I have been asked by a great deal of writers how to go about self-publishing so I thought I’d write a blog on it. I don’t claim to be an expert but purely passing on what I’ve learnt myself over the last couple of years.
Disclaimer: Please accept I don’t guarantee the following to be 100% correct but just telling from my own experiences.
So why self-publish? Firstly you don’t have to hang around waiting for query letters to be rejected. Secondly, you’re completely under control, and thirdly, you don’t have to share royalties.
It’s down to you to do everything. So not only are you a writer but you become publisher and marketer.
I chose to self-publish after coming back from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August 2016. My completed manuscript, House of Grace, had been sat on my PC doing nothing while I worked on my MA in Creative Writing which I started in 2014. I knew little about self-publishing but being amongst so many inspiring writers that had gone down this route pushed me to make sure that House of Grace was in the Swanwick Writers’ book room in 2017. And it was.
So how do you start?
Firstly don’t think self-publishing is an easy option because it isn’t. You need to make sure your book is edited and formatted properly, and has an eye-catching cover. There are writers that publish their books on Amazon that don’t fit this bill but they give reputable self-publishers a bad name.
Do your research. What do you need?
- A good editor
- Cover Designer
Make sure your manuscript is up to scratch. Get an editor – you can’t do this yourself. They’re not cheap but if you are or have been a creative student then you may have abled peers happy to edit your work in return for doing theirs.
The text needs formatting both for eBook version and paperback.
Are you going to do yourself?
There are lots of videos on YouTube showing how to format but make sure it is up to the standard of a traditional book. It is also very time consuming. I chose to employ a formatter. So if you don’t want to do the formatting yourself, find someone that can.
Check Google, and Facebook writing groups, but also ask around for recommendations.
Another alternative for formatting is to buy Vellum formatting software so you can do it yourself with ease. This seems to do everything just by pasting your text into the software, and a guide to uploading your book to the relevant site whether that’s Amazon KDP or Ingram Spark.
The downside about Vellum is it can only be used on a Mac.
I’ve actually just treated myself to an Apple Mac Book Air and my plan is to play around with the software (you can download for free and only pay when ready to produce a book.)
If I get on with Vellum then I’ll purchase it as it will be an investment as it cost me £199 to have House of Grace formatted which was more money to recuperate before profits. There are cheaper formatters but if you opt for one of them do make sure they are up to the job.
Also the good thing about investing in Vellum means it offers the potential to format for other authors.
3. Cover Designer
You need a cover designer. If your cover doesn’t look good then the chances are no one is going to buy it. You can perhaps get away with a bad cover when known and if you are with a traditional publisher but not when self-publishing.
Get networking on writing groups on Facebook and ask for recommendations for a cover designer.
I used Create Imaginations but they are no longer trading but I got a good deal of £99 for paperback and kindle.
If you Google you will find plenty but make sure you get recommendations.
4. ISBN Number
Buy an ISBN number. These can be purchased from Nielsen UK ISBN store in batches of one, ten or more. I opted for ten because the cost wasn’t much different between one and ten. I paid just under £125 including VAT. I see from their website that there has been a price increase. (This is based on self-publishing in the UK – other countries differ.)
You can get a free ISBN number when uploading to Amazon but that means your book can’t go anywhere else.
5. Bringing it all together
So your manuscript is edited – you have your formatter and cover designer. You need to decide what size your book will be. Do you want it in paperback as well as Kindle?
Check out bookstores to see what size your genre is in. Mine is 5” x 8” but more recently 6” x 9” has become very popular.
Decide on what colour paper will be used for the text. I opted for cream. Most novels are cream whereas non-fiction and poetry tend to use white.
Look at what cover finish you want. Most novels are matt but there are some around that have used gloss and still look very nice. I opted for matt. Non-fiction and poetry are almost always gloss.
You need a copyright page. My formatting guy added the copyright page for me (but you can just check any book for the copyright page to see what to put in) and he uploaded to Amazon for Kindle and paperback on my behalf. So I haven’t actually done that yet, I’ll have that pleasure with my next book, but I’m told it is easy and straightforward.
On Amazon you can include your book in Expanded Distribution – this means it can get into libraries and Amazon Partners. However, I decided to take mine out of this and uploaded to Ingram Spark instead. This meant my book could now be ordered from any good bookstore and also the bookstores are more likely to stock it if I ask them but is also available on Amazon as POD.
Author copies may be obtained both from Ingram Spark or KDP so you can sell privately at book launches, private sales, and book shows etc. Some authors have independent printers and if you can find a local one that offers a great deal then that’s a better alternative.
Once uploaded you will have to fill out lots of online tax forms from Amazon. When publishing in the UK and not the US you add your National Insurance number to ensure that you don’t get taxed in the US.
Legal Deposit and British Library
One other thing to consider when you publish a book.
It is a legal requirement to send five copies of any paperback book with an ISBN number to Legal Deposit and one to British Library. They email you with the details of where to send and advise you of the deadline date. This is at your expense.
There are lots of platforms you can upload your book to but I only have experience of Amazon paperback, Kindle, and Ingram Spark, but there are lots more places for eBook versions such as draft2digital, Lulu.
If you only have one book then it’s worth putting it into KDP select – this is for Kindle on Amazon.
Every 90 days you can take up the opportunity of a countdown deal or free promotion.
Personally unless you have more than one book then I don’t think it’s beneficial to do a free promotion but the countdown deals are worth it. So for example if you sell your book for 99p (normally £1.99 plus) then you will still get royalties for 70% but if you are not in select and sell for 99p then you’ll only get 30%.
ALLi – Alliance of Independent Authors
I belong to ALLi – Alliance of independent authors – and the annual fee is well worth the advice and discounts available from them. They provide lists of vetted designers and formatters, and there’s always someone on hand to help with a general query. Their discounts also include a voucher for Ingram Spark set-up fee. There is no set-up fee for KDP.
I also belong to Chindi, a local network of authors who do lots of book shows and also raise money for different charities. Chindi is based in Chichester.
When self-publishing you need to consider marketing. This has to be done whether you are self-published or traditionally published but more so for self-published because there’s only you to sell the book.
You need to network to get your name out there and this isn’t by saying ‘Buy my book,’ but instead interacting on Facebook and Twitter. Particularly Twitter. Keep a blog. Make friends with bloggers – bloggers are an author’s best friend. Get invites to feature on them or do an interview.
Join ‘Book Connectors’ on Facebook – I found lots of information on here and made lots more friends and contacts. Everyone is always ready to help.
Social Media Course for Writers
I went on a social media course for writers run by Anita Chapman from Neetsmarketing
Anita’s course is well worth her fee. It’s conducted in nice surroundings and includes lunch. She is a friendly, bubbly, inspiring teacher. Not only do you learn about online networking but you also begin networking while you’re there making friends with the other participants.
Within one year of attending Anita’s course in London, I went from less than 100 followers on Twitter to over 4,000.
Another thing to consider is making posters to use for marketing. Canva is the ideal place for this and free unless you opt for the paying package.
Hopefully all this will help when ready to begin self-publishing but if anyone has any questions please feel free to contact me. I can’t promise to know your answers but will do my best to find out if I don’t.