What is Self-Publishing?
Self-publishing is the act on the author’s part to handle all the publication details of their book without going through a traditional publishing house. Self-publishers typically do everything from writing the text to selecting the artwork for the cover to marketing the publication to potential readers — and everything in between. An increasing number of writers are choosing to go the self-publishing route these days, and for good reason. However, it’s important for those considering this to be aware of what’s entailed and how this option differs from using traditional publishing companies. Here’s what you need to know about self-publishing platforms.
What Are the Benefits of Self-Publishing VS Traditional Publishing?
Self-publishing allows the author to have complete control over every aspect of the publication process. You’ll be the one with total creative authority over every word between the covers as well as the cover itself. Those writing for traditional publishers often wind up feeling lost in the shuffle when multiple editors, cover designers, and marketers become part of the picture.
You’ll also enjoy faster exposure if you choose to self-publish. Instead of taking months and possibly even longer to hit the market, books that are self-published can be ready for the consumer market within a matter of days. Although rushing through a book and not giving it a final polishing is not a recommended course of action, self-published authors can nonetheless cut down on a lot of dead time.
As a general rule, the royalties involved in self-publishing are better than those offered by traditional publishing houses. Self-published authors also have a longer window of time for their books to gain popularity. Publishing houses typically give new books a month or two of optimal exposure through marketing efforts before moving to fresher material.
Finally, the main advantage of self-publishing is that writers don’t have to wait around to be chosen by a publisher. Publishing is a very competitive field, and most aspiring writers have little chance of getting their material read by a junior editor at any major publishing house. This doesn’t mean their work isn’t good — it just means that publishers are so inundated with manuscripts from hopeful authors that it’s not possible for them to give each submission the consideration it deserves. In other words, diamonds in the rough tend to get shuffled to the bottom of the pile where they’ll never see the light of day.
How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book?
The costs associated with self-publishing a book range dramatically depending on variables such as the individual circumstances of the author, the length of the book, and the costs of individual self-publishing venues. Some authors have more available resources for promotional factors such as marketing and design, while others fly on a bare-bones model with nothing much leftover. The good news is that there are self-publishing options available for those at both ends of the financial spectrum and everything in between.
How to Self-Publish a Book
Now that you’ve made a mental and emotional commitment to writing your book, you’re probably looking forward to picking up your laptop, tablet, or even an old-school pad of paper and a pen and getting started. Here’s a step-by-step guide to what comes next.
Write Your Book
This is going to be a different process for everyone, especially in matters of the home environment. Someone who lives with noisy roommates or family won’t have the same range of options as their counterpart who lives alone in a serene neighborhood. Nonetheless, having a dedicated space and time for working on your book helps nurture motivation and self-discipline, so do your best to achieve consistency in these areas —
even if the best place for you to work on your book is at a local coffee shop.
Try to write at least once per day, even when you aren’t in the mood. If writer’s block enters the picture, it’s often possible to shake that loose by writing down random thoughts for 10 or 15 minutes. If you live with other people, make it clear to them that they are not to interrupt you during your writing time except in the case of an absolute emergency. After a while, you’ll likely settle into a routine.
Create a Book Cover Design That Converts
Finding the right book design cover may mean the difference between few sales and many sales. Consumers in the digital age are visually motivated to buy, which means they’re more likely to purchase a product if compelling images accompany it.
New authors often make the mistake of selecting a cover that’s not the right fit. This could happen because they’re in a hurry or don’t realize the importance of cover design in converting browsers to buyers. The best approach to choosing a cover design is taking it slowly and waiting for the one that really speaks to you.
If you’re on a strict budget, you may be able to create the right cover design for your book using a template that lets you add your own photos or stock photos. However, keep in mind that your book’s cover is its chance to put its best foot forward, so it’s important that it looks as polished and professional as possible.
Create Book Metadata: Book Title, Description, ISBNs, BISAC Codes
This bibliographic information is required of any book made publicly available, whether for sale or supplied for free. The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is the main identifier. ISBNs are used by online and brick-and-mortar publishers, booksellers, and libraries to identify specific editions of books. Other book metadata includes the following.
