Self-Publishing Checklist: The Random No One Tells You, Part II

Self-Publishing Checklist: The Random No One Tells You, Part II

Patty Templeton's Self-publishing Checklist-smallIn Part One of this series, we looked at Firming Out Your Expectations, Picking Your Publisher, and how to do a Reality Check on Your Book Format.

How are we doing so far? Still okay? Good.

So you have a manuscript. You have decided on a publisher. You know weird tips about how your book’s format can affect its price and distribution. Now what?

4. Find or Commission Art

    • What is your vision for your front cover, back cover, and spine?
    • What are examples of books you admire that are in your book’s genre?
    • Do you want to create your own cover, hire someone to do it, or hire your POD publisher to do it?
    • What artists do you admire who fit the tone of your book?

  • If you have found an artist whose work you admire, do you want to query them about using an already existing image for cover art? Do you want to commission them to create original cover art?
  • Is your artist also a graphic designer? Are you getting a high res image or a whole design package?
  • If you hire a graphic designer, is there anything besides the cover that you want them to design?

A few tidbits about artists… even if you think an artist is out of your price range, there is no harm in tactful inquiries. I mean, don’t expect Brom to whip you up original art for your taxidermy candleholder how-to manual, but if you see an artist you like, shoot them an email.

I love the outlandish, saturated style of Matthew Ryan Sharp. I discovered him through his album artwork for the band Cutthroat Shamrock.

Cutthroat Shamrock A Path Less Traveled-smallSide note story:

I went to see Cutthroat Shamrock play at a tiny Irish fest with my fella. I met a roller derby chick and her husband. We were the main folks standing in front of the band, rather than sitting twenty feet back drinking beer. We all danced together and that was that.

The next day, I looked up the artist of Cutthroat Shamrock’s album, A Path Less Traveled. Holy s, if it wasn’t Dude-Mc-Lots-O-Tattoos – Matthew Ryan Sharp – husband of the fun roller derby chick. I fanned him on Facebook. Then, once again, that was that.

A month of two later, I was trying to get serious about putting my website together. I wanted a big ‘ol, gorgeous image for the front page…and thought of Sharp. But in the back of my head I was like THIS IS USELESS… HE WILL BE WAY TOO EXPENSIVE. ::pine, mope, sigh::

But I tried. If there is one bit of advice I can give indie authors, it is to ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT! Stop being shy. Stop being so self-reliant. Ask for help. Politely ask for what you want for cheap or free. You will be surprised how often you get a positive response from folks.

I sent a polite, fangirling email to Matthew Ryan Sharp explaining my limited budget and interest in working with him. We were able to come to an accord on art for my website. Then, because of that relationship, talks of designing the cover of my first novel came about… and YEAH! We came to an affordable agreement on that, too.

So here is more advice, tell people when you love their work. Tell other authors. Tell artists. Tell musicians. Tell whoever. Write fan letters, emails, Facebook messages, etc. 1.) It will brighten that person’s day. 2.) It will put your name in the very backend of nowhere in their brain. Which is better than not being in their brain at all. 3.) Do not just tell people you love their work because you want to network. Real squee vs. fake network squee is really OBVIOUS and pretty dang annoying.

Maybe that artist you’ve been eyeing has a sliding scale. Maybe they have payment plans. You won’t know unless you ask – courteously. But before you contact your artist/graphic designer, know what you want from them.

Art by Matthew Ryan Sharp
Art by Matthew Ryan Sharp

Matthew Ryan Sharp is an artist, but he’s also a graphic designer. I could take all my art queries to him. Here’s the list of work he designed for me:

  • Cover Art
  • Endpapers
  • Title Page
  • Chapter Headings
  • Space break emblem
  • Rectangular advertising banner
  • 7 1-inch button designs – 6 of which were used on the cover
  • 2 fictional business logos to be used on shirts and other merch

I know. I know. That’s a lot of crap. But I knew from the start that I wanted a cohesive aesthetic from cover design to merch to online and in-person promotional tidbits. Which leads to…

5. Merchandise

  • Do you want to create merchandise centered around your book? For example: postcards, shirts, tote bags, mugs, stickers, or buttons?
  • Is this merchandise to give away as promotional freebies or to sell?
  • Do you have an agreement with your artist on what images are yours to sell?
  • Do you want to purchase merchandise in bulk or print it on demand?

