Have you been wanting to self-publish your book, but you don’t know where to begin? Or does the prospective task seem so daunting that it paralyzes you into doing nothing? Is this even something you can do for yourself, or will you need a “village” to help you along the way? Maybe you’re afraid of the costs involved. Is it worth the risk to become an indie author?
I tackled this topic initially in a nine-part blog series called Self-Publishing Made Simple. These same questions keep popping up in writer groups, such as “Do I need an ISBN number?” and “How do I get my book in print?”
So let’s take a fresh look at the answers. First decide why you’d like to indie publish your novel and then we’ll move on later to show how to go about it. Here are some common reasons:
You have backlist titles and the rights reverted.
You want to publish work in between your traditionally-published novels.
Your book doesn’t fit into a particular genre category.
You have a nonfiction book or personal project you want to publish on your own. You want to direct the publishing process.
Pricing and discounts
Input on cover and interior design
Back cover copy, book descriptions, metatags
Loss of prestige
Difficulty getting reviews
Limited booksigning and speaker opportunities
Tougher standards to join professional organizations
Bookstores and Libraries may not stock your work
Pressure to Produce
Now that we’re clear why you want to self-publish your work, we’ll talk next about how to prepare your manuscript. In the meantime, please feel free to share why you are interested in becoming a self-published author.
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You’re thrilled that your publisher has returned the rights to your books. Assuming you plan to publish them independently, you’ll want to do a quick turnaround once these titles disappear from online bookstores.
I’ve already discussed the process for revising a backlist title that needs a serious facelift. You can read my earlier Reviving Your Backlist Titles blog series for that advice. But what if these books are fairly recent and you don’t feel the need for another line edit? Here are my suggestions on how to proceed:
Obtain the most up-to-date digital file available. Clean it up by removing headers and footers and deleting proprietary publisher language. If you need to change a pdf file into an editable doc file, use a site like Zamzar and carefully check through your new file for formatting issues.
Check to see if all the corrections you’d requested from the publisher for the advance reading copy had been done. Don’t assume that any errors you’d reported in the past got fixed. Also, note if any readers had written to you with further corrections. Now’s your chance to make amends. Do a thorough proofread. Doubtless you’ll always find new things to correct.
Add a copyright page. Did your publisher acquire the original copyright in your name? You can do a search at the online copyright office to find your title and registration number. It’s good to have this for your files. The copyright date for your reissued book will be the same as the original unless you’ve made substantial changes to the story. Include the book’s publishing history so readers will know this is a reissue.
Decide if you’ll be publishing these works under an LLC or fictitious name, in which case your company name will be listed as publisher.
Buy a set of ISBN numbers at Bowker. You need a different ISBN for each format. My previous article discusses how to assign an ISBN number to your book title. This process may have been simplified with updates at MyIdentifiers.com. However, if you simply plan to publish on Kindle and remain in KU, you may not need your own ISBNs. Distribution options are discussed in my more recent Self-Publishing Made Simple blog series.
Add your front and back material. Consider if you need to update your Author’s Note and Bio, remove the Dedication page, add Social Media Links, a contact Email, and a Call to Action for a Review or Newsletter Sign-Up. Will you include an excerpt for the next book? In the back matter, you can also offer bonus materials such as family trees, research notes, reader discussion questions, or articles from your original blog tour for this book.
Decide how you will format the digital book. Will you hire a professional formatter, do it yourself, or use a third-party aggregator such as Draft2Digital? Will you upload it yourself direct to distributors, in which case you’ll need to establish accounts at each one, or will you use an aggregator for this step as well?
Hire a cover artist. The design should reflect your current brand and other books in the series. You may need to get a new logo. Consider color schemes, image style, text fonts, placement of author name and book title, and specific genre expectations. Also add award seals if the book has won a significant contest.
For paperback editions, rewrite your back cover copy. You should change it from the publisher’s version, even if only slightly. Add review quotes that you might not have had when the original book was published.
Decide if you’ll link this edition to prior editions at bookstore sites to keep the reviews and to keep your series intact. Will you distinguish these books from the originals by calling them Author’s Editions? After publication, remember to claim your new editions at Amazon Author Central, BookBub and Goodreads.
Through much trial and tribulation, I learned how to publish my books direct to Apple Books using my Dell desktop computer. Earlier, you had to submit using an Apple computer. Since I didn’t own one, I hired a formatter to do the uploads for me. Then Draft2Digital came into existence, and they offered an easy way to submit your books to Apple. Naturally, D2D takes a commission for this service.
