Many of the questions I receive at Alaska Dreams Publishing (ADP) are from new authors who want to know more about what it takes to self-publish. This article is primarily intended to introduce you to the most basic processes that are required to successfully self-publish.
Due to the literally hundreds of decisions and choices you will make while self-publishing correctly, this is a somewhat broad overview of the procedures. There are many books available that will take you step by step through a particular process of say, formatting and uploading your book for Kindle or some other media.
Through my experiences from ADP, I can tell you these steps were learned through a long, time-consuming process. Even though Amazon and others will tell you they make it simple, for some people, self-publishing can be very difficult and frustrating.
I also encourage you to sign up for the blog mailing list (on the right side of this page) to receive notification of future posts. (See the welcome post in the sidebar for a list of some of the upcoming articles.)
I've put in some tongue in cheek attempts at humor while describing the process of self-publishing. I'll be as realistic as I can, within the scope of this article. Some of it may seem a little brutal and may even sound like we'd like to scare you enough to ask us to be your publisher, but that is not my intent. It's necessary to be honest about the process, so you can make an informed decision, and hopefully avoid many of the mistakes we here at ADP have learned the hard way. For this reason, some of the steps will include a number of things that can cause problems and save you time and energy.
Remember, this article will not teach you every step you need to "self-publish." It is meant only as an overview of the process to help you make a decision.
Alright then, let's dive right in and have some fun (?) and learn about self-publishing...
The Self-Publishing Scenario…how did we get here?
You've decided to write, or have already written a book and want it published. If you're old school, you may have already tried the traditional methods of submitting it to literary agents or directly to publishers and have been told politely, or maybe not so politely in so many words, to forget it. Perhaps they didn't even have the courtesy to respond.
So, being the tenacious author you are, you decide to self-publish it.
Let's look at the good news and then, the not so good news of self-publishing by spelling out the basic processes involved.
The Good News
You’ll whip out a book in no time, self-publish it, and your social media friends will eagerly spread the word. Agents will be calling you around the clock, begging for the movie rights to your book. You'll become famous, make millions and have the life you've always wanted…yea! $$$$$$$$$$. Go ahead and dream, it’s fun!
Now, that we've got that out of your system. It’s time for a visit to reality. Don’t go away, even if the following seems brutal. Later, I’ll introduce you to ADP and an easier way to get your book published. (Remember what I promised earlier?)
Now, Some Bad News
(Especially for the complete beginner)
Thousands of self-published books are released every year, over 700,000 each year in the U.S. alone.
A very large number of them have major layout issues, such as incorrect formatting, artwork colors and sizing, poor pricing choices, bad cover designs, etc. Many are poorly edited. Most are never marketed to even close to their potential and will never sell more than a few copies, if even that many. The competition is intense! (I hope you’re not discouraged already, we're just getting started.)
You'll Be A Business Owner
Often, many Authors don't consider that they are essentially launching a business when self-publishing. It takes a lot more than writing a book and figuring out how to upload it to one or more of the online self-publishing services. If you have any hope of successfully self-publishing your book, and marketing it, prepare to have patience on the scale of Job. (Yep, the guy in the Bible.)
How Am I Gonna Figure This Out?
There are thousands of books, blogs and websites that will teach you to write, publish, market and sell your book. Do a quick Google search of the term ‘self-publish.’
Huh? Whoa, there Nelly!
You cringe when your internet search reveals somewhere around 105,000,000 (105 million) results in about 0.38ths of a second. And you're going to have to sort through all of that to find the help you need. (Yep, we have to give those search engines credit, they are pretty fast.)
More Bad News...
After spending some quality computer time (hours and hours, and then days, and then more days, and finally weeks) researching and visiting websites, downloading & reading how-to books, taking copious notes, and of course, checking your social media pages for comments dozens of times, (because you've told everyone you're about to publish your long awaited book, you want to see all the congratulations and requests to buy your book when it's finally out,) you deduce this might be a little more time consuming and, possibly expensive, then you thought. You will also learn (some from reading the steps below,) that you'll need some fairly modest computer skills to self-publish.
A couple of caveats: The following basic process, is for a typical fiction style novel, without interior illustrations or photos and includes steps for both e-Books and Print. If you're not going to do both eBook and Print versions, just skip over the relevant portions. Because you'll make some choices regarding which media to publish first, a few of the steps might not be in the exact order you will do them.
