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Your Life Calling

10 Tips for Self-publishing

"Building" a book on your own is easier and more cost-effective than you might think.

Call in the professionals. Once your manuscript is finished, seek out at least one or two fresh pairs of eyes. "Everyone needs an editor," Hall assures. "It doesn't mean you're a bad writer." Also think about using a distributor who can help you get your book out into the retail market. And though they can sometimes be pricy, a publicist is a valuable tool in the all-important marketing step.

Recognize the resources you already have. Zimmerman took the pictures in Urban & Suburban Meadows herself, using skills from her previous career as a camerawoman — and saving her the cost of hiring a photographer. She was also able to use the network of contacts she'd acquired in the media industry to help with things such as design and marketing. "One of my biggest philosophies in life is to just ask," Zimmerman says. "It's amazing how willing people are."

Ask questions — and lots of them. Don't be afraid to reach out to people who have self-published before: They will have valuable insight on the process. Blogs, online communities and websites such as Poynter Online all provide helpful support.

Connect with your readers. Often one of the benefits of self-publishing is that you're able to make a more direct connection with your audience. "You're taking out the middleman," Hall says. Zimmerman agrees that one of her favorite parts of the process is the personalized feedback she receives from readers.

Use the Internet. "Having an online presence is a big factor," Hall says, "and it will buy you a lot of credibility if you do it well." A well-designed website or a consistently updated blog will help get your message out. Additionally, accounts on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are also great for this, and — best of all — they're completely free.

Anticipate challenges around every corner. "Get used to little surprises," Zimmerman advises, and expect them to continue cropping up even after your book has been published. Her hard work paid off: Urban & Suburban Meadows is a resounding success. It has received favorable reviews in The Washington Post and The American Gardener. Zimmerman is now prepping it for a second printing. Though she incurred hefty printing and shipping costs up front, she's happy to have seen the process through. "It's not for everyone," Zimmerman says. "But it's a journey. I'm still enjoying the adventure."

Lindsay Zoladz is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.

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