- Book title
- BISAC codes
BISAC codes are created by the Book Industry Study Group to classify books according to the subject matter. This assists retailers with matters of placement in traditional bookstores as well as helps optimize online searches.
Keep in mind that the more expressive and on-point your book description and title are, the better your book will fare in search engines. You may be requested to supply other information as well in your metadata form, such as the primary age group of the intended readership, the page count of the book, and whether the book is part of a series. Answering each question as completely as possible may increase search engine results.
Hire a Great Book Editor
Hiring a great book editor is one of the most important steps in writing a book that people are going to want to read. The services of a professional editor are invaluable in this situation, so don’t be tempted to involve an amateur editor in your project. After all, you’ve probably dreamed of publishing your own book for years, perhaps even decades, so let a skilled, experienced editor help bring your book to the finish line.
Writers sometimes find working with an editor difficult because they take the editor’s suggestions as criticisms, but a good editor will never purposely make a writer feel that way. Keep in mind that editing is an entirely different skill set than writing and that their job is to focus on general readability, fine-tuning the prose so that nothing detracts from the story. Editors also catch embarrassing typos that can potentially damage your credibility as an author.
Create Your Amazon KDP Account
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a free, intuitive formatting tool offered by Amazon that lets authors publish their work quickly and easily. After you’ve completed writing your book and a professional editor has provided the final layer of polish, go over it one last time for any stray typos or errors, and save it to a PDF when final.
The KDP wizard will walk you through the steps involved with formatting your book. You’ll be able to add front and back pages, a table of contents, if desired, style chapter number pages, the book title, and much more, depending on what you want the final outcome to be.
Choose Book Keywords & Categories on Amazon
This is an important part of your KDP strategy because it helps make your book more discoverable by prospective readers. You’ll be able to choose two separate browse categories during the KDP setup, but this isn’t the only way that books are searchable on Amazon. You can also identify and use keywords designed to mimic what your target customer might type into a search box. For instance, if you’ve written a mystery novel set in the 19th century, use keywords such as “historical mystery” and “19th-century mystery novel.”
Set the Right Pricing for Your Book
After you’ve entered your book details and uploaded the manuscript and cover art, you’ll be able to set the price for your book. Amazon offers two royalty plans and two options for setting list prices. There are the minimum and maximum prices depending on factors such as how much it costs to print the book — the minimum price ensures that your royalties will meet the costs of printing so that Amazon isn’t out any money when someone purchases your book.
Prices for most eBooks are lower than they are for their print counterparts. Nonetheless, it can be difficult for someone who’s about to become a newly published author to decide on a sweet spot for their book’s price point.
Here are some questions you need to ask yourself if you’re struggling with what to charge for your book.
- What are similar books selling for? This is probably the most important consideration. You likely don’t want to be on either extreme of the pricing scale.
- Who is your target audience? Some demographics are more likely to buy eBooks than others.
- What are your goals for the book? Is it a passion project, the first of a series, or a one-and-done endeavor? If it’s the first of a series, offering a small discount might help readers get hooked.
Amazon also provides pricing assistance as well as other tips for success in the self publish/self-publishing industry. Some writers decide to provide interested parties with a free chapter or two or even decide to give the Kindle edition of the book away for a specified period of time. The KDP Select program gives writers the opportunity to offer their eBooks at no charge for a limited number of days to promote interest.
Self-Publish Your Book
After a final review to ensure an error-free copy, it’s time to publish your book. You’ll be provided with several different options. For instance, some authors decide to publish on Kindle only, while others prefer to mix it up by adding print copies. It’s also possible to get a print-on-demand option, which only prints copies of a book when someone orders it.
No matter which option you decide to move forward with, you’ll be shifting gears at this point from writer mode to promotional mode.
Create a Book Promotion Plan
Your book promotion strategy will depend on factors such as your goals for the book, your available time and funding for promotional activities, and how comfortable you are with self-promotion. Fortunately, this part of being a published author is far easier than it used to be.
Up until the digital age, book tours were the major component in promoting new books. Authors would visit bookstores, schools and even make appearances on local and regional TV and radio stations. Although these staples still have value, modern authors have many tools and resources at their disposal when it comes to promoting their books in the way that works best for them.
