If you’re computer savvy, and most writers are, then self-publishing an e-book of your novel is fairly straightforward and I will show you how to. If you want to self-publish a printed book as well, then I can point you in the right direction, it’s all going to be similar anyway, but my focus here is e-books. Whichever you do, there is no need to pay companies to do it for you, it’s not difficult at all. You will need to spend a little more time on your first attempt, but then you will know better for your next book. You may wish to practice with a novella or short story collection first, before moving onto your full length novel.
Notwithstanding, the writing of a good story, the hardest part of self-publishing is the bit that comes before the actual publishing process and the bit that comes after, and I will touch on that also. So here is my guide to self-publishing your novel.
1. BEFORE YOU START:
Layout – If you haven’t written your story yet, then take a look at the layout guide mentioned in Joan Druett’s guide below and configure your word document accordingly. This will make life a lot easier and save time later on, but if you’ve already written it don’t worry.
Proofread – After you’ve written a good story, ensure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes, which will make you look unprofessional and lose you readers. If you’re going to spend any money on your book, then I would recommend you spend it on a proofreader/editor to ensure your text is in tip-top condition. You could always do a deal with another writer, whereby you agree to proofread each other’s manuscript if money is an issue. I have very good attention to detail and proofread my manuscript over and over again, but still missed things.
Cover – Produce a professional cover. Depending on your level of skill, you can do this yourself in Photoshop or other software or Amazon has a cover creator. If it’s not your strength, then there are many places on the internet that do covers at reasonable prices. TIP: If you do your own cover, you must purchase the rights to use the images or you may be liable for copyright.
The guide later on will tell you to how put in your front matter such as your content list, copyright and dedications pages. If you want to prepare this now, just go to some books on Amazon and click on the ‘look inside’ inside option and you will get an idea of how this is done.
2. YOUR NOVEL & COVER IS READY:
Decide where you want to publish your book. Amazon is the popular option, the first place most people go to buy books, but gives less return on sales. Smashwords is a distributor and will put your book with many retailers, such as Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo and gives a better return. Both are straightforward. I did both. However, please note that Amazon offer the option to join their Kindle Select scheme which gives you chance for more royalties, but you can’t publish elsewhere for each 90 day period you are signed onto the program. You may decide to give it a go for 90 days and then publish on Smashwords if you don’t get any benefit from it. I chose not to sign up.
Register for a free account with whoever you decide to go with. Amazon calls it’s self-publishing arm KDP. You can fill out the finer detail, like your payment info later on.
Download, print or save to a word doc, the following free guides. These are the detailed step-by-step guides that I found most helpful and made the process easy:-
Kindle Publishing Full Guide by Joan Druett
Building Your Book for Kindle by Amazon
Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker
For Amazon, I recommend you use Joan’s guide in conjunction with their own and there is lots of help on the KDP site, but you shouldn’t need it. They also answer email queries pretty quickly. Smashwords too have plenty of online help. The main difference between publishing up to Amazon and Smashwords, is that for Amazon you have to save your word doc as an html filtered file, which is easy and Smashwords just want an ordinary word file.
TIPS: NEVER use the tab key to indent or lots of returns to create a new page. Save your original file as a word doc first and then also save it as an html filtered one, so you have two files. You can then dip back into the word doc for editing and resave as a filtered file over the old one. You then still have your word doc for Smashwords.
3. SAVE IN DRAFTS & PREVIEW:
Once you have got your novel all set up as per the guides and ready to go, upload as a draft first and preview on various devices. Both Amazon & Smashwords give you the options to do this. Just remember that on kindle devices, the reader has the option to alter the font size, so your text layout is never going to be the same as in your manuscript, but you need to check for strange symbols, extra lines in between paragraphs or stray blank pages. If you’ve followed the guide, your edits should be minor.
4. DO YOUR PRICING & BLURB:
You will need to complete the other boxes in the upload process such as selling category, blurb and pricing. It is best to spend some time on this as these are your selling tools. You need to consider your pricing carefully. You may be swayed by the higher royalty rates for a higher price, but there are so many free books out there, you have to be careful. Many people experiment by offering it at a discount price for a week or two and then increase it. I found that even at 99p it’s hard to sell. People want something for nothing these days, so it’s trial and error.
TIP: When you come to complete the description box, where you’re going to entice your readers to buy, I recommend you do that in a word doc with the same layout as the manuscript and save as html filtered, then copy & paste from that file. If you just type in the box and use the return key for spacing, this looks fine on Amazon dot com, but for some unknown reason on Amazon dot uk, it shows the <br> codes in your description. This is the only way I could resolve it.
5. PUBLISH OR NOT?:
When you are finally ready to hit that publish button, it might be worth considering the option to offer as a pre-order. The advantage of this, is that if you can gather a number of pre-sales, when your book goes live, they go through on the release day all at once and if a large enough amount, it can cause a spike which gets your book noticed more and thus promoted more.
You may feel that from a marketing point of view, pre-order is good, because you can do blogs or talk about your characters and build some early interest in your book, before it hits the shelves. You can also do this prior to having your book ready, but will probably be too busy formatting and getting it prepared.
PART 2 (Out 17/5/15):
I recommend you read both Parts 1 & 2 before you start. In Part 2, I share with you, in simple terms, the tax forms you need to complete regarding your earnings. It’s not complicated and if you don’t complete them you can lose up to 30% of your earnings in tax.
I give you some marketing tips for AFTER you’ve published.
I give you some pointers on publishing a printed book.
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