Thinking Through Self-Publishing Your Book

A Primer

If you’re reading this newsletter, you’ve probably been thinking about traditional or self-publishing for a while. Do you need a professional edit? A cover designer? What steps should you follow to successfully self-publish? Should you publish an eBook? An audiobook? Maybe you already have a published book and you need help marketing it.

My initial self-publishing primer covers everything from setting your goals to making sure you have a successful launch of your published book. But self-publishing is by far what I get the most questions about. 

GETTING STARTED: GOALS AND RESEARCH

A. DEFINE YOUR GOALS

Before you start your self-publishing journey, you should make a list of defined goals.

1.    Are you looking to get more readers?

2.    Or looking to sell books? It’s easy to get more readers if you’re a first-time author, but it’s much harder to sell books.

3.    Do you want just an eBook?

4.    A print book?

5.    An audiobook? 

B. UNDERSTANDING DIFFERENT TYPES OF PUBLISHING

Once you’ve defined your goals, you should research various publishing services and companies. A lot of authors forget this step, then they have a negative (and sometimes expensive) experience with a particular company. Make sure you understand the services they provide and their fees, as well as what other people have experienced with them. 

There are different ways to publish your novel. 

1)   Through a traditional publisher 

2)   Through a hybrid publisher

3)   Through a vanity press

4)   Through a publishing consultant (this is what I focus on)

5)   Doing everything yourself (I will also talk a lot about this on this)

Note: do you know the difference between a “publisher” and a “press?” There is a huge difference, and too often, I work with authors whose “publisher” turned out to be a “press,” and not a trustworthy one.

So before you choose a vendor, contractor, or service, make sure you Google “[Name of Press/Vendor] Reviews” or “[Name of Press/Vendor] Bad Reviews.” Make sure you check out the vendors’ LinkedIn pages, check them on BBB (Better Business Bureau), and read their testimonials. The results will tell you a lot about the press or vendor before you sign up. There are a lot of companies that take advantage of authors… make sure you’re not one of them. 

C. PICK YOUR RETAILERS and DISTRIBUTION STRATEGY

You should also make a decision about where you want your book to be sold and which retailers you should go with. Do you just want to sell your book on Amazon? Do you want to publish an eBook, a print book, an audiobook? Or all three?

The biggest retailer right now is Amazon. However, you should also make your book available as widely as possible, including sites like IndieBound and Bookshop. Brick-and-mortar bookstores really like them! 

eBook Retailers:

Now, most retailers allow authors to directly upload their books. This is great because you can maximize your royalties this way. 

When uploading an e-book or a book for print-on-demand, we recommend uploading your book to the following retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and Google Play. But different retailers can require you to upload different file formats for their devices. The file conversions for each device are as follows, as of right now:

•         MOBI/KPF/EPUB:  Amazon (Kindle)

•         EPUB:  Barnes & Noble (Nook Press), Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play

•         PRINT READY PDF:  KDP Print, Ingram Spark

*Note: After June 28, 2021, Amazon will longer support MOBI files when publishing new or updating previously published reflowable eBooks. Instead, use EPUB, DOCX or KPF formats, see our Frequently Asked Questions for more information. MOBI files are still accepted for fixed-layout eBooks. 

Theoretically you only need EPUB and your PRINT PDF. Some reviewers still like MOBI files, so it’s good to keep those handy.

Amazon

•         Known as KDP, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (http://kdp.amazon.com)

•         Over 60% of market* (guesstimate)

•         Royalties: 70% if your book is between $2.99 and $9.99

•         MOBI/KPF/EPUB file: 50MB.

•         Cover: at least 1000 pixels on longest side, JPEG or TIFF, 1.6 height-width ratio

•          To sell your book, you will need to submit tax and bank Information

Barnes & Noble

•         Known as Nook Press (http://nookpress.com)

•         Formerly PubIt!

