definitely supplement the author’s income or even replace a day job. 

How it’s done

1) Of course, a writer needs an original manuscript that’s ready for publication.

Esguerra had her book professionally edited before designing her book cover and putting up the material on Amazon. “In less than 3 days, it was on sale to the world,” she declares. 

2) E-book formatting or layout is different from designing pages for printing.

Authors who are planning to publish their own e-books should be e-book readers themselves. “Writers need to read e-books and get a feel of it,” Mina says, “(They need to know) what makes for a good reading experience.” 

3) It would help, too, if an author has several titles out online.

Esguerra has developed the discipline of writing one book after another. “I got practice, and could write several thousand words (regularly),” she says. She has developed the discipline of finishing what she started.

When Esguerra jumped into online publishing, Chick Lit was the hot item. Readers then started picking up Young Adult Paranormal Romance. And now it’s Erotica.

“It changes,” according to Mina, “But there are reliable genres like Suspense, Romance and Action — the guilty pleasure reads.”

Writers would do well, however, to write in the genre they are comfortable in. Mina advises that even if they experiment, e-book authors should write books that they would be proud of. 

Mina Esguerra’s books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online publishers like Apple and Sony. She documents the process of self-publishing on her blog called Publishing in Pajamas (www.minavesguerra.blogspot.com). - Rappler.com