Following are several of the many ways that you can promote your book without even having to leave your home.
Promote It on Your Website
If you’ve got a blog or a website, this is the ideal starting place for promoting your book — and perhaps you’ve already been using this strategy for building anticipation for when your book is published. Either way, immediately after publication is an excellent time to make an announcement that your book is now available.
Promote It on Social Media
Social media is a natural place to talk up your publication and encourage others to check it out. Throwing a digital grand opening celebration for your book on social media is a fun way to put your achievement in the spotlight. Keep in mind that interacting with others on social media when they ask questions or make comments about your book is key to sparking interest and increasing book sales.
Promote It on YouTube
You can also create a visually appealing video describing your book and upload it to YouTube. You’ll be able to add the video to your social media content and send it via email to those on your promotional list. Encouraging others to share your YouTube link will increase exposure for your book.
Enroll in KDP Select
KDP Select is a free, 90-day program offered by Amazon to authors who publish on the company’s Kindle platform. Benefits include higher royalties, increased exposure to readers, and access to promotional tools such as offering the book for free for a limited amount of time or inclusion in Kindle Countdown Deals.
Share Your Book With Instant Kindle Previews
Kindle Instant Previews provides embedded links that you can use to promote your book on your website. The link allows users to read sample text of your book and provides a direct link to the book’s point of purchase.
Maintain a Professional Website
Because potential readers will likely land on your website when exploring whether or not to order your book, it’s important that your author’s site is professional and polished. Naturally, you’ll want your unique personality to shine through, so have a professional photograph taken of you in one of your favorite locations in your home. It could be the gazebo surrounded by flowers in your yard where you retreat to when the writing bug bites you particularly hard, or your favorite chair by the fireplace or on your back deck where you relax after a tough day behind your keyboard. Whatever the spot, you’ll connect with your readers on a more personal level if it’s got significant meaning in your life.
An effective way to create engagement after you self-publish your book is to polish your profile persona in ways that your target audience can identify with. Keeping it simple, clear, and concise allows the focus to be on you, so be sure to go easy on the superfluous bells and whistles that bog down otherwise good websites. Users often find themselves clicking away if a site is too busy.
Join Amazon Author Central
Joining Amazon Author Central will provide you with excellent resources for eBook publishing, including information on how to self-publish and best practices for promoting your book. For instance, you’ll be able to take full control over your Amazon Author Profile, making sure that only the most flattering photos, quotes, and other personal aspects are used. You’ll also be able to add your biography and link to your personal website, and your book will be listed in the Kindle store.
Other ways to promote your book include podcasts, real-time launch parties, and cultivating positive reviews. Although authors aren’t allowed to offer free books or any other type of payment in exchange for good reviews, you can politely ask those who’ve bought your book to leave a review. In the instance of bad reviews, keep a cool head when responding. It’s probably better to simply say nothing in the face of those types of reviews than to fire off an angry response that may alienate other potential readers. Successful authors often hire virtual assistants to do this work for them.
Online influencers aren’t just about fashion, makeup, and entertainment. They also play an important role in promoting eBooks and other published material. However, it’s not a good idea to simply contact influencers and ask them to put in a good word for your book. A better way is to cultivate genuine relationships with influencers before the fact so that any recommendations on their part occur naturally.
So, What’s Next?
As you’ve probably discovered by now, there is a lot involved when you decide to self-publish your Kindle eBook. But eBook self-publishing isn’t a temporary or even linear process — if your book is successful, you’ll probably still be working on marketing for years to come.
If this is your first time using Amazon Kindle direct publishing, you’ll definitely learn a lot about the market. Your sales statistics will also provide you with an indication of whether you should follow your book up with a sequel or go in a different direction. One of the most empowering aspects of self-publishing is that writers are involved in the entire process from start to finish. In traditional publishing, writers have pretty much finished their jobs once their manuscript has been sent to print, leaving them in the dark about the rest of the process.
As a self-published writer, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of each component of the publication process. This will allow you to further fine-tune and customize your marketing strategies as you move forward in your writing career. By the time you’re on your third or fourth book, all of the above advice — and more — will become part of your natural routi