Friday, June 24, 2016

Self-Publishing Process

After my post on my writing process, someone mentioned doing one for the publishing process. Since everything is fairly fresh in my mind, I'm doing that post today!

First, this is a post on the self-publishing process! I have zero idea on how traditional publishing works as I'm a control freak and never planned on going that route.

Some of this may be repeated from the writing post and this is simply the way I went about publishing, not the only way to do so.

Are you ready?

This is a question we ask ourselves as writers all the time. Am I ready? Is my book ready? You only get one shot at first impression. There's no redo's and though you can technically put out a new edition, for the most part, what you put out is what there'll be.

I believe there will always be something that you could change. A word change her, a rephrase there. If we look too hard and worry too much, we'll never "be ready".

So are you ready means, have you put together a product that you accept may have small things that could be improved if you keep staring at it long enough, but on the whole is a polished, picked over, well-written story. Are you ready to accept that yes, maybe you used dapper when suave would work better, but you're okay with that. Are you ready to face the world?

When I came close to this step, I started multi-tasking to get everything I needed together.

Needed

- Formatting
- Cover(this is your first impression to the world, don't scrimp on doing this right)
- ISBN
- Printing site
- Distribution
- Fine print

I'd also recommend you have your platform set up by this point. That could be, but is not limited to, Facebook page/profile, Twitter, Blog, Goodreads author page, Website, Youtube channel, Pinterest, Google+, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc.

These not only get your product out there, but YOU. With so many books out there, the best way to advertise is to "sell" yourself. What makes you special? What's unique about you? Be yourself, let people get to know you, take an interest in others.

You'll also want to have your acknowledgments, author bio, dedication, and back cover blurb ready.

Formatting!

You have two options when it comes to formatting: teach yourself or have someone else do it. If you're planning on publishing on a frequent basis, teaching yourself may be the best route. Luckily, most rates on formatting are reasonable, depending on what you want.

  • Do you want anything special? This could be drop caps(regular and more ornate), unique scene breaks(graphic dividers), illustrations, or chapter headers. 
    • When thinking about the above things, you'll probably factor in price and the ability of your formatter(don't know if that's a word). Another thing to consider is your audience. What does your audience expect from your genre? Make sure the font and any special touches will appeal to your readers.

    •  Don't underestimate what personalizing your book can do. Eye appeal is key. Illustrations will probably have to be created by someone other than the person formatting, whereas you can find a lot of other creative touches for free or easily make your own.


    • I used regular drop caps and a snowflake graphic divider. I'm hoping to use chapter headers and a more ornate graphic divider for book 2 in addition to the drop caps.

  • What formats do you plan on having your book in? Paperback will be different from ebook and (hold onto your hat) There are multiple formats depending on where you're selling. You'll want to make sure the person you have format can do all the versions you want, keeping in mind they'll most likely charge you for each one. My husband taught himself formatting and did both paperback and an ebook version(he had a lot to say about formatting the latter!).
Cover

You may be dreading this step, or eager for it. The first thing people see is the cover, and a cover DOES matter. People will judge a book by it. So don't let this golden opportunity pass. 

Now you might be thinking first about price, and then, oh my gosh, what do I want?

And those are important, but the hardest part is finding a cover artist. Not because there's a lack of the, but because there are so many it's like going into an animal shelter and trying to pick out just one cat(try it, I dare you. You'll end up with two.)

That one is cute, and that one looks so lonely, and hey that fluffball over there is just screaming "Give me some love!"

Take your time, start the search for an artist early. Once you find someone who's style matches what you like, and who's prices are in your range, send them a concise description of what you want. Use images that show what you're going for on a certain aspect, be detailed as you can. When you get the first version, don't be afraid to send back suggestions for tweaking. (over, and over, and over). It's your cover! Make sure it's what you want! Ask some readers, friends, writers, etc. what they think. It's amazing what other people will notice.

I personally got lucky with my cover. (see if you can follow this) One of my husband's coworker's has a wife who is a SAHM as well. She took design classes in college and was happy for a project utilizing those skills. I went back and forth with her with changes, and I'm really happy with the result.

The last thing to keep in mind when looking for a cover artist is, what do they include? Some artists only create a picture and it is up to you to add font, a back cover, resize it to fit a book, etc. 
And then there are people that do(or don't do) any combination of the above. So make sure you know what you're getting, or not getting, and if you'll need to do part of the cover yourself or hire someone to finish the work.

Also make sure you read the fine print. Some artists allow more author input then others, some I found(because I did look around in the process of helping a friend) insinuated they wanted very little author input, and then there are some that only allow you use of the image if you remain below x number of sales, any more and they'll want you to renegotiate your terms. So please, please, please, read everything.

