Many people are turning to self publishing rather than the traditional publishing. I am not here to fight for one side or the other (I respect everyone’s choice to do what they think best), but I am going to explain in steps, how I self published with Amazon’s Kindle and Create Space.
You, like many people, may be trying to make that choice right now, and believe me I spent many sleepless nights tossing and turning over what I should do. And here’s the one and only reason I chose self-publishing over traditional. I’M IMPATIENT. Haha! There it is in a nutshell. There’s no big magical secret or right way or wrong way, it just comes down to time and patience (and of course being a good writer.) After LOTS of research, I came to the conclusion that it can, and in most cases, will take a VERY long time to even get accepted by an agent and then a publisher and it can be years before your book is available to buy. There also may be better financial benefits for self-pubs as opposed to traditional. But I will say it again, I am not here to get into the heated debate that lots of loyal indie authors and trad authors tend to get into. I have never even submitted my manuscript to a literary agent or publisher (although I spent days upon days compiling lists of recommended ones so I could do just that.) A good site to do this at is Preditors and Editors, here http://pred-ed.com/.
Anyway back to the point. I chose self publishing, and I chose to do that with Kindle Direct Publishing and Amazon’s Create Space. For you newbies out there, Kindle is the digital e-book version that people purchase on their kindle, and CreateSpace is the paperback version people can order and hold in their hands.
Now that brings us to another point. Kindle and CreateSpace are just one in MANY options. There’s Smashwords, which is highly recommend as well, for they distribute to lots of different e-readers and distributors like Barnes and Noble, Nook, Kobo, Sony, IPad,etc. There’s also LULU and Lightning Source which will distribute your hardback or paperback books. The list could go on and on. (Thus, many more sleepless nights trying to decide.)
BUT, alas I had decided, and I will discuss my journey thus far and the steps you need to take to get there.
STEP 1. Have a completed book. YES, it must be all the way finished and edited over and over to a squeaky clean! Do NOT try to edit it by yourself. That is just asking for a disaster. Even editors don’t edit their own books, because your mind becomes fickle, missing your own errors over and over. So make sure your book is at it’s best before you even think about submitting it to be published. Some authors go even as far as having beta readers. They will give you feedback on things that you may overlook in the whole scheme of your story, things that don’t make sense to them, things that may not flow right, missed plot opportunities, what they do and don’t like etc.
STEP 1a. If you are doing a paperback and/or hardback book, don’t forget your book blurb for the back cover, author bio, and author picture. I took a look at some of my favorite author’s blurbs (one’s in my same genre) to help me write my own. Keep it short and sweet (only a couple of paragraphs) but make it irresistible. Why would the reader want to pick up your book and read it? Make sure they really want to without giving away any secrets or the ending of your book. Create suspense. Don’t put too much into your author bio or make it too long to where the reader looses interest. I chose to go a little more fun and quirky with mine, as I’m targeting young adults and teens. You will want your editor to take a look at your blurb as well. Have a nice author pic taken professionally or by a friend that can use as camera. 😀
STEP 2. After editing is completed then you need to get your manuscript formatted into the proper files. There’s .epub for Nook, .mobi for kindle and PDF for paperback. Research where you will have your book published (nook, kindle, kobo, sony etc) and find out which formats you need to do so. For me, hiring a formatter for minimal cost was the best option. Some authors who are technically gifted -or brave, as I like to think they are- use Calibre or other formatting software to format their own. I tried to do it myself, and alas, it was more stress and not worth it for me. That’s your choice.
STEP 3. Cover design. Step 2 & 3 can be done simultaneously (sort of.) Let me explain. If you decide to hire a book cover designer, they can go ahead and start on your ebook cover. An ebook lacks the back cover and binding. Now for your paperback and/or hardback cover, you will need to have your manuscript PDF file completely formatted and finished, because the designer needs to know the exact page count before finishing your paperback cover. The page count WILL change as you change the formatting. The designer will also need to know a few other specs of your choosing, like book size, paper color, white, cream etc. I found these options through Amazon’s Create Space where I had my paperback done. Check these options thoroughly, because some are limited and will not allow you to distribute through libraries, expanded distribution, etc. Choose your options and hand them over to your designer along with the final page count of your paperback/hardback and leave the rest to them. Again, some authors choose to design their own covers and there is also an option on Createspace to design your own. Some of these are pretty general and generic but you may find something you like and may want to keep it simple.