As there are a number of additional considerations required to publish a fully illustrated children’s book, or a non-fiction 'how-to' book with graphics, which we'll discuss in a later post.
Remember, tongue and cheek!
Basic Self-Publishing Steps to Do It Right
(Yet more bad news-there's lots of steps!)
• If you haven't done so already, write the first draft of your book in record time. (You did read all those books & blogs about how to write a book, say in as little as 2 weeks, or 30, 60, or 90 days, right?) During the writing stage, DO NOT enter a bunch of fancy formatting such as: Using the space bar or tab key for indents or centering text or chapter headings, or put in page numbers manually. When you get to the steps about formatting your book for eBook and print, you're going to have to do a lot of work stripping that junk out. E-Readers in particular, hate bad formatting! (Helpful hint: The ADP website has a free formatting guide. We recommend you follow it, while writing your book, even if you opt not to publish your book through ADP. Download it here for FREE.)
• After the first draft is done, write Dedication, Acknowledgments, and 'About the Author' pages. These will make the book look more professional. Don't forget the Copyright page and a page at the end of the book with links that show your readers how to contact you. (Hint: Use a special email just for this purpose.) Your friends that you've gotten encouragement from on your social media pages will love to be mentioned in the Dedication or Acknowledgments page. Maybe a few of them will actually buy your book if you mention them in one of these pages. (Hint: Mention a lot of people! Everybody loves to read about themselves in print. Of, course, if you tend to be an introvert, as many authors are, you'll probably hate writing your 'About the Author' page. Don't worry, you can find plenty of tips on the web about how to do this too.)
• Pick out a flattering photo of yourself to be included in the about the author page and maybe the back cover. Optional yes, but highly recommended by virtually every ‘how to’ book out there. You will use this for marketing purposes later. (You did read up about marketing, didn't you?)
• Now it's time to learn patience. Put the first draft away. Wait at least two weeks, or better yet, give it a month. Don’t even think about or look at it during this time. Skip ahead to the steps on setting up your author platform. (You did read all those books you bought on pre-release marketing, right?)
• After the step above is complete, re-write and edit with fresh eyes. (Fresh Eyes = fancy term often used in publishing during the editing stages. See, we’re really on a roll now!) Stare in shock when you realize some of that elegant prose you wrote might not seem so elegant after all.
• Repeat the two steps above, if you really want to do it right. (You did read all those books you bought on the necessity of re-writing multiple times, and editing with fresh eyes, right?)
• Now, after you've think you have it perfect, have the book professionally edited. About one in a million people can do final editing themselves correctly. But I've never met one. Even using 'fresh eyes', you are simply are too close to your book and will tend to 'read through' parts that have errors, typos, etc. Try not to cheap out on this. It will be $$$$ well spent. Reviewers are often vicious about this and will knock off a couple stars for bad editing. (There's probably many copy & grammatical errors in this blog post, but hey, it's free!)
• Review the professionally edited copy. Since you insisted your editor turned on the ‘track changes’ function in Word, when you get it back, you can easily see what was changed. Gasp for breath when you see all of the editors suggested changes. Do you trust the editor that it’s done right and move on to the next step, or, have it edited again, by someone else? For more money. Ouch. $$$$. (If you don't know what "track changes" means, your computer skills may be a little less than modest. Consider buying a book about how to use your word processor. It will help, even when doing your own editing and especially when you get to the formatting steps below. You'll NEED to know a bunch of fun stuff like using Styles, Search & Replace, etc. to format correctly.)
• Before starting your formatting process, research for many, many hours and days to choose which online services such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lulu or Lightning Source to upload the book to and make it available for sale. During your research, you may have discovered that some of them claim they distribute to all of the others, and, you only need to format for that service and they'll take care of the rest for you. (For this reason, Lighting Source as an example, is VERY picky about its formatting requirements.) However, this can severely impact your potential royalties if the service you choose "sub-distributes" to other services. That means they get a cut, the others get a cut, and then finally, you get your cut.
