Luckily, self publishing has lost its stigma and is a gatekeeper free way to get your book out into the world. I’ve had the experience of having one of my novels published with a small traditional publisher. However, my other two books were self-published. In addition, my co-writer Amber and I self-published a romance novel called The Proposition. We used pen names, which is a good idea if you are planning to write in wildly different genres.
Learning is the first step
Both ways of getting a book published have their merits. I will say that I learned so much by having a publisher first. That experience helped me when it came time to self-publish. I learned about what it’s like to have a professional editor and what was involved in putting together a marketing plan.While there are plenty of people who claim it’s so easy peasy to self-publish, there is still a learning curve. That said, if you choose to go exclusive with Amazon and do an ebook only and don’t create a paperback, it is less work.
Paperback, Ebook or Both?
Createspace for paperbacks takes some patience. Though now there is an option to take your KDP ebook file and use it to automatically create a paperback. I haven’t used this method so I’m not sure if there are any formatting issues. It’s worth researching before diving in.
Some say a paperback is important because it’s more money in your pocket and you can hold it and hand sell it at book fairs. In my personal experience, ebook sales far surpassed paperback. And if you are writing something under 30k, most just create an ebook.
Using KDP is pretty simple, and they give instructions on how to upload your book document and cover. Then you set up your pricing and it takes a day or so to show up for sale. You can also try uploading via Smashwords instead and it will set you up with some different distribution options. This is something I hope to try soon, but so far I’ve gone exclusive with KDP in order to get paid for page reads in addition to book sales.
Format and Edit
Formatting can be a pain, it might be worth paying someone to do it for you, or using a product like Vellum to get your content looking spiffy. For ebooks, Georgia is a good font. I do a .2 indentation for paragraphs for fiction and single space the document. For nonfiction, there is no need to indent paragraphs, just put a space between each paragraph and used bolded headers.
Hiring an editor would be smart too, if you can afford it. If not, Grammarly is a free app with a paid version that helps find errors in your work. You might also want to read the manuscript out loud and start from the last page and read in reverse to catch errors.
Writing is also about collaboration, so find someone you trust to check for grammar and punctuation. Finding a kindred soul to help you will save you money and could forge a life-long friendship.
Book Cover Design
I used Canva and PicMonkey to create my own covers. However, you can buy pre-made or custom covers from a designer. Some people claim to have had good experiences buying covers on Fivver.
But please don’t use the Kindle pre-made cover creator designs. They make it easy, but they don’t look good. I tried one myself on a self-published picture book I put out, but it looked amateurish and I learned my lesson. But I knew I created the book just for my son, so it didn’t matter too much. And if your book is just for you and family or friends the cover creator is fine.
Before releasing your book you should set up an author website. You could do a free WordPress site. But you might want to start with the paid version of WordPress and buy a domain name. We use Blue host and paid for a domain name and theme after years of having a free site. We have a lot more long term control this way.
Next, set up an email list. There are lots of choices, some start with MailChimp because it’s free if you have under 2000 subscribers but I didn’t like it. Now we use Mailerlite which is much more user friendly.
If you don’t have them already, you’ll need to set up your social media accounts. If you set up a Facebook author page, you can then buy Facebook ads to promote your book. You can’t do this from your personal page.
Pinterest is another way to promote your book. There is a lot to learn about how to do it. Amber took this Pinterest course and now she creates pins that generate most of our traffic.
There are so many choices, Twitter, Instagram and whatever is next and new. I recommend choosing one or two social media accounts to focus on. Do some research and figure out where your audience hangs out.
You’ll want to send out some free ARC’s (advanced reader copies) to people who will agree to review your book on Amazon.
5 Resources for more self-publishing how-to help
In my journey to figure out what to do, I encountered some amazing authors that have shared their tips, inspiration and success in this arena. Their books, blogs and podcasts provided a well rounded education in publishing. If it weren’t for all of their collective help, my books may have never seen the light of day. So I thought it would be nice to share their wisdom with you!
Joanna Penn writes thrillers as well as non-fiction books for writers. Her site provides podcasts and blog posts that are so insightful and helpful. One of my favorite things is to hear what’s new in the publishing world on her podcast while I clean my bathrooms. Sorry, Joanna, gotta multitask.
JA Konrath is a bestselling self-published author who has sold over two million books, according to his website. One of his keys to success seems to be the fact that he’s been prolific, and has experimented with publishing in a variety of genres. Click on the link to his name and you’ll see his Newbie’s Guide to Self-Publishing. It’s an entertaining and informative blog and the comments are sometimes even better.
Rick Smith's Createspace and Kindle Self Publishing Master Class is a book that I purchased and found invaluable. He gives an overview of the process of self publishing from start to finish. He also goes into detail about how to get things set up with Createspace to make a paperback. While there are online resources that have this information, I found the book was well worth the money because he explained things in a way that made sense and answered a lot of questions I had about formatting, fonts, etc.
Jane Friedman's knowledge of the publishing world is expansive. While her focus isn’t self publishing exclusively, she has covered it on her blog. She has a post that compares traditional to self-publishing and hybrid publishing and tries to help writers discover the path that makes the most sense for them. Her blog covers writing craft, publishing and hosts great interviews with successful authors. She also shares her knowledge in her book Publishing 101.
Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant and David W. Wright of Sterling and Stone publishing have written a few books about their success with self-publishing. Their website also has podcasts where you can learn about the subject if you don’t have time to read the books. I read Iterate and Optimize: Optimize your creative business for profit and it was eye opening. The unique thing about these guys is that they’ve had to figure out how to run a business as a team. They do talk a fair amount about their specific business model which had me losing interest at certain points, but I did get some good tips.
I know I’ve just scratched the surface here. There are so many successful self-publishers in the world today. But I hope this list helps give you the inspiration to make the leap.
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