ISBN's

ISBN's can be a bit overwhelming, not because they're hard to find or need customization, but rather what do you need exactly and what is the most cost effective.

This is for US authors, I have no idea what the similarities or differences are for those outside of the US.

If you want a paper copy of your book, you'll need an ISBN. Technically an ebook doesn't need an ISBN, but you may choose to provide one. You need an ISBN for every edition of a book. This includes ebook, paperback, hardcover, audiobook, etc. 

You can buy a single ISBN, but if you're ever planning on releasing more than one book or have more than one edition, I wouldn't recommend it. One ISBN is between $100-125, whereas 10 fall in the $250 range. Is that a lot of money? Yes! At least it is to me. But, if you think about it . . . 10 makes way more sense.

http://www.isbn.org/buy_isbns

You can also buy barcodes for an increased price, or you can pay someone to make them for you(probably at a cheaper rate). I have no idea how that is done, all I know is that's what my husband did.

Printing

Who's going to print your book? Three things come into play with this: quality, price, and type. Hands down Createspace has been the best POD company I've seen. I like the quality of their product and their prices are the lowest of the major POD sites. The only downfall is they do not offer hardcover.

Since most book sales are ebook anyway, the lack of a hardcover option didn't discourage me. I'd like to personally have a hardcover, but I can always do a 1 time copy through another site if I so wished.

Through Createspace you can choose all sorts of customization for your book, order in any amount, and link to Amazon so that you don't have to buy, store, and ship the books yourself. You can also have people buy your book through the Createspace estore. Of course, most people prefer to buy on Amazon since they're familiar with it and have accounts already made, but if you at least offer people the option, it can benefit you.

How? Createspace does not take nearly as large of a cut of your money as Amazon. As an example, if people bought my book through the estore, I'd make over $2.50 more per sale. In author world, that's a huge difference.

I didn't really capitalize on that option, as I'm still learning, but next time around, I'll definitely promote the Createspace estore route.

I haven't worked with these next two sites, but they are other possibilities for authors. https://www.lulu.com/ has the second lowest rates on paperbacks(approx. 40 cents more a book for me) and they do offer hardcover, though I have no idea how I'd make money on it(close to $20 cost to make, so I'd have to price significantly higher to make money after Amazon's cut). https://www.lightningsource.com/print_to_order.aspx is one of the sites that prints high-quality hardcovers. I've seen them recommended, but haven't dug too much into them.

And of course you can by straight from Createspace as the author and use the books in giveaways, donations, or even selling from a booth or something.

Distrbution

This is where you decide what sites and other places will be selling your book. Some popular ones are: KDP on AmazonBookBabyNookKobo, and Smashwords.

Read the terms of working with each one, weigh the pros and cons. So far I've only used KDP(in part to their terms where I can't use any other avenue for the first 3 months).

Fine Print

That garbledy gook at the beginning of the book that no one reads? You need that! This is broke down into disclaimer, credit, and information. For the most part you can simply copy+paste a template into your manuscript and change the information to apply to your book.

Some great examples of all three of those things can be found here: Credit/Disclaimers and Page samples. Both are advertised as free to use.

Now that you have all of those things set, we move onto the P's of the publishing process.
That is: Price, Publisher, Proof, Preorder, and Promoting.

Price

I didn't mention price in my initial list because until you know where you're printing and distributing from, you won't be able to think much about price.

With price you want to factor in a few things: How long is your book? What is the going rate for that genre? Is this your debut novel? How large is your fanbase if you're an established author? What does it cost you to print? How much of a cut does your distribution site take? Fortunately, there's a lot of calculators along the way that'll help you figure out what you'll make after print cost and distribution cut. The other things it's up to you to try and make the best guess.

At the end of the day, you probably won't feel like you're making enough and that's just the hard truth. Whenever we create something, we put more value in it than anyone else. You may have poured years, hundreds or thousands of dollars into this, but a reader doesn't see it that way. I can say this as a reader. There are so many books out there, that in the beginning you're going to have to go the extra mile to convince people your book is worth the time and money.

Don't sell yourself short, but also realize that chances are you're not going to strike it rich(especially on the first book).

Publisher

But I'm self-published! you say. Ah, but that makes YOU a publisher as well as a writer. There's a few ways to handle this, the easiest being that you just slap Createspace or Smashwords(or whatever avenue you use) on the book as the publisher and that's all there is to that.

I've seen lots of authors do that, so it's not uncommon.

The other route is to start your own company. This isn't just making up a fake name to replace Createspace with. It's creating a company name and then registering that company(for a fee) with the county or state.