Then Apple changed the rules. You could upload directly through any Apple device, such as an iPad, or via the iCloud on your PC. I decided to learn how to do this rather than going through a third party aggregate or hiring a formatter.
Click on Pages. If you haven’t added this app, you need to do it first. Once in Pages, on the upper row is an upload symbol. Click on this and upload your Word document. Double click on the document. At the upper right, click on the tool symbol that looks like a wrench. This brings up a dropdown menu. Click on Publish to Apple Books. You’ll have to sign in with your Apple password. Check “This is a new book.” You can update an already submitted book at this stage, too.
Make sure you fill in the boxes accurately. Under Layout, click Reflowable. Upload your book cover. Correct the book title. Add your series name and number. Make sure your author name is correct, including your middle name or initial. Next, provide your book description. If you’re copying and pasting, paste it in with Control-V.
Next, choose your Apple subject category and subcategory, i.e. Mysteries & Thrillers, Cozy.
For Interest Age, I’ll put 12 and Older
Contains Explicit Content: No
Publisher and Imprint: [Add your publisher name if you have one]
Original Publication Date: [Today or later]
Pre-Order: Yes or No
Specify Sample Range: No
Vendor Number: Apple assigns you a different vendor number for each submission. Do not make the mistake I did in thinking this was something I had to fill in. It has nothing to do with your seller account. I screwed up on this point and kept filling it in and messing things up. Lesson learned: Leave this box alone.
ISBN Digital: Scroll down below Vendor Number to find this box. Use “Control-V” to enter number if you are copying and pasting.
ISBN Print: Add your print ISBN here if you have one.
Hit “Download Preview” to review.
Hit Open. Use “Page Down” to flip pages.
When done, Hit “Upload” on bottom right of the previous window
This will take you to iTunes Connect, where you should already have an account. Sign in and click on My Books.
It may take a few minutes for your new book to pop up. When it does, click on it, then click “Edit Metadata.” If the spacing isn’t right on your book description, add <br> at the end of each paragraph and in between paragraphs. Here’s mine for Hairball Hijinks.
Make sure all else is correct, then click on Submit.
Go to Rights and Pricing
Click on Add New Territories
Fill in the Release Date
Cleared for Sale: Yes
Base Currency: US Dollar
Publication Type: New Release
List Price: Fill in your retail price
Suggested Apple Price: Can be same as above
Apply to Territories; Select All, to check the boxes for all territories
Continue, Confirm, Done.
Get your Apple Book ID. Come back later, sign in to iTunes Connect, go to My Books, and get the individual store links. Consider joining their Affiliate program at https://www.apple.com/itunes/affiliates/
More people are reading on their smartphones and tablets these days. While they can download the Kindle app, it makes sense to have your book directly available to Apple customers. If you’re just setting up a seller account for the first time at iTunes Connect, you’ll need to fill in all the payment and tax information. If you have an LLC or a fictitious business name, you may have to contact Apple and ask them to apply this publisher name as the Seller on your account.
Once you’re all set up, everything will become easier. Apple has a few more hoops to jump through to submit a book than Amazon, Kobo, or Barnes and Noble, but it’s worth the effort. And by uploading direct, you can take advantage of whatever promotional opportunities they offer, such as free promo codes.
Self-Publishing Made Simple – Manuscript Preparation
Reissuing Your Backlist Titles
1. For older works where you don’t have a cohesive master file, you may need to use a scanning company such as Blue Leaf (http://www.blueleaf-book-scanning.com/). You’ll need a print copy to send in, and it won’t be returned. Send the version that’s the most up to date, i.e. later paperback instead of original hardcover.
2. After receiving your digital copy, review the story to correct formatting errors. Turn on the paragraph symbol in Word and look for weird symbols in between letters, missing or wrong punctuation, misinterpreted words, and misspellings. Search for ^- or an optional hyphen. Look for “die” instead of “the” or the number 1 instead of “I.” Italics might be missing or bolded instead. Look for “rn” coming out as “m”, such as “comer” instead of “corner.” In other cases “tly” might come as “dy”, as in “slighdy instead of “slightly.” Quote marks might be reversed, or there could be section breaks instead of page breaks.
