Self-Publishing a Book: What You Need to Know

Are you interested in self-publishing a book? Here's what you need to know about the mechanics of making it happen.

Several years ago, I self-published a book (the second edition is being edited right now). It was my third book, and my first attempt at self-publishing a book. Overall, I enjoyed the process and I learned a lot about the mechanics of making it happen.

I also learned that, thanks to technology and the tools we have available to us now, it's easier than you think.

Where Should You Go to Self-Publish Your Book?

After you finish writing your book, it's time to publish it. For decades, the only way to publish on your own was to approach a printer specializing in self-publishing and order a minimum number of copies. That done (and often requiring between $5,000 and $10,000 upfront), you needed to try to sell the books on your own.

Today, there is no need to go through these so-called “vanity” publishers. Instead, you can take advantage of print-on-demand technology. The most well-known print-on-demand location is Amazon (through CreateSpace). You can arrange a softcover book to be sold through Amazon — and you can keep more of the royalties — and Amazon will just print it off. There's no need for you to order any books at all. Plus, author copies are relatively inexpensive, so if you do order books for an event or for some other reason, it won't cost you much.

When you publish through CreateSpace/Amazon, the print-on-demand service doesn't include hardcovers. There are additional upfront fees with this option. You can also work with IngramSpark (Lightning Source). They have a distribution that includes Amazon, and you don't need to pay an upfront fee if you want to publish a hardcover.

I recently helped a client publish his memoir. He insisted on a hardcover, so we went through IngramSpark. But the book will also be available as a softcover on Amazon through CreateSpace, and available on Kindle, through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

My experience with CreateSpace and KDP has been smoother than my experience with IngramSpark. In fact, next time I provide publishing services for a client or publish my own book, I'm going to try to stick with the softcover and Kindle options. It's much easier, even though my friends Kyle Prevost and Justin Bouchard insist that IngramSpark is great for Canadians, and they enjoyed using it for their book, More Money for Beer and Textbooks.

Professional Formatting and Design

Thanks to print-on-demand tools that make it inexpensive to get your book published and out there, the most expensive part of self-publishing a book might be the professional editing, formatting, and design.

Even though I'm a writer, and I edit others' work, I still wanted a fresh set of eyes on my book. I hired someone to edit my book. I also work with a professional designer whose specialty is preparing books for self-publication. For one price, it's possible to get different formats of your book, including softcover, hardcover, Kindle, PDF, and EPUB. Understand that the layout for each type is likely to be slightly different. Additionally, your cover will need to meet different specifications depending on whether or not you want a hardcover version or a softcover version (or both).

Nothing can beat a crisp, professional design. When self-publishing a book, going that extra mile to get the sleek look can pay off because you immediately seem more credible when you have a great-looking product. Plus, you save hours of frustration when you let a professional handle it.

A professional can format your book properly much faster than you can, and it might cost less than you think. I raised money on Indiegogo to help fund my book (basically secure pre-sales). I reached my goal, and the money that came from it was enough to cover the costs of publishing my book, including professional editing, formatting, and cover design. It also included the costs of registering ISBNs and buying barcodes. I stayed away from the hardcover and just went with Kindle and print-on-demand softcover through Amazon.

That's much better than the old way of doing it by paying for an entire print run.

Self-Publishing a Book: A Little Housekeeping

There's more to self-publishing a book than formatting and design (once it's written) and getting it uploaded to Amazon. Before you get too far, you need to do a little housekeeping. Here are the essentials:

ISBN

The International Standard Book Number is an identifier that you need for each version of your book. You will need to purchase ISBNs from an authorized provider. In the United States, the official source is Bowker. I found it more cost-efficient to purchase 10 ISBNs at a time than to purchase one for each of the four versions of my own book. You need an ISBN for each variation you choose, including:

  • Kindle
  • EPUB
  • PDF
  • Softcover
  • Hardcover

If you have another variation, you need an ISBN. In my case, I chose four, since I didn't go with a hardcover. My most recent client just wants a Kindle, softcover, and hardcover version, so he only needed three. Because I had six ISBNs leftover from my own book, I assigned three of those to my client.

When you know that you will publish more books later, or that you will need multiple ISBNs, it's a good idea to buy them in bulk. Just like buying food in bulk costs less per unit, you'll pay less per unit for your ISBNs.

It's also worth noting that Amazon has its own numbering system, so if you publish exclusively on Amazon, you might not need the ISBN. On top of that, Amazon does assign you an ISBN in some cases. If you use Amazon to publish your book, it can simplify matters.

Barcodes

Once you've determined your official pricing, you need to assign a barcode to your book versions. Fortunately, you probably only need them for hardcover and softcover versions. The barcode is useful if you want to sell your books in brick-and-mortar stores. These stores order out of a catalog and the barcode helps them keep track, as well as allows them to scan prices.

Again, Amazon can help with barcodes if all you do is sell on Amazon. However, if you want to be able to print books through other publishers, having a barcode can be useful.

Book matter

It makes sense to have an information page in your book. You should include your ISBN, and your copyright notice. My book designer has a pretty standard notice that he uses, and I like that he just puts it in there. One of the advantages of using a professional who knows his stuff is that he just knows the standard, and gets it done. There's no reason to reinvent the wheel when you can just pay someone who already has a much nicer wheel.

Pricing

Don't forget about your pricing. This can be tricky, but you know that, when setting your pricing, your Kindle book might cost less, while your softcover costs more, and your hardcover is most expensive. Figure out what makes sense for you. Also, realize that Amazon will change the price of your book according to demand. It's called dynamic pricing, and if your book isn't selling, Amazon will sell it for less than your list price. If it's popular, Amazon will sell it closer to your list price.

*Note: your designer will need all of the housekeeping items to finish your book.*

Marketing

When you get into self-publishing, you're on the hook for marketing. You can pay for help getting on podcasts or other media appearances, but you're footing the bill. When you go the traditional route, you often get help with this aspect of book publishing and marketing. Be ready with a plan to market your book, especially if you want it to sell well.

Self-publishing a book can be one way to make money, but in order for it to work, you have to put in the legwork to market the hell out of it.

Get Help Self-Publishing a Book

I've been approached by a number of people asking for help self-publishing a book. While I can give them the above information, not everyone is comfortable navigating all the steps. As a result, I've begun offering services to help others get their books published.

Through my contacts, as well as my knowledge of the steps to take to get your book self-published, I can take your manuscript and get into book and Kindle format. You can also get your book into EPUB format so that it's compatible with other ereaders, like the Nook, or PDF format so you can easily sell the book from your own website.

I'll work with the cover designer, formatter, and even arrange the ISBNs and barcodes and help you price your book. I can set up your book to sell through my account with CreateSpace and/or KDP, or I can help you set up your own account.

The total cost depends on whether you want me to arrange personal copies for you, as well as other factors (such as editing).

If you have thoughts in your head, and you're anxious to see them published, I can help make your dreams a reality that you can hold in your hand. Contact me: mirandamarquit @ gmail . com for a quote.

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