Self-Publishing, Part 1

September 2, 2013

I am dipping into the scary waters of self-publishing. This difficult decision came about for several reasons. I did a brief survey of readers on my Facebook author page asking if they’d prefer, for an original mystery I’ve written, (a) the expensive hardcover library edition that wouldn’t come out for another year, (b) an ebook version being released as soon as possible for $2.99, or (3) a simultaneous ebook and mass market release with the ebook possibly priced over $5.00. Again, this release date might not be until 2015.

The majority of readers voted for (b), the quick and less expensive ebook edition. This choice corresponds to my self-publishing this work, rather than pursuing small press or traditional NY publisher. For either of those, a wait of over a year before publication would be likely, with no control over the resultant price of the books.

If I were a new author, I’d choose the publisher route to establish credentials. But I already have a fan base for my mysteries. Hopefully these readers will be eager to try an original work and potentially book one in a new series.

self publish

So what are the steps to follow? I’ve put up one backlist title by myself. I formatted it for Kindle and Nook and Smashwords, hired a cover designer, and uploaded Keeper of the Rings to those retail sites. Since this title had already been published, I had the cover copy and quotes handily available. Not so for a totally original work.

I am following the steps so generously described by author Libby Fischer Hellmann at These steps are similarly described in the resource articles below.

self publish3

Step number one is to Hire an Editor once you’ve finished your work. You may need two editors, a developmental and a copy editor. Or you may employ other writer professionals in a time swap arrangement, beta readers, and critique partners. If you are a new author, it is critically important that you follow this step and work with a professional editor.

Next on the list is preparing the Front and Back Materials. Author Marie Force gives a comprehensive discussion of what these should include at

Author Terry Odell recommends putting most of the items in the back so as not to obstruct the “Sample Preview” offered by Amazon. Terry also made another good point in suggesting I leave off listing the Cast of Characters, because e-book readers won’t be able to flip back to the front of the book for reference. So my front material consists merely of the Copyright Page. I am not having a Dedication, but the front is where this page would go, as well as any advance review quotes for your book.

The back end materials take more time to prepare. First come the Acknowledgments, moved from the front as Terry suggested. Next is an author’s note that reads thus:

Thank you for reading [book title]. If you enjoyed this story, please support the author’s efforts by helping other readers find this book. Here are some suggestions for your consideration.

Write an online customer review.
Gift a copy of this book to a booklover friend.
Sign up for Nancy’s quarterly email newsletter on her website.
Follow Nancy on her social media sites.
Spread the word about her work.
Suggest her titles to a local book club.

Following this page is my About the Author section with social media links. Finally, I have a page with More Books by Nancy J. Cohen. If I can get my formatter to link these titles to the appropriate bookstore, that would be great. Otherwise, the list remains as is.

Another section you can add here is a chapter from your upcoming sequel or excerpts from your other published works. My sequel isn’t far enough along for me to add this additional page.

Keep in mind that these bonus materials add to the length of your book. From what I’ve been reading, this becomes important when formatting your work for Createspace, but that’s another topic down the road, However, if you will be having a cover artist do the spine and back cover for a print book, she may need to know the spine width and that might relate to the number of pages.

Now I’ve added my front and back materials. It’s time to move on to the back cover copy.

In my view, that’s harder than writing the book.

As you can see, this venture promises to be incredibly time consuming the first time around. Thereafter, I imagine it is easier because you can just repeat your steps. Will the effort be worth the reward? I hope so, because these publishing duties steal time from writing the next book.

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It’s exciting to think I’ll have something different to offer my fans, in addition to the Bad Hair Day and Drift Lords series that are on-going. This makes me one of the new breed of hybrid authors. I hope you’ll continue to follow me on this journey of exploration.

Useful Articles on Self-Publishing

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28 thoughts on “Self-Publishing, Part 1

  1. Very good column. I was wondering about moving the acknowledgment to the back of the book as I’ve seen quite often lately. And I like the “thank you” paragraph – will definitely use that.

  2. E-books and print books don’t have to ‘match’ exactly when you’re indie publishing them. As you mentioned, I’m a staunch supporter of as little as possible in the front matter. I’ve seen acknowledgements as back matter in many traditionally published books, and moving your reviews/kudos, other books and the like to the end puts them in front of the reader who has just finished your book and is looking for more. But with your CreateSpace version, you can go the more ‘traditional’ route with the same book. When I was setting mine up, I grabbed an assortment of books from my shelves and looked to see how the traditional publishers handled front and back matter. And they’re not all the same, so you can’t make a ‘mistake.’