Your head may have just exploded. It’s ok. I’ll wait for you to sop the pieces up and skull-drop them. Merchandise? MERCHANDISE? How can you even think about merchandise at a time like this? I mean, you haven’t even uploaded your book to the POD thingy yet and you are talking MERCHANDISE?

Yup. You might as well tell your artist what you want all in one fell swoop. There is no telling if they will have time later in the year, when you do decide you want merch, to create it for you. Plus, why wouldn’t you want some badass buttons or stickers at your book release party?

Patty Templeton There is no Lovely End mug-smallThere are two routes for merch:

  1. POD through a company like Zazzle or Café Press


  • No upfront cost
  • You don’t have to ship anything
  • A wide variety of products to put your designs on
  • You extend your online presence by having an online shop through their website


  • OH MY GAWD IT IS EXPENSIVE. Ok. Not for you, but for the people buying your stuff. Example: base price of a t-shirt on Café Press? $19.99. That’s already an expensive t-shirt. If you want to make any money, you have to markup the shirt to at least $21.99…and that’s barely a profit. Plus, if your customer wants to get it in black – there’s even more of a markup for them. Lame.

2. Buy in bulk


  • You can price your merch a hellton cheaper. Example: you can get your t-shirt cost down to 6 bucks a shirt. Price them at $15 and you are making 9 bucks profit…which is hella more than you would on a POD site.
  • Increase in quality, depending on who you buy from
watchbird theater shirt
A Watchbird Theater shirt (based on a business in my book), a patch, and my novel.


  • Upfront cost of buying and storing your merch
  • If you list your merch on your website, you are mailing it to people – time is money. Or you are selling it out of your trunk at cons and readings.
  • You have to deal with SALES TAX. Ugh. Boring. Annoying. But you have to deal with it for the books you handsell, anyways. So I guess it is only a half-con.
  • You are probably going to be buying bulk from multiple retailers. Your button company might not be the same as your shirt company or your sticker company.

Here’s the thing about merch: it is fun to have, but you don’t need it. Here are the bottom line questions to ask yourself before going down the merch path:

  • Are you going to be touring a lot? Writing conventions, readings, dealers’ tables at other genre conventions? If so, merch is a nice addition to your table and bulk prices are better.
  • What is the highest you would want your fans to pay for a mug? A shirt? A button? What would you be willing to pay for an author’s merch?
  • Do you want as little involvement in the merch production and buying process as possible? Then you should go with a POD merch service like Zazzle or Café Press.

Back to the real book work…

6. Hire a Proofreader

  • Do you want your book to be riddled with errors? No? Hire a proofreader.

Patty Templeton There is no Lovely End beer-smallThis isn’t negotiable. No, your mom doesn’t count. Or your best friend. Unless your mom or best friend are proofreaders. It can be expensive. It doesn’t matter. Typos suck. My suggestion: network at writers’ conventions and readings, meet people. Show genuine interest in others and they will show interest in you. Help other folks out, and eventually, when you are looking for a proofreader, you might know someone who can cut you a deal.

You haven’t been networking? Well, you are gonna pony up some dough this round. You might be able to lessen the greenbleed by searching through writers’ forums on your POD publisher’s site to see what companies or trustworthy proofreaders are in current use. Preferably, ask writer friends who they used.

Then, for the good earth, DO NOT TINKER with your manuscript after the proofreader’s changes have been made.

Um. Because you will print about 150 copies of your book to handsell on your first mini-book tour or giveaway as review copies and realize that there IS A MISSING PERIOD at the end of the VERY LAST SENTENCE at the end of a chapter. TWICE. TWO TIMES. UGH. Geez.

But here’s what is great about CreateSpace, I was able to upload a new doc of the inside of the book that corrected those two ridiculous typos.

Get a proofreader. Know if you want them to do deep edits that deal with plot and structure or if you just want them to look for grammar errors. Then DO NOT TINKER.

In Part III, we’ll look at Uploading Your Book, the Proofing Process, and The Random Pile. See you then!

PATTY TEMPLETON is roughly 25 apples tall and 11,000 cups of coffee into her life. She wears red sequins and stomping boots while writing, then hits up back-alley dance bars and honky tonks. Her stories are full of ghosts, freaks, fools, underdogs, blue collar heroes, and never giving up, even when life is giving you shit. She won the first-ever Naked Girls Reading Literary Honors Award and has been a runner-up for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award. There Is No Lovely End is her first novel. To see her merch shop, click here.

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