How To Self Publish #3

How To Self Publish — All By Yourself!

3 Self Publishing

So, how do you do it? Writing and revising is one thing (two things, actually), but publishing your work is something quite different. Still, if you write on a computer, you probably know enough about text formatting and file types to work you way through to a finished product. Self publishing is detail-oriented, structured work—but so is writing!

I have used the following services:

Kindle ebooks (Amazon)–  https://kdp.amazon.com

SmashWords ebooks–  https://www.smashwords.com/

Create Space (Amazon print editions)– https://www.createspace.com/

Lulu (ebooks or print editions)–  https://www.lulu.com

They are all different, yet similar in many ways. My comments relate most directly to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. The other services require similar types of setup and preparation of materials.

At the publisher’s web site, you have to create an account where you enter your personal information including the details necessary for the company to send you a report for your taxes. Taxes? Yes, you are planning to make money from this aren’t you? By the way, keep track of what you pay your editor and others that help you prepare your work. That could be a tax deduction.

Now it’s time to set up your book. The Kindle Direct Publishing site has instructions for each step. If you are not sure what they are asking you to enter, hover over the (What’s this?) button in the instructions. Some of the instructions link to even more detailed instructions. When all else fails, there is a [Contact us] link to get your questions answered directly. Remember, there’s nothing like doing it wrong a few times to help you figure out how to do it right. These sites all show you previews of your book so you can check your work before you release it. There are no points taken off if you ask for help.

Let’s get started. Book name: Put in your title, and there you go. You’ve started. There are more entries if you are writing a series of books like my Chronicles of the Dragon-Bound, and so on. The publisher? Hey, that’s you!

Prepare a blurb, a synopsis that describes your book. This is the advertising copy that will sell your book. There are many tutorials on the web as well as printed sources and examples. Check the dust jackets and covers of books you already own for other ideas.  A good blurb will have some punch—think of a movie trailer. It should be a short, pithy portrait of your book that says, “Buy me!” without saying “Buy me!”

What about an ISBN, an International Standard Book Number? For an ebook on Amazon, it’s optional. If you are only going to publish an ebook on Amazon, they have their own free identifier system. You won’t need an ISBN. To get an ISBN go to Bowker at:  http://www.bowker.com. They sell them there. Yes, another expense.

If you are publishing something you have written, it is not a public domain work—unless you want it to be. Something in the public domain can be copied and reproduced by anyone. If you want to sell your books to make money, be sure to keep the intellectual property rights. Your work is copyrighted if you say it is—put a statement in the front matter of your book. For more legal protection you can officially register your copyright at http://www.copyright.gov/eco/.

Create a cover for your book. Never judge a book by its cover? Not true! This and your blurb are the way you sell books to casual buyers. The cover should make a potential reader want to read your blurb. The blurb should make them want to read your book.

I created my own covers by buying a picture from http://www.shutterstock.com/ (other services have similar products). They have a wide selection, so be prepared to search. Try to find something eye catching that in some way represents your book. Shutterstock pictures cost money to download, but they come with a standard license to reproduce the picture on your own work. You could use your own photo as long as it didn’t include anyone or anything that would have protected rights of reproduction. (No, I have no information on specifics, only information on a few bad examples that scared me.) If you are a good designer (I am not), you could create your own abstract design to use as a cover.

Once I had a cover picture, I used a simple page layout program (I used Apple’s Pages. Microsoft Word makes me swear.) to put a text blocks with the title and author over the picture. Be sure to check the width, length, and pixel resolution requirements for each publisher for a cover on their service. They are all different, but each site will have a [Cover guidelines] button that will give you more information. Sorting through the different picture file formats, changing resolution, and the like can be confusing if you haven’t done it before. Here is one spot you may want to ask someone for some guidance.

Set up your book according to the voluminous instructions unique to each publishing venue. If I recall, they all accept MS Word files, but the formatting requirements are fussy and different for each one. There are some free Kindle books about setting up an ebook for Kindle (oddly enough). Each site has instructions for formatting and so forth available on the site. Be sure to add front matter for your book, the title page, dedication, etc. Kindle also likes to see chapters. There are instructions on how to create this list.

Once you have the book the way you want it, upload the file. I don’t know about you, but I felt the drama of the moment. I was sending my baby off to be made into a book!  Now, want an example of what can go wrong? I had all of my files double spaced because that was the way I edited them. When I uploaded the files, I didn’t change the spacing. I didn’t notice in the previews I checked, but it showed up double spaced on a Kindle. Solution? Make my files single spaced, then upload them again. Any goof on your part is fixable. Trust me. Someone will notice and tell you about it.

Want printed copies of your book? There are a number of publish-to-order sites on the web. I have used https://www.createspace.com/ , and https://www.lulu.com, but there are others. You go through many of the same steps as setting up an ebook, but you will need an ISBN number. After you enter your information, cover, and text, your book sits out on the web waiting for someone to order it. With electronic publishing, each book is printed out for each order.

One advantage of using Amazon’s Create Space is that Amazon’s reach is huge. If you have a Kindle ebook, the ebook and print option appear together on the book’s listing page. One disadvantage of Create Space is that you have to go through the whole formatting and submission process a second time. It and KDP are both Amazon entities—the listings show up together, but you have to go through the whole submission thing all over again. I found that I also had to go through the formatting process for my text all over again.

You may also choose to have your book printed by a conventional printer like Book Masters ( http://www.bookmasters.com ), located near Mansfield, OH. They will print anything, any format, any size, etc. but they want to print a bulk order—and charge you at that time. I still have excess inventory of my book about the Bryan City Band.

What happens when you sell your books? (Notice I didn’t say, “if you sell?”) You get paid money! How does that happen? Amazon has a couple of royalty plans, but I opted for the simplest at 35% of the selling price. The other choice with higher royalties seemed more limiting—more trouble than it was worth for my purposes. You can revaluate your options and change later.

Amazon’s Kindle does their payments by direct deposit these days. Rather than use my existing personal account, I created a separate checking account to receive the book royalties. Details for accounts vary from bank to bank. Every month over a period of a couple days, I get as series of notices that royalties have been deposited in my writing account. The Kindle Store is world wide. Each country where Amazon operates is an entity unto itself—they all pay you for what you sell there.

Other publishers will only cut you a check once the royalty total exceeds $100 or some other fixed amount. I have a couple of places that are slowly accumulating money for me. C’est la vie. At least my book is available in iBooks, Barnes & Noble, etc.

One thing I caught that you might want to watch out for: My Amazon books sell in Australia, India, Burundi, etc. Thrilling! The only problem is, the bank charged me a $1.00 transaction fee every month for every deposit made in a foreign currency. Turned out my royalties from countries like France, Germany, and Burundi were not enough to pay the money changers. I had to go back in and raise prices of my books in those countries so the royalties would cover the foreign currency transaction fees.

Most of my market so far has been in ebooks. There are a lot of readers of fantasy and science fiction out there. Romance is another big market for e-readers. I keep a few hard copy books on hand for promotional work. Those I just order tens-at-a-time from Create Space. You could use other printers as well.

Feeling a little overwhelmed? Of course you are. I hope you can see that, although there is a lot of detail work required to self publish, it is something you can work through on a step-by-step basis. Who is better at detail work than an author who has written, rewritten, revised, edited, etc.? There are plenty of services who will do any to all of these self publishing steps for you—at a price. If you can tolerate all the fussy particulars, deal with ambiguous directions by experimentation, and maybe have a salty vocabulary to let off steam, you can get the job done. You can publish your own work and keep all the profits.

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