This past Saturday, I was invited to speak on a panel at the Los Altos Library on the topic of trends in self-publishing and the role of libraries in this new age of publishing. On the panel was a self-published author, Marcia Kemp Sterling, a Silicon Valley lawyer, Holly Brady, former Director of Publishing Venture at Stanford University, and Megan Wong, Virtual Library Manager of the Santa Clara Library District.

We talked a broad range of topics, answering practical questions like why should authors self-publish to what should authors do to market their books better. Because everyone had unique and applicable experiences, you can imagine the answers were more that just informative. I especially liked one question from an aspiring author in the audience, “What should I watch out for when looking for help?”

All the panelists had valuable suggestions, as there are so many unique pit-falls when the publishing industry is being disrupted by technology. But there are 3 main takeaways:

1) Don’t give away book rights easily, especially when you’re paying someone for their help. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to give rights away – just know what you’re getting in exchange.

2) You may find valuable resources around you, find a member of your family well versed in social media and ask for their advice or help – social media marketing is free and no harm in trying (you can reinvent yourself easily if it didn’t work).

3) As big publishers continue to cut their staff, this is great for self-publishers. There are more professionals freelancing then ever to help authors – but shop around because if you’re not paying attention you can be spending tens of thousands of dollars before you know it.

Self-publishing can be expensive, or it can be done on a shoestring. You can (and probably will) fall into traps if you’re not careful, but don’t worry – there’s nothing unrecoverable. Be brave, let yourself fail once in a while to learn something important – and keep writing!

-Jerry, JukePop Serials Founder