  3. Hi, Nancy!

    I’m so glad you are starting to document your self-publishing journey. Very exciting! And hopefully, we can all learn from each other. I put my Acknowledgments page, etc, in the back of my book for the same reason you mention. To have more of my story visible on amazon’s “Read Me” sample. Now, my book actually displays the first 3-1/2 chapters, which is way more than I expected. (I tend to write short chapters.) I very much like Terry O’Dell’s suggestion of a Thank You page with ideas for readers who wish to support your writing. Definitely going to add that to my next book. And guess what? It’s not too late to put it in Wake-Robin Ridge, which that is already out. You can always go in and revise or add material to an ebook. (Try doing that with print!)

    I’m not at all sure why you can’t link to a cast of characters that your readers can go to. If you title it with the Heading #1 option, which is what makes your chapters linkable, it should show up in your table of contents. Readers can click on Go To, and choose “Cast of Characters,” at any point. Am I missing something, here?

    I love ebooks, in addition to my collection of print books. I would never give up either. But my print collection is now becoming more about particular series or authors I want to collect. I could never house all the books I read on physical shelves, so having an ereader means I can own hundreds more books than I have room for in my library. Plus it is so much more comfortable to hold and read. My hands & thumbs ache from holding open paperbacks (in particular) that have a tight binding. None of those issues with my Kindle. Plus being able to control the size of the font is so wonderful! And another thing I’ve learned to love is the built-in dictionary. Hold your finger on a word for a second or two, and the definition pops up. This has been very handy now and then.

    I think you are smart to go this route with your new book, and I believe you will find it’s easier than you think. But be aware that because amazon is evolving so quickly, many books telling you how to do it are already outdated. I found the formatting and uploading books put out by Kindle itself to be the most accurate in obtaining the look I wanted, and in keeping my layout as I designed it.

    Can’t wait to see what else you learn as you go. Great article! And I’m off to check the links you provided, too.

    1. As you say, Marcia, we can learn from each other. I have no clue how to do links from my ebooks. I plan to hire a formatter, and I was thinking of putting the cast of characters on my website. What do you suggest?

      I like both ebook and print books too. The latest book I want from Terry Goodkind, one of my favorite authors, is out in hardcover and over $500. I wouldn’t mind paying the hardcover price but the book will be difficult to hold in bed and impossible to take on a trip. I’d like to read it when I’m flying to Arizona next month. Thus I will buy it for my Kindle. On the other hand, three of my writer friends have come out with new books and those I’ll order in print copies. So it varies.

      I hope we can continue to trade self-publishing tips.

      1. Happy to trade tips all day long! Formatting is NOT hard. I did it, and you can, too, if you want to and have the time. You can take care of most issues by setting your manuscript up properly in your final document. (No double spacing, paragraphs indented properly, margins set properly, etc). And a table of contents is easily formatted in Word2013 (and probably in earlier versions.) I can tell you exactly how to do it. If you type your Chapter #1, etc, using Word’s Heading #1, it will be linkable automatically. The whole process is so much easier than some books have you believe.

        Now formatting for other than Kindle, I don’t know about. But I think my next book will be so much faster than my first one. I took very good notes, and made myself my own template for how I want my chapters and scenes set up. No playing around next time, trying different things. I like how it translated to Kindle, and I saved myself a bundle on a formatter, so I could use that money for an editor. Plus I bartered with my best friend who is a darn good graphic designer, and got my cover without spending anything, too. She did exactly what I wanted, so if anyone dislikes it, it’s my fault, not hers. 😉

        Anyway, if you want to email me about formatting, I’ll be glad to give you any help I can. But I realize that you have more irons in the fire than I do, so it might not be something you want to bother with. However, if you hire a formatter, theyshould be able to add a list of characters to your ebook just fine. It just has to say List Of Characters at the top in the same mode as your Chapters, and it will show up as a clickable link. Shouldn’t be a problem, that I can see. It will go into the Table of Contents, which is totally clickable, and would probably go right above your Chapters.

        Good luck!

        1. I am going to print out your response so I can use this info when the time comes. There’s so much to learn! I did fine uploading my backlist title but probably all the procedures have changed, and I didn’t do clickable links then. I don’t really see why people need a table of contents for a fiction book. But clickable links, yes.