STEP 4. Research pricing. If you price your book at $0.99 or $1.99 (these prices are pretty good for shorter stories) you will only get 35% profit from your sales. If you price your book at $2.99 and above you will get %70. I suggest perusing through Amazon and check out books that are similar to yours. Look at how they are pricing their books. There are many different theories on pricing. Some say that you will sell more at $0.99 but then you have look at what you will be getting. Pennies, really. BUT if you sell A LOT, that can add up rather quickly. Some say it is better to price your book a bit higher between 2.99 and 4.99 because it makes the reader actually think about their purchase. If they have to think about their purchase, your book is probably something they really want to read, therefore the chances of them liking it and leaving a good review or suggesting it to others is higher. If it’s $0.99 they may just buy it because its cheap, and therefore it may not be what they usually read and could end up causing a bad review from the buyer that reflects back onto your book. Some people say you should price higher because you want the quality of your book to be reflected in the price, if it is cheap will the buyer think your book is cheaply written as well?
STEP 5. Almost done! After you get back your formatted files and book cover files, you will submit these to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and Createspace, or Smashwords and any other publisher you wish to go through. I can only speak for KDP and Createspace, as that is as far as I’ve gone thus far. You will have a nice long set-up process, to where you are asked to add your book title, files, contributors (editor, illustrator, etc.), your book description(blurb) and other details. Make sure there are NO errors here, as this will be the info that the consumers will see on Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc. After you upload your book files there will be an option for an online preview for kindle. Check this thoroughly to make sure the formatting is correct and everything is in place. There will also be a proof process for Createspace. I highly suggest ordering a proof of your paperback to be sent to your house that way you can make sure everything is how it should be. You will then need to set up your distribution details, prices, etc. Don’t hit the publish button on the day you you’ve announced your release. Set your release date (for marketing purposes) a few weeks from publishing to make sure everything is ready. Even though I hit the publish button, I did not announce the release for a couple more weeks, as to make sure the paperback and ebook were both available. The paperback takes longer than the ebook. Once you hit the publish button, KDP will tell you it will be about 12-24 hours before your book is available. This is pretty accurate. You will then receive an email saying “Congratulations for publishing with KDP! Your book is now available here!” Yay for you! But wait! What about your paperback? After you hit the dreaded publish button on Createspace, they will tell you it will be about 5-7 days before it goes live. This, again, is pretty accurate. Mine was live in 5 days. But they won’t send you an e-mail. You just need to go to Amazon and search your book title and author name to see when it pops up. And because this is not an exact science and things change, errors are found, and goodness knows what else, that is why I suggest giving yourself an ample amount of time in between hitting the publish button and actually having your release date/book release party.
STEP 6. Write you next book! Yes that is the best piece of advice I can give you. You can market until you’re blue in the face and shout from the top of the walls “BUY MY BOOK!” but this will only give a temporary rise in sales. To keep the longevity of sales and to keep your name in people’s faces you need to keep writing.
Good luck to you in your self-publishing journey! I am still learning myself, and do not know everything, but please feel free to leave a comment and ask any questions or leave a suggestion of something I may have not covered. We, as humans, are continuously learning, and if there’s one thing I’ve gotten from self-publishing, it’s pay it forward. I’ve had many people answering my questions and helping me along the way and I’d love to pass on that knowledge to others.
Awesome guide. Thanks for putting it together like this in layman’s terms.
Hiring a formatter (spell check doesn’t even like the word) – for an unsigned, undiscovered author, is it worth the price?
One thing I noticed that, as an author, thought you’d like to fix. “… market until your blue in the face…”