3. If your publisher has provided you with a final pdf file, or you’ve downloaded an ebook file, you can use Calibre Ebook Management (https://calibre-ebook.com/) or Zamzar (https://www.zamzar.com/) to convert it into Word. However, the formatting may be messed up. In this case, copy the entire document onto a blank sheet and save it as a text file. Click on Remove Formatting (see symbol on Home page). Then reformat and save it as a Word file. You will lose italics but any weird justifications will be gone. You’ll have to read through the story very carefully adding in italics and looking for spacing errors or other problems as above.
4. Decide if you mean to revise the work and update the technology in the story.
For a full-length original novel, hire a developmental editor and a copy editor/proofreader. Join author groups online and ask for names of editors who have experience in your fiction genre. You don’t want the local newspaper editor who’s your friend. Fiction is about structure and pacing along with grammar. You need an editor familiar with genre conventions. Experience at a publishing house is a plus.
Use a program such as Smart Edit (https://www.smart-edit.com/) to look for redundancies and repetitions. Revise your work as many times as necessary to give it professional polish. Ask beta readers to critique your story. Make it the best it can be and don’t be impatient, or your lack of care will show in customer reviews.
General Formatting Notes
I hire a professional formatter, so this section isn’t in my realm of expertise. However, I can share that we use Times New Roman 12 pt. font, 1 inch margins, indent first line 0.33 inches, Widow/Orphan off, single spacing. I put a page break at the end of each chapter. My chapter headings use Heading 1 so they get marked for the table of contents. The line of each chapter is flush left as per my preference. There are lots more choices here, but I’m not going into further details because your formatting source might advise something different. Or you can upload your Word file to one of the aggregators and they’ll do the conversions for you. More on this in a subsequent post.
The main point of this section is to be sure you have a polished, edited work that you’ll be proud to share. You can hire a formatter or learn how to do it yourself, but that’s later down the road after your manuscript is ready.
Have you been wanting to indie publish your work, but you don’t know where to begin? Or does the prospective task seem so daunting that it paralyzes you into inaction? Is this even something you can do for yourself, or will you need a “village” to help you along the path to publication?
Let’s think a moment about the difference between a self-published and an independently published author. Anyone can self-publish his work. But an indie author is more likely to be a professional career writer who understands what makes a polished book and what the marketing requirements are to go along with it. He’s not a one-book wonder but is looking to make a profit. With this goal in mind, he treats his career as a small business. But whichever term you use, these same steps apply. I will use them interchangeably in this multi-post series.
We’ll discuss setting up your own imprint, buying and assigning ISBNs, preparing your manuscript, creating front and back material, and options for ebook and print formats.
Getting Started as an Indie Publisher
First let’s look at why you’d like to indie publish your novel. Do you want to become a hybrid author by reissuing your backlist titles or by publishing new works in between your traditionally-contracted books? Perhaps you have a novel that doesn’t fit genre guidelines or a personal project you would prefer to self-publish. Or maybe you have an idea for a nonfiction book that lends itself to indie publishing.
Why should you self-publish your work?
You have a backlist and the rights reverted
You want to publish work in between your traditionally-published novels
You have a book that doesn’t fit into a particular genre category
You have a nonfiction project that you want to publish on your own
You want to direct the publishing process, in terms of:
Pricing and discounts
Input on cover and interior design
Back cover copy, book descriptions, metatags are your responsibility
Author/Series Branding is essential
Loss of prestige
Difficulty getting reviews
Limited booksigning and speaker opportunities
Tougher standards to join professional writers organizations
In attempting to fill in my tax spreadsheet to bring it up to date, I am muddled in the expenses for self-publishing from back in February. Like, where does the purchase of ISBN numbers fit into the grid? I’ve added line items for my formatter and cover designer, and it took me over an hour to track down those costs and date the invoices for my records. Then there are the bookmarks, postcards, and door hangers I’d ordered. Those go under advertising expenses. But what about the proofs from Createspace that I had printed and mailed? The copies of my book that I bought, and the cost difference compared to the number sold on consignment via bookstores?
Hey, and this doesn’t even include the royalty income. Talk about confusing! Amazon alone sends me five different payments, not including Createspace. And lest you think I am making gobs of money, one of those payments was for thirty-five cents. Barnes and Noble and Smashwords are added to my list. By now, I’ve started a separate sheet just for ebook income, and another sheet that includes all royalty income for the year.
I hope my accountant understands all this when I send it to him. It sure is easier when a traditional publisher sends you a statement and a check. Being an indie publisher means keeping track of all the income streams and expenses yourself.
Do you have any tips to offer? What’s your method?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.