          1. I use a TOC all the time. Especially, if I want to go back and re-read something said earlier. Plus, I love chapter titles. They can be so much fun. I often want to go back and read a particularly moving scene after I’ve finished a book. Without a clickable TOC, I’d never find it. I think it’s really important, and from what I’ve read, most readers do use them. (Book discussion: “Turn to Chapter 16, and tell me how you interpret what so and so said to such and such.” Or “doesn’t Rick’s comment in Chapter 4, indicate that he cares for Sally Mae?”) My friends and I would be lost if we couldn’t refer to bits and pieces in our favorite books.

            Amazon almost insists that a clickable TOC be included, and I suspect readers expect it, too. A formatter will probably do it automatically, but it isn’t hard to do it yourself. You just go to Insert Table of Contents, choose the style you want, and everything you’ve written in your TOC will be made clickable.

            Yes, there’s a TON to learn, but it gets easier. I’m feeling so much more confidant about my next book.

    1. Well, I’m full of something all right. I’m not sure my husband would say it’s great ideas, though! 😀 I think it’s just that in almost 70 years of reading, I have to have learned a few things along the way. At least about what works for me, at any rate. Once in a while, I lose my place in an ebook, too, due to stopping to read something else, or whatever, and then when I come back, I know I was halfway through Chapter 6, for instance, so I can click and go straight there.

      They really can be handy when I’m reviewing a book, too, especially if I want to quote a line or mention a particular character whose name I’ve forgotten. And they are the most helpful if they have names that give a hint as to what’s going on in them.

      I’m learning tons from you, too, Nancy, so it’s all good. If we all share, we can all help each other get better, and that’s good for the writing business as a whole. The more good writers there are out there, the more readers flock to the stores or to amazon, right? That’s my theory, anyway.

  4. I see no harm in putting a “cast of characters” up front. With my Kindle I simply use the “go to” button. Just check the location of where you’re reading, go to “beginning.” Open the case page, then with “go to” return to your location. It’s really easy.

      1. Nancy, Word will do this automatically. When you set up your TOC, which would include your Cast of Characters, you go to the Insert Table of Contents Tab, and you can choose either by page number or by HyperLink. If you choose Hyperlink, Word will automatically turn every chapter or page into a link, IF it has the name at the top written as Heading #1. That’s the secret. It is so easy! Click and voila, links. (Headings and Headers are not the same thing. There are buttons that let you format your Headings to size and font, and they are numbered. Using Heading #1 is the ticket.)

          1. Sorry, Nancy. When I answered this post this morning, I didn’t even realize I was butting into someone else’s comments. I must have still been half asleep. I though it was under one of my threads! 😯 When you get all your chapter titles changed over to Heading 1 format, and any other pages you want people to be able to go to, like your cast of characters, then you click your cursor right next to the Table Of Contents heading, and go to the Insert/TOC tab to choose which style TOC you want to use. Or you can elect to make a custom one. Just be sure whichever one you pick, you set it to “hyperlink” instead of to “page number,” and when you save it, it should go operational for you. To check it out while you are in Word, you hold down the control button and click on a chapter title, and it should go to that chapter. Good luck. Give a holler if it gets confusing.

        1. I don’t see a location other than the percentage at the bottom left. Is this a function of the newer Kindles? Mine is an older keypad model. Or is there a setting I have to activate?

          1. Maybe it’s new. I have a new “white screen” model. However, an alternative move: maybe your model has a “last page read” button on the “go to” thing. Good luck. Wish I could give you more, but I’m a babe in the woods with this computer stuff. Jim

  5. Dear Nancy!

    Thank you so much for documenting your choice to e-publish! I’m learning a lot from you and the others commenting here. I could not give my novel away to a literary agent or publisher, so even though I’m a first-timer, I decided to e-publish it. I’ve just met with the editor and I have some work to do on the MSS before I move forward. While I am a bit concerned about sales once I’m published, I am planning to hire a marketing firm for the book launch — AuthorBuzz. I’ll promote the e-book at both my blogs, on Facebook, Twitter, etc. While in the shower this morning, it hit me that I’ll need an author page that’s public at Facebook in addition to my personal page (which is not public). I’m working to raise the money for the production and marketing costs at Kickstarter and have almost finished my project page there. Good luck with your project and I’ll continue to follow your progress here!

    C. C. Yager

    1. It sounds as though you are doing all the right things, C.C. It’s a long process but hopefully worth the effort as you make your way into the published author realm. It’ll be exciting when your book is available. Regardless of the route through which one is published, the marketing is the same. Good luck with your venture!

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