A few months ago, I met with a local writing group who had a real interest in learning how to publish independently. Now remember, I am published through Moonshine Press, but the company uses the independent author process as it’s publishing model. Anyways, many published, unpublished, and aspiring authors said they found the following guide useful.
Please note that I was not paid in any way to endorse the companies that I list below. They are just companies that I have used during my own publishing ventures, and I find them to be very helpful and produce great quality products.
So, shall we begin?
I understand completely that the idea of publishing independently can be scary, and at times, frustrating. All you want to do is share your story(s) with the world. If you are able to effectively execute an independent publishing venture, you can get your books out quicker, and you receive 50% more of the profits. In this guide, I will present the direction I have advised several authors to go down in order to create a cost-effective, presentable and profitable book. I wish you the best of luck in your venture.
The Most Important Thing to Start Your Journey
No author can begin looking at publishing without a completed manuscript. If you’re like me, I like to put the cart in front of the horse and try to begin some of the later steps before I have a manuscript completed. It’s good to look ahead, but don’t let it get in the way of finishing your story.
Upon finishing your manuscript, you’ll need to look into finding an editor. Everybody does things different, but some authors recommend putting the project away for a day or two, let the feeling of completion subside, before diving into the next phase of your plan. I recommend taking your story and looking over it yourself before sending it to an editor. You’ll want to make sure that everything flows right. If you’re good at catching grammatical/sentence structure errors, then you’ll be able to send your editor a manuscript that needs less work.
Then, send the book to an editor. There are many out there, and their fee ranges greatly. Don’t be like me, and try to do it all yourself to avoid that expense. You become too attached to your work, and that will affect how you can catch mistakes. I have found that paying for an editor is money well spent. The hard part is finding someone that can do a great job, at a low price. I will be recommending them a lot throughout this guide, but Createspace is probably the cheapest professional venture for editing. They charge per 10,000 words, and they do not give discounts if you try to have them do the whole story at once. Trust me, I’ve tried. There are some award-winning editors out there, but their services cost thousands of dollars. If you know someone that has editing experience, then that’s great. If not, expect editing to be your most expensive cost.
At this point, the editing is done, and you can safely say that you are ready to proceed with formatting the book to get it ready for print. Should you try to format the book yourself? That’s your decision. I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure that there’s a way that you can format your book through Microsoft Word, or another word processing program. I recommend that you contact your desired book printer (Createspace, eBook Launch, The Book Patch, etc.) to find out what their guidelines are for formatting. I format my books through Adobe InDesign, and it makes the books look professional and readable. If neither Word nor InDesign is a channel you want to pursue, then I would recommend have one of the companies listed above format the book for you.
Making a cover can also be a costly expense. The more custom you want to make it, the greater the expense. Createspace does offer free cover templates, and I encourage you to view what they have to get an idea of what you are looking for in your book’s cover. Remember, we are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but we know that the cover may be the difference between the reader picking up the book, and not. Both Createspace and eBook Launch offer custom cover designs. I’ve used eBook Launch in the past, and they blew my mind away. Not only do you need a design for the front, but also the back and the spine. The front and back cannot be combined with the spine until you know how many formatted pages you have in the book.
You’re almost there! At this point, you need to know who you want your printer to be, and how you want your books distributed. There are a lot of printers out there, but only a handful help you distribute your book. As a frequent user of Createspace, I would recommend them. They provide the cheapest printing I have seen, the best quality of book I have seen, and they also distribute to the big bookstores, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. They also provide an option where they will distribute to the local bookstores, for a chunk of your royalties.
So, let’s say that you choose to use Createspace. Below are the steps, in graphic form, to show you how to get your book to the reviewing stage. For the purpose of this example, I’ll use the information for my book, Aluria.
Createspace provides an awesome tool that allows you to estimate how much your book will cost to print before you send it to the printers. This allows you to properly price your book and figure how much will be taken out of your royalties. Notice in the Createspace calculator that it doesn’t tell you that you have to order a certain amount of books to get a certain price. That is because Createspace prints your books at bottom-dollar costs, regardless of how many books you order. The calculator is available to non-Createspace members.
