‘Self-Printed’ by Catherine Ryan Howard

In keeping with the theme this month of posts relating to self-publishing (you can read my account of the recent Self-Publishing Day at the Irish Writers’ Centre here), I am now going to review a book on this subject, namely Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard.

'Self-Printed: The Sane Person's Guide to Self-Publishing' by Catherine Ryan Howard

I first encountered Catherine and her book at the afore-mentioned Self-Publishing Day and it could not have been more fortuitous timing. It led me to order Self-Printed from Amazon and, after consuming it from cover to cover, I came to realise that there really was no better place to start on the self-publishing highway to hell. (Bit strong, maybe. Path to panic? Boulevard to bewilderment?)

I read the entire book across four days this week (being on school midterm break = more time for writing-related activities, yay!), armed with just a pencil in my hand. No cups of coffee for me as I don’t drink the stuff. (If Catherine happens upon this, she may very well fall over at that sentence – she sprinkles a healthy dose of coffee references over the whole text and her website too…!)

So my plan was to identify the sections I found most relevant and important, both by marking them with my pencil and – dare I say it – dog-earing the pages. Defacing a book in such a manner is high on my list of Things-Which-Should-NEVER-Be-Done and I wouldn’t dream of doing it to anything but a self-help/reference volume which I intend to consult frequently and for that purpose need to be able to locate material quickly. (I took the same approach with the invaluable Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, which you can read my review of here.)

This is how the book survived my assault:

'Self-Printed': somewhat dog-eared...

I eventually ended up putting dog-ears on so many pages that I had to start folding them up from the bottom instead of the top, just to balance it out somewhat! Turns out pretty much EVERYTHING in the book is really relevant and important. The only thing I could set aside was the information on how to create a WordPress blogsite because, hey, look what you’re reading. 🙂

For anyone who is wavering over the question of whether or not to self-publish, Self-Printed is the perfect source of knowledge to have at your disposal. Catherine could not have made it any easier to learn all there is to know about going down the route of self-publishing. The authority of her words comes from the fact that they are based on her own personal experiences so if she advises strongly against using a homemade book cover or says that having a Twitter account is an absolute must then you know that she’s not speaking lightly and that, like as not, she learned these lessons the hard way.

This book covers everything: building an online platform, the importance of getting an editor, approaching book reviewers (including one HILARIOUS letter demonstrating how not to do it), why you should hire a cover designer, formatting for both e-book and paperback, creating listings on Amazon, and on and on and on and on… The more I read it, the more I was glad I had purchased the paperback and not just an e-book for the Kindle. I already know that if I choose to self-publish (still haven’t fully decided that yet), then this book will not leave my side – having it open beside my computer will make it very easy for reference as I go back and forth between sections.

I genuinely found this book to be equal parts informative and entertaining. I laughed out loud a couple of times, no lie. Catherine just has a really humorous way of putting things and you can practically hear her voice demanding you to “Calm the fudge down!” This was an excellent way for her to impart a lot of terrifying information without her reader going into total meltdown.

Because I steamed through the book so quickly, I did feel towards the end that I had attempted to absorb more information than my brain could reasonably hold and that the early bits were already fading into fogginess. Just as I was thinking I could do with some kind of recap that put everything into an understandable order, I turned one of the last pages and discovered a 31-point checklist that did just that. She thought of everything, this one.

One last thing I want to make note of: in all my previous book reviews, I have referred to the authors by their surnames but that didn’t feel right in this case. Having listened to Catherine speak in person at the Self-Publishing Day and having read this book where her personality bounces out from every page, I don’t think I could have written “Ryan Howard advises…” or “Ryan Howard mentions here…” She’s just too down-to-earth and personable for that!

I highly recommend Self-Printed for anyone who is considering publishing their own work. Its guidance will ensure that you will travel down a road that is less a trail of terror and more an avenue of assurance.

(Okay, I’ll stop now.)

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