•         Roughly 25% of e-book market* (guesstimate)

•         Royalties: about 65%

•         EPUB File: 20MB

•         Cover:  between 750 pixels and 2000 pixels in length, JPEG, 5KB to 2MB 

•          To sell your book, you will need to submit tax and bank Information

iBooks

•         Apple iBookStore (https://www.apple.com/ibooks/)

•         Roughly 25% of e-book market* (guesstimate)

•         EPUB File: 2 GB

•         Royalties: 70%

•         Cover:  minimum 1400 pixels along smaller side, JPEG or PNG file

•          To sell your book, you need to input your bank and tax information

•         Great for enhanced e-books

•         Mac and an iTunes Connect account

•         Download iTunes Producer or list your book with Smashwords and choose this distribution channel

Kobo

•         Kobo Writing Life  (http://kobowritinglife.com)

•         Single digits market share* (guesstimate)

•         Royalties: 70%

•         EPUB File: 200 MB

•         Cover: 600 pixels x 860 pixels, JPEG or PNG

•          To sell your book you need to input your bank and tax information

Google 

·     Google Play Book s(https://play.google.com/books/publish/u/0/)

·     Create your partner account

·     You will need to use your gmail or create one

·     Royalties are 70% for all books

·     EPUB or PDF FILE

·     To sell your book you need to input your bank and tax information

·     The file specs are here

·     Great to have your book on Google Play for Google Home devices

I recommend uploading your eBook to KDP directly, but then use either Smashwords or Draft2Digital for your eBook distribution for the other retailers, including OverDrive for library distribution. 

D. PRINT-ON-DEMAND

You may heard the buzzword ‘print-on-demand.’ With digital technology, you no longer have to pay upfront for printing costs because there are so many print-on-demand options.  If you’re doing a print edition of your book, you definitely want to consider print-on-demand. 

If you have already found someone to distribute your books for you, a print-on-demand service like KDP Print or Ingram Spark means the book is printed and sent to readers when they actually buy it. Many other companies require you to pay upfront for between 250 and 1000 copies of your book, which they then store and ship to readers when they make a purchase. Be careful, some printers will require you to pay for those copies then send them to you… and you get to mail out copies of your book when you manage to sell one.

RECOMMENDED PRINT-ON-DEMAND VENDORS

KDP PRINT

KDP Print is an Amazon company that has no upfront costs to upload your book. Formerly known as CreateSpace, it sets wholesale discounts at 40% for Amazon and 60% for expanded distribution. KDP Print’s support is amazing and their platform is somewhat user-friendly.

Ingram Spark

Ingram Spark authors have wholesale discount choices when setting up their titles for POD distribution—55% or 40%.  The company does charge setup fees, and charges you for every file change. Also, their support staff is limited, so you really need to make sure you do it correctly the first time. 

The general file you should upload for both of the sites above is a “Print Ready PDF.” Warning: it’s not a good idea to print books if you don’t already have a distribution option in place. Otherwise, you might end up housing 1,000 books in your garage. 

E. AUDIOBOOKS

Audiobooks are great for voice search and smart speakers. If you’re interested in publishing an audiobook of your title, you should definitely have your book on Audible (also an Amazon company). It’s worth noting that most places won’t review your audiobook if it’s not on Audible. 

For your audiobooks, I recommend two vendors for the narration and production for distribution to Audible:

1)   ACX (an Amazon company)

2)   Findaway Voices (note: you can only get your book on Chirp deals if you distribute through Findaway Voices. Chirp is an audiobook sales site owned by the folks at BookBub ). 

F. ISBNS

If you’re self-publishing, you may want to consider buying your own ISBNs. ISBN rules vary from country to country. No retailers require them for you to self-publish, but having an ISBN may increase your Google ranking and help other vendors pull out search data for your book. Also, if your book does well, an ISBN can help you get on the bestseller lists for NYTimes, USA Today,and other lists.

If you are serious about the success of your book, you should buy a ten-pack of ISBNs from Bowker, the authorized retailer in the US.

G. COPYRIGHT

Copyrighting is a good way to protect your work, especially when it comes to self-publishing. Though it is important, it can also be a very confusing process. Here is some information about copyright from PBS MediaShift in order to make sure your work is properly protected:

•         Copyrighting is cheaper and easier to do yourself.

•         Copyrighting one work costs $35 to register online. Just go to www.copyright.gov.

•         U.S. copyright law states that copyright exists from the moment the work is created, “without any action taken by the author, the moment it is fixed in a tangible form so that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”

•         You don’t even have to put a copyright notice on your work, though it does help you if you have to take legal action against book pirates.

•         Therefore, you will have to register your copyright in order to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a US work.

•         Note: you can register works of visual arts, performing arts, sound recordings, and single serials at the same website.

I know it’s a lot of information to digest. In my next newsletter I’ll cover more distribution and book marketing tips.

Keep calm and publish on,

Miral