Some perils of self-publishing: Part 2 1

by Ben Nuttall-Smith

Here is the second part of Ben’s perilous journey through the labyrinth of self-publishing, from design to promotion and everything in between. Your insight?


I asked some of the published authors I’d befriended over the years to read my manuscript. I’ve had fellow authors blurb (endorse) all my books and I will forever be indebted to every one of them. I have since endorsed other new writers. It’s all in the family and good promotion. My name appears on other book jackets and people might look for my books.

Primary Jacket and Book Design

I have self-published three books of poetry as well as the memoir with Trafford. In each case, I examined a number of published books and copied the opening pages:  inside title, copyright page, dedication, index, introduction or prologue.  Selecting a six-by-nine inch book size, I contacted a book printer in Victoria to find out about margins and spacing. I found Printorium Bookworks to be very helpful in this regard. Next, I googled the Canadian ISBN Service System and was given a series of numbers for my own use. I found a barcode generator on line with instructions to insert an ISBN number.

With everything else ready, I had a most important task left. I needed to design a worthwhile cover. The cover had to be eye-catching and it had to tell my story, at least in part, with one image. If the cover doesn’t catch potential readers’ eyes, the book will sit on a shelf until the author is asked to take the book back. Since I also paint, I produced several illustrations for each book before deciding on a suitable cover.


I went with Printorium Bookworks print-on-demand. This way my costs were reasonable and I was not obliged to purchase more copies than I could handle. A proof copy was in my hands within three days and, once I had read through from cover to cover, I gave the go-ahead and had my copies within another week.

Promotion, Promotion, Promotion

Here are a few pointers:

  1. Develop a web page. Be colourful. A blog can be a great help. This should be undertaken when you first begin writing. That way you’ll build up a following, especially if you’re not too shy to share your trials as well as your triumphs.
  2. Open a Facebook page and build up friends and likes. These people will be there when your book comes out.
  3. Join a writing group. Become involved. Volunteer. I found my two publishers (they found me) through my involvement in Writers Helping Writers. I would recommend joining your provincial organization and the Canadian Authors Association – you do not need to be a published author to join.
  4. Attend book launches and readings. This will pay off when you need to organize your own book launch.
  5. Attend workshops. The Federation of BC Writers organizes several each year throughout the Province of British Columbia.
  6. Attend writers’ conferences such as the Surrey International Writers’ Conference each October.
  7. Carry bookmarks wherever you go and give them out like candy.
  8. Make sure to have copies of your book in the car and don’t be shy to talk about your book. It’s called shameless self-promotion.
  9. Get working on your next book.


There is no fast and easy way to become a published author. It takes time and effort to learn the craft of writing. The most important point: Rewrite those stories and polish them until they are perfect, then find a good editor.

Incidentally, after self-publishing a memoir and three books of poetry, a publisher accepted my first novel and then suggested turning my memoir into a novel by changing names and places.


Ben Nuttall-Smith is the president of the Federation of BC Writers and the author of the historical novel Blood, Feathers & Holy Men (Libros Libertad, 2011) and the autobiography Secrets Kept/Secrets Told (Libros Libertad, 2012). In 2013, he published two books of poetry, A Moment in Eternity and Postcards (Silver Bow Publishing). His poems and short stories have appeared in numerous national and international anthologies and online publications.

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