• On to formatting. First the interior. (Warning: This step is a lot to take in, with important decisions to be made!) Before we get started, I'm going to say it again; Print and eBooks require completely different formatting requirements for both the interiors and covers for each media type. It's best to choose only one type of media to format first, eBook or Print. Why? Because while formatting, you will very likely find more changes that need to be made that should have been done in the re-writing and editing cycle. (It will be a miracle if you don't.) This way, you won't have to find & make those changes in both versions. (Twice the work, but self-publishing is fun, right?) It's very easy to get lost while doing corrections or changes in one, and still make sure those changes get corrected in the other one. By the time you go through the complete process for both types of media, you'll have created multiple computer files - typically two files for the interior layout, and two files for the cover. (You did read all those books you bought about formatting your book for eReaders and Print, right?) Once the media type you chose to complete first is formatted, and ALL re-writing and editing changes are done, you will use that copy to paste as plain text into the other respective blank media file that you will create. Then you go through the formatting process for the second file using its respective requirements. Hint: If you're doing the eBook media first, format the interior of the book for just one of the two most popular types - the Amazon Kindle, or the Barnes and Noble Nook. After you've got that one done and perfect, you can then convert it into the other format using a number of free conversion programs that are available. If you did everything right, it should convert seamlessly. (Of course, you'll have to spend the time to learn how to use one of those conversion programs...)
• Design and create cover artwork for both eReaders & print versions. You can do either version first, but remember, for the print version you'll need to create Front cover, Spine and Back cover artwork. (For eBook covers, only the front is necessary.) Make sure you have the interior of the print version completely formatted before doing the print version cover because you'll need the total page count to calculate the spine width. Don’t forget the Barcode and ISBN’s for the Print version. Another issue regarding covers - the print and eBook versions have different pixel resolution requirements. (You did read all those books about……..?)
• Upload your final version. You'll need to bunch of decisions at this point, like pricing, book categories, and well,… it goes on and on.
• For the print version, you'll want to order a 'Print Proof' copy of your book. Pay for expensive overnight delivery because you’re so excited you just can't wait another day to see the results of all your hard work. Glow like a firefly when you hold it in your hands for the first time. (Then, when you open it up, cry like a baby when you see the margins are screwed up and you have to re-submit a corrected interior file and order another proof. Tell your friends on your social media pages it's almost done, it'll be just a little longer, really.)
• Setup your author marketing platform which should consist of a website and blog at the very minimum. Yep, there are tons of books and websites on how to do this simple step. (Ok, it’s not so simple if you don’t know how to do it.)
• Setup social media accounts, especially a Twitter account, and maintain them. Spend a few weeks, (months?) building followers. This step is absolutely necessary, if you want to have any hope at all for people to find your author marketing platform so people can find your book out there. (Remember all those marketing books you bought…believe me, after you go through all of this, you won’t be feeling very social!)
• Setup & maintain a bookkeeping system to track your book sales from multiple distribution sites. (What, you haven’t bought that book yet?)
• Assuming you've survived all, or at least most of the above, spend hours and hours every week promoting your book via your social media accounts. (Cry when you get your first few month’s sales figures in. When you’re done crying, buy some more books on marketing…)
• Write another book. It’ll be easier this time. (Really - you’ll hardly have to refer at all to those how-to books you bought on how to do all of this stuff, because you remember every step you did, right?)
• Go back and do it all over again, because you're tenacious, and you love self-publishing. (Sobbing uncontrollably at this time would be OK.)
(In fairness, every step above can be hired out, even hiring someone to write the book for you. But, if you can afford to hire out all of the steps, you’re probably loaded already and don’t need to write a book. Go for an exotic vacation and get this craziness out of your head!)
Another Way to Get It Done
(Tongue and cheek over now)
If all of the above seems like a little, or, a lot more than you want to do to publish your book, then there is an alternative. Visit the Alaska Dreams Publishing Services Page after reading the paragraphs below.
ADP Consulting Services
As you should have discovered during your research, there are a lot of sites out there that offer package deals to edit, layout, design your cover, and sometimes even promote your book. Prices can run typically from $1,000 on the low end, all the way up to $10,000 or more.
Here at ADP, we consider a lot of the packages ridiculously overpriced for what they offer. Search the web, and you'll find a lot of horror stories by authors who have opted for this route and have had bad experiences. In fairness, some have also had success, at least in getting a pretty fair layout and cover design. According to our research, very few do well paying for outside marketing and promotion.
We offer a low hourly rate for our consulting services. In some cases, we can offer package deals.
At this time, we only feature authors on our website that we publish, so you'll still have to go the marketing route yourself. We of course offer tried and true suggestions as part of our available consulting services.
See our Services page on the website and contact us for a quote.
If you've made it this far, congratulations on your tenacity! We wish you the best of luck regarding your publishing.
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Thanks for reading.
Alaska Dreams Publishing