If the thought of turning control of your book baby over to an agent and publisher makes you break out in hives and cold sweat, then maybe self-publishing is for you. But how to start?
Ideally, if you’re considering self-publishing, you’re a little tech-savvy and already have an internet presence. It would be super helpful if you already had a website and active Twitter and Facebook accounts. If not, don’t worry. We’ll cover marketing in Part 4 of this series.
There are plenty of good (and plenty of bad) services that will take care of the entire publishing process for you. But we think that’s totally cheating! How can you call it self-publishing if you’re just hiring someone to do everything for you? And since we have it on good authority that cheaters never hit the bestsellers lists, we won’t cover those services in this series. (But seriously, if you want to go that route, we won’t judge. Do what you gotta do. We won’t call you Cheaty McCheaterpants or anything.)
Ebook, print book or both?
Before you decide what distribution format you want to use, you’ll need to do some research into your audience’s buying habits. Are ebooks in your genre selling better? Or do your readers prefer a physical copy? Romance readers, for example, are a particularly voracious group and tend to buy ebooks. Young adult readers still tend to prefer physical copies. But there’s nothing to say you can’t have both. Services such as Amazon’s CreateSpace allow you to create physical copies of your book (high quality) on demand at a reasonable cost.
In traditional publishing, authors have little-to-no say in what their book ends up wearing to the big party (i.e.: Amazon.com). But self-publishers? They have complete control over their covers. That’s one of the best (and scariest) perks of self-publishing. But what if you’re not a designer? Not to worry: you can outsource your cover design (and note we said “outsource” not “cheat”…you’ll still have to choose your own designer).
The tremendous growth in the number of self-published novels on the market has created a need for professional, affordable ebook covers. Many designers offer pre-made, low-cost covers, and a variety of custom options. Check out our Gallery (coming soon) for options and information.
No matter what the old adage says, people do judge books by their covers. So, if you’re going to scrimp on any part of the self-publishing process, don’t let it be on your cover.
You don’t need a computer sciences degree from CalTech or MIT. You can format your ebook yourself using Word and basic HTML. Information is all over the internet (our favorite list of online articles about formatting can be found here.)
Or, this is another service you can very easily outsource at a reasonable cost (as little as $40 for a 70K word manuscript). Our favorite formatting services are those provided by authors such as LK Campbell.
Once you have an edited and formatted manuscript and a fabulous cover, you’re ready to choose a price for your book baby and release it into the world. But before you choose a price for your work, you need to ask yourself a very serious question: Is making money your #1 priority, or would you rather gain as many readers as possible? There’s no wrong answer. Both are valid goals. But debut and less established authors should consider that lower prices might draw in more readers. After all, as a reader, would you be willing to drop $9.99 on an author you’ve never heard of? Probably not. But $0.99 - $2.99? That doesn’t seem like much of a risk.
We recommend starting off at $2.99 for a 60K+ manuscript. At this price point, Amazon pays you 70% commission for each sale (which is MUCH higher than you’d receive if you’d chosen the traditional publishing route). Try on that price for a while and see how your books sells. If after a couple months it’s not doing as well as you’d hoped, try a price drop or a temporary sale to see if you can drive sales. That’s one of the best things about self-publishing: you can change anything at any time without having to ask anyone for permission.
There are plenty of places willing to host your book baby. The main ones you’ll want to consider are Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble. You’ll find their websites very user friendly and easy to navigate. They’ll walk you through the process and help you realize your publishing dreams with just a few easy clicks. Happy publishing!
Check out part 4 of this series: How to market your book baby on a small (or nonexistent) budget.