Self-publishing – the basics

I wrote a book. And then I decided to self-publish it. So I asked a couple of friends who had self-published, and they gave me encouragement and pointed me towards some blog posts that had very comprehensive advice, and then I did it. You can easily google up such blog posts, so this will not be all the information, but it might be a start, if you’re wondering about it. This is as much for my own memory-keeping as anything else, since I forget stuff and I’ll be wanting to do it all again once I’ve got book two finished. It would be nice not to have to reinvent the wheel for myself.

First of all, self-publishing is pretty easy to do. You can do it. I don’t know if you can do it well, and it’s definitely a good idea to get expert help in a couple of areas, but you can do it. And everyone you know will be madly impressed if you do.

Ebook or physical book?

I originally planned to just make an ebook, because a print edition sounded much too real and scary and hard to do. It turns out making a print edition is not a lot more than an ebook, so my advice would be to do it anyway. There’s no upfront cost to publishing a print book with CreateSpace, and if you order physical copies and distribute/sell them yourself, you make more of a profit than you would on the ebooks.

Since mine is a children’s book, I feel like there’s more of a market for the print book than the ebook – and the print version is just nicer. You can do more with fonts and have more control over the end product – with an ebook you’re quite limited because the reader always has ultimate control over font and size.

Where does it go?

There are two places to put your ebook, so everyone tells me – you need to put it on Smashwords and also, separately, on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Amazon will sell the KDP one for Kindles, and the Smashwords version is vital for distribution for any other e-reader like the Nook or as an iBook.

To make the print version you use CreateSpace, which is affiliated with Amazon but is not the same company. People will be able to buy your print edition and your Kindle edition from the same page on and all the other Amazon sites worldwide.

(Of course, there are other ways you can do this. I’m just telling you what I did, but these seem to be fairly standard.)

How do I know how to set the price?

The websites will all tell you what sort of price point you should set your book at so that you make a profit but don’t price it so high that you scare customers off. You can look at similar books online to get a feel for the prices too.

Can I outsource some of the work?

You wrote a book. Of course you can get other people to do other stuff, because you want this to look professional, don’t you? You’ll have to pay them real money, though – none of this “exposure” nonsense.

Editing: You should get your book edited, or at the very least ask someone else who’s picky about grammar and notices that sort of thing to read it. (You can hire me to edit it, if you want. That’s a thing I do.) The more editing you get, the better your book will be.

Design: You’ll need a cover. For the ebook this is just a rectangle with a picture on it, but for the print version you need a spine and a back cover too. The whole thing has to fit certain specifications that you’ll understand if you have some technical design background, but otherwise this is something you might well want to farm out. Nobody will read your wonderful writing if the book cover isn’t appealing, so this is money well spent. (Mine was.)

Layout: And finally you have to set the whole thing up so that the various websites you upload it to will accept it. This is something I was happy to do myself, but it took some trial and error. If you’re terrified of it you can hire someone to do this too.

The websites will point you in the direction of professionals for all these jobs, or you can find someone you know and trust and want to pay. I like giving work to friends, because that’s what makes the world go round.

How do I format it?

Each of the three locations has slightly different requirements, but here are some basics:

  • You don’t need a fancy program – you can work in Word.
  • You’ll need to use the Styles feature, for Smashwords especially, so that your paragraphs all work properly.
  • Don’t use double spaces after full stops (or anywhere else for that matter), and keep your fingers away from that Tab key. Never tab or spacebar to move text across the page. Centre your text or use a style to set consistent tabs.
  • Run spellcheck at the end, even if you have the spelling checker turned off because it’s annoying. (It is.)
  • Follow the Smashwords style guide. It tells you everything you need to know and is easy to read. If you do this one first the others are easy to move on to.

Public relations

The last part, and maybe the hardest, is sales and marketing. For some people, just seeing their names in print is the final aim, but I think most self-published authors are hoping to at the very least break even and preferably even make some sort of profit, eventually – as well as just hanging out for the thrill of hearing that someone read your words and liked them.

Nobody will know about your great book if you hide your light under a bushel, so once it’s up and running you have to tell everyone, and get them to tell everyone, and encourage people to buy it and read it and leave you five-star reviews at all the online vendors. You have to be your own PR machine, which for many writers is exactly the opposite of their dream job.

I’ll let you know how that bit goes…

4 thoughts on “Self-publishing – the basics

  1. Angela O'Donovan

    Well done you and so good to see you sharing your experience.

    You probably have lots of ideas about local publicity but, of course, I’ll make a suggestion Anyway?.!

    Try local children’s schools. They are always looking to have special hours,sessions, etc You could go along and read from your book after a little talk about it. You’d then sign ‘bought’ copies and maybe sell at slight discount. Catholic schools would have lots children of Irish descent..

    Good luck with it all,

    1. Maud Post author

      Thanks, Angela. I really don’t know how it will go down with American readers yet – all my test readers were Irish because that’s where I saw my main market being. We’ll see how it fares over here…


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