The next step is to assign an ISBN number to your book. All books have to have an ISBN number. With Createspace, you can either receive a free ISBN number, you can pay for one, or you can provide your own ISBN number that you purchased from another site. However, using Createspace’s free ISBN allows you additional distribution channels.
This step is fairly simple. Here, you have to select whether you want the interior to be printed in Black and White or Color, and if you want the Paper color to be White or Cream. Unless you have images in your book that absolutely have to be in color, keep your selection Black and White. Selecting Color will make the cost of your book significantly higher. You can see the drastic change in price by using the Createspace Order Calculator. You may change the trim size, if you got it wrong in the beginning. And then you can either select to upload your completed/formatted interior file. If not, this is where you can find quotes for premium services.
This is where you select your cover options. The type of cover finish is up to you. I personally like the Glossy covers. Then, you can either upload your completed cover, build a cover, using their custom templates, or select to use their design service.
And you’re done! The page above shows your final setup page. This page is a good example, because nothing is finished. It will not allow you to submit your book for approval until after your submit the required documents. Once everything has been submitted, you will be prompted to click “Submit for Review.” You’ll be notified up to 24 hours later on whether or not your book meets Createspace’s requirements. If it does, you can either do a digital proof, or you can order a physical proof. In my experience, I always order a physical proof the first time around. After that, depending on your case, you might be able to get by with just using the digital proof.
Now, for the good stuff. Once you have approved your book, you have to select the way your want your book distributed, and how much you want to charge. All channels listed under “Standard Distribution” give you 70% royalties. “Expanded Distribution” gives you 40%. See the drastic change in royalty amounts? Let me explain. Let’s say a customer orders a book through our local bookstore, Books Unlimited. They order the book at wholesale price, so when they sell it at retail value, they get 40% of the profits. Then, because you selected expanded distribution, Createspace takes 20%, because they are the ones to put the book into additional channels. It may seems like you’re losing a lot of money, but in reality, you don’t.
Think about it for a second. If you bought the book at printing cost, including shipping, then drove it over to the bookstore, you’ve lost the same amount, and done more work. And most times, booksellers that take books from authors only sell them on consignment, which means that you don’t get the money until the bookstore sells the book. That means that they can ask you to pick it up at any time. At least with expanded distribution, the bookstore has already bought the book, you get the money, and you are free of the hassle, even if the book doesn’t sell.
In today’s society, printing physical copies of your book is only half of the journey. With eBooks, your stories can be distributed quicker, cheaper, and you get more money. However, like the interior formatting and cover design for your physical book, eBook formatting can be another added expense. And cutting corners can potentially lower the quality of your book to readers.
I strongly encourage the paid services of Createspace and eBook Launch when it comes to eBook formatting. Because Kindle has a massive amount of readers, I believe that Createspace (Owned by Amazon) can create a digital copy of your book that will look good on their Kindle devices, and impress readers. eBook Launch, while also utilizing the distribution site, Smashwords, can distribute your book to the other popular readers such as iBooks, Barnes and Noble NOOK and KOBO.
You are probably already aware of this, but remember not to price your eBook the same as your physical book. Because you don’t have the same amount of production costs in your eBook as you do in your physical book, online stores and customers expect your eBook to be cheaper than your physical copy. I recommend you price your eBook below $9.99 for any physical book that ranges between $12.99 and $19.99 in price.
The Journey Continues…
The book is finally complete. And if you are among the majority of authors that want your book out there for public consumption, then the real work begins. Because you don’t have a publisher, you also won’t have their marketing team to back you. Which means that all marketing/advertising falls on your shoulders. And in some cases, that will mean putting your face, and your name, out there in the public so customers can potentially hear about you and inquire about your story(s). The road may be long, and frustrating, but know that there are independent authors out there that have made millions on their own. You and I could one day be among them!
I hope this brief guide helps you on your road to publishing your book. Remember, independent publishing is just one way to get your story out there. If you think your story has what it takes to impress publishers, certainly try to sell it to them first. But know that there are other options are out there if you find that the conventional way of publication to be long, and time consuming.
I hope you found this post helpful! If you have any questions, please comment below or email me.