12. Self-publishing 101
Let’s get the technical part over with. If you want more detail on this subject, read Paul Jun’s great Kindle publishing article on Copyblogger.
You can craft a Microsoft Word file of your book, upload it to Createspace, and they will format it for you, publish it to Kindle (for $69), and you are now a published author on Amazon. You will get 30-70% royalties depending on how you price (above $2.99 you get a 70% royalty) and you can do paperback and Kindle version.
This is not a bad choice. I did this with four of my self-published books. I’ve sold more copies of those books than my five books published with traditional publishers combined. Createspace even helps you design a cover, and you can pay for copyediting.
This entire point #12 is what most people refer to when they say “self-publishing.”
It’s how EL James initially published “50 Shades of Grey.” It’s how my favorite science fiction writer, Hugh Howey, initially published the soon-to-be-classic “Wool.” Both of those authors eventually worked out deals with major publishers for bookstore distribution and both have gone on to sell millions of copies and are in the hall of fame (if there is one) of people who started out self-publishing.
If you want to get on other platforms other than Amazon, you can use Smashwords and Lightning Source to do all of the above.
Step 12 is merely executing on the basics of self-publishing. It’s the very last step before a book is published. Everything I’ve said before this point is about building an audience.
I have a few more points I think you should do before step 12. And I have a few ideas about what you should do after step 12.
13. Team publishing
Ultimately, to do self-publishing right, you need to do it professionally.
The stigma of self-publishing is going away precisely because people are no longer just uploading files to Amazon and hoping for the best. If you’re a good writer, you might not be good at editing. Or, you might not be good at marketing. Or, you might need help with cover design.
It’s important to be honest with yourself about what you’re good at and what you aren’t.
You don’t want to spend a lot of money. Nor do you want to cheapen yourself with a shoddy project because you couldn’t give it your best. People can spot a self-published book a mile away. And I am guilty of “just” doing a basic self-published book with several of my books.
My first self-published book was horrible.
Too many grammatical errors. Who cares, I thought, but people do care. It really distracts the reader and it instantly shouts out “amateur hour.”
I now give that book away for free, and two others, when people sign up for my email list. The email list is another good way to build distribution and readership, and giving away free material to people who sign up is a good idea.
For my book that’s being released today, I used four editors. Two for copy editing to fix any basic grammatical errors, and two editors who have both edited many bestsellers. They worked with me on the structure of the book, the layout, and probably spent almost as much time editing the book as I spent writing it.
Traditional publishers also have editors that will work on your book, but the whole idea of professional self-publishing is to do a better job than the traditional publishers.
I wanted to work with the best editor I could find, not just whatever editor was available at a publisher, who might also be busy with 50 other books. This costs money, but it’s not that expensive and a well-done book will more than make back the expense.
Go to the bookstore. Pick out the books that have designs that you love. There’s no reason your book cannot have the same quality design, or better.
I used Herb Thornby, who designed books by some of my favorite authors. He gave me several cover choices to choose from.
I’m not a designer so I could not pick.
So here’s what I did. I made a Facebook ad aimed at my target audience and used a different cover image for each ad. Then I watched in real time what people were clicking on and I chose the most popular cover. The result is the cover image you see at the top of this post.
16. Interior design
I’m not good with fonts, stylizing breakout sections, designing the spine and back cover and inside flaps, etc. I hired for this.
Yes, it costs some money. Yes, a publisher would’ve taken care of all this for me. But I wanted to have a book that would look great, feel great, even smell great.
Uhh, I don’t know if I achieved that last part.