A LLC takes a little more work, and costs more, but it means that if you get sued, only your company will be sued and not you personally.

The other option with starting your own company is to get a sole proprietorship, which you do at your local county building.

You can learn more about the differences between the two here.

I chose to get the sole proprietorship, because right now that's what works best for me. I did that as opposed to letting my printer be listed as such for a few reasons.

  1. My husband and I have done most of the work on this book between writing it and putting everything together. I see no reason to give my printer the credit as my publisher when all they're doing is printing a book that we formatted, and chose all the options for.
  2. If I've put this much work into creating a book, I want to continue to do my best and I personally feel it'd be lazy for me to just take the easy path here at the end.
  3. I hope that by creating my own company, it'll show readers I care enough to go through the process of setting one up rather than just using my printer.
In short, I don't want to give undue credit to anyone, and I think it looks more professional to have a my own company.

If you do make your own company, you'll want to design, or hire someone to design, a logo for the company.

Proof, Preorder, and Promoting

If you've decided to offer a paper copy, make sure you order at least one proof to go through and check for errors. Is the cover centered? Is everything the right font/size inside? Did anything get omitted somehow? Is the formatting correct?

When I went through my proof I found a few extra spaces, but I also realized that I used two different fonts for one of my characters handwriting, and my drop caps had somehow come in three different sizes. All things I was glad to address before I published.

Setting up preorder is optional. A lot of people like preorder, and a lot of people won't use it. The downside to preorder is that most of the time by the time you decide and set it up, your novel is finished and you're extending the publish date just to allow preorder. The upside is that on the release date, assuming you have orders, you'll have a bunch of sales all at once and it can boost your ranking.

I found preorder to be a bit of a pain. You have to schedule out the ebook and paper copy separately and we had some difficulties with the paper copy. Long story short, the paper copy was released early and we ended up having two different release dates.

Also, as a debut author, I don't have a large enough fanbase to make enough preorder sales so that it'd make a significant effect on my ranking.

Lastly, I had to wait, and that drove me crazy! Everything was ready to go and there I was . . . twiddling my thumbs.

Next is promotion and I'm still in the phase of learning about marketing in general, but for pre-publish promotion I did a Thunderclap and promotional photos/quotes from my book. I won't be using Thunderclap again. From listening to other authors, I had a feeling it wasn't a useful tool, but since it's free I wanted to try it. One day if I figure out what I'm doing, I'll write a marketing post and go into more detail on it.

The promo photos, I have no idea how much they helped, but they were fun and unique, so I'd do them again.

Release

When everything is finally together, you get to choose the magic date! Depending on if you do preorder, who you're printing through, etc. How you handle when you release is up to you. Sometimes paper copies take longer to be verified than ebooks.

You will want to choose BISAC subject codes for your book. This is basically 1 or 2 categories your book can fall under. The more detailed you get, the better. If Amazon(or whoever) lists them wrong, you'll have to email them directly to get them changed. My book is currently listed as a children's novel! We're hoping to get that fixed this week.

Here's an example of what a category might look like: Books : Science Fiction & Fantasy : Fantasy : New Adult & College

And that, to the best of my ability, is the key elements to self-publishing. A lot of it is learning as you go, and I'm sure there's details I missed or didn't explain well enough, but hopefully this will give you an idea of where to start and what self-pubbing entails.


12 comments:

  1. I want to click all the things on this blog post! Haha. But this will definitely come in handy for when we release the anthology! :)

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  2. I plan to self publish as well, so this was great and very interesting to read! A lot of stuff that it's nice to be reminded about from time to time and a few things I hadn't thought of much before now (fine print and publisher.) I may have to bookmark this for future use!

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    1. I hope you find it useful when it's time! There's nothing like finally seeing your book out there. :)

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  3. Excellent! I'd love to read about what marketing sites you've used, and how have they fared?

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    1. I'm hoping to do a post on marketing in the future. I'd like to gain some more experience and have time to gauge results first. Still in the process of crash-coursing my way through it!

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  4. This is really useful, as are many of your posts! As a writer yet to self-publish, it is a minefield!

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    1. Thank you. :) I'm glad you found it useful. There's so much to learn in so short a time.

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  5. Awesome post! I remember going through all of this when I was working on Augment... The ISBNs were the biggest issue. Thankfully, my sister and I ran a Kickstarter that was successful, so we're good for at least the next few dozen books we publish (we went for the 100-ISBN pack, since we had the funds.) Great job sharing all of the information in a clear and concise post!

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    1. It's nice when you get them in bulk so you don't have to worry about them for awhile!

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