Decided to self-publish? So which company? How to choose?
Let’s say you have decided to self-publish. You will do or pay for all of the marketing and promotion. Most sites or companies that will help you self-publish will happily sell you these services as well. Here’s where the skepticism and smart shopping comes in. There are bad actors out there that will charge high fees for services which aren’t worth the cost. Go to pred-ed.com (Preditors and Editors—yes the site spells it that way on purpose) to find the good witches and the bad witches. And, as previously noted, you will still need to do some promotion/marketing yourself even with a traditional publisher, so you will want to check Preditors and Editors for independent providers of these services.
As in so much else, Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla (or in this case, maybe the 5-ton gorilla). Still, there are many other choices as well. But as we said earlier, why would you want your book to NOT be available in or from as many places as it possibly can? To exclude some means that readers who prefer one format or one seller over another won’t buy your book—not a good outcome. All, or virtually all, of the POD/eBook publishers make it relatively easy to upload your book for them to publish. Relatively refers to formatting. Most will convert your book into whatever format will get your book out to the public. But before you upload it, after all the editing/proofing, etc., is done you will probably want or need to make a table of contents–even for a fiction book. The sites have explanations of how to do that and to deal with other issues like page numbering (unneeded for eBooks), fonts, footnotes, etc. Beyond their requirements, look at any book on your shelf. You will see a series of things inside the cover—a title page, “front matter,” your name, copyright information, etc. There are protocols for this. Learn them.
All right, the moment of truth—who are the publishers you want to consider? Bear in mind that whoever you go with, some will want to make your book available through their site or company alone—as we have already suggested, don’t go there. Instead, most of them will also offer distribution through various wholesale outlets (for POD). Some of them will also offer conversion of eBooks into the various eBook formats. Kindle (Amazon) and iBook (Apple) have their own formats; everyone else, including Barnes & Noble’s Nook use the EPUB standard. You can separately offer those sites your eBooks as well. NOTE: you can do this individually with each and every eBook seller OR you can work through a wholesaler/publisher that will charge you a distribution fee to make your book available on multiple sites. So here are the links to some (not all) of the major publishers you may wish to consider:
- Amazon—CreateSpace, their print on demand publishing option
- Amazon—Kindle, if you don’t know what this is, stop reading and go watch TV; what you DO need to know are various flavors/options
- Kindle Direct—this is the basic option; you upload your book following their guidelines, set a price and can get 70% or 30% royalties (depending on country choices, etc.)
- Kindle Select—this is a minimum 90 day deal in which your book is available exclusively through Amazon; your book will also be made available via Kindle Unlimited (in which subscribers can read as many books as they want in a month) and the Kindle Owners Lending Library (there’s a limit on the number they can borrow). The carrot is that you earn 70% royalty on some countries that otherwise your sales would earn only 30%. The Unlimited and the Lender programs will pay you from a pool of revenue based on the number of pages of your book read by the subscribers (yes, per Amazon’s agreement with the subscribers, they know that—it’s based on “normalized” pages since Kindle and other ereader users can change the font size and hence the page count. The other big deal is that you easily offer free downloads of the book for short periods of time. Why would you want to do that? Because a whole bunch of free or reduced price downloads MAY result in your book being an Amazon best seller AND generate word of mouth sales for that book as well as attention to future ones.
- Barnes & Noble (B&N)—almost a year ago B&N jumped into the POD business, adding to their existing Nook eBook.
- Kobo—originated in Toronto but now owned by Japanese company Rakuten. They will enable you to publish eBooks directly with them (EPUB) worldwide. They do not offer POD.
- Lulu—offers both POD and eBooks. They, like others, also offer various add-ons like cover design, editing/proofing, marketing plans, etc. They also offer distribution through various channels. The basic POD costs little and eBook nearly nothing. The cuts into your revenues come in the way of distribution charges for eBooks.
- Smashwords—as the landing page will illustrate, they are exclusively an eBook publisher which also makes your book available through multiple sellers in multiple formats, including Apple’s iBooks and for a variety of EPUB readers (NOT including Kindle).
We have intentionally omitted the large remainder of POD publishers out there. If you search the web for Print on Demand publishers you will have no trouble finding them. BUT you must BEWARE: there are many which will take much money from you for various services, as previously noted. Many of them are subsidiaries of an infamous company that need not be mentioned here assuming that before signing up with any, you follow our advice and check Preditors and Editors—where you will quickly learn who is who.
So, you have edited your book and are ready to upload it, somewhere—but wait, there’s more, as they say in the infomercials.
Some things you may want to have at the back of the book, after the ending:
- A request for a review, assuming they liked it, on whatever site they purchased it from (or downloaded the free or discounted copy you offered as a promotion)
- More about yourself—a brief profile and perhaps more about how you came to write this book
- For eBooks, links to your social media sites, your website, etc.
- An excerpt from your next book (ideally you already are far enough along on that next book to include this; if not, you can always revise an eBook later to add)
- Perhaps an invitation to subscribe to an email newsletter that will announce when your next book is available, with a caveats that you will NOT share their email address, will not spam them with frequent messages and that they can opt out at any time [a legal requirement in the European Union and elsewhere].
What happens after the book is out?–AND some other very important pre-release tasks
Promotion and marketing of course! Schedule whatever marketing you can afford or feel comfortable doing WAY BEFORE THE BOOK IS OUT:
- News releases (although not necessarily that helpful anymore).
- Features or interviews with your local news media.
- Book signings at a local bookstore. Note that independents are more likely to do this and that you may need to supply the books on consignment; even a chain may do it at one or two local outlets.
- Advertising on selected book sites (see the list in the resources section).
- Guest blogs or “blog hops” on other sites (not as popular as they once were).
- Reviews on blogs.
Yes, that’s right, book signings, TV and radio interviews (seriously, do you think all those will happen?) Maybe they will if your traditional publisher set some up for you. Once upon a time traditional publishers spent time and money promoting and marketing your book. Not so much anymore. Sure, for James Patterson et al, not for you. The interviews are possible, but difficult for the self-publisher except at relatively low-rating outlets which offer limited exposure. Plan ahead to make them happen when the book comes out. You can also pay for ads, if you can afford it. Press releases are free, but are themselves an art form—you can learn about them or pay to have them done. You can do some of the marketing yourself via social media, the blog, etc. (you did get that platform up and followers in advance, right?). According to a leading agent who gave a talk at the Southwestern Festival of the Written Word, word of mouth is the biggest reason people buy books. In other words, get some people to like your book and tell their friends. More on this later. Book signings at brick and mortar sellers may work if you can talk a local book store into taking some of your books on consignment (independents may be better targets than chains) because they seldom will stock self-published books. Book signings can also happen at community events, libraries and elsewhere. Maybe there are book clubs in your community that might want you to appear for a reading/discussion/signing.
How do you get a copyright?
Your book is legally copyrighted (in the US) by publishing it with your name, the title and a date. However, if you want to be able to enforce that copyright you need to do something more. You need to register your book at U.S. Copyright Office in the Library of Congress. You can do this online now. Everything you need to know about the process is on their website. It takes a very long time before they eventually send you a certificate acknowledging your registered copyright. How will this vary if you are using a publisher? Don’t guess; ask them during the contract negotiations. Whatever you do, don’t pay somebody else to do this for you; the copyright office charges enough as it is and doesn’t require a professional submission from someone else.
Web resources that will help in all aspects of writing—from the first draft through marketing
Here are links to websites, articles on blogs and more that you may find useful. Some have appeared in the series before; most appear here in this series for the first time. They are categorized by topic in alphabetical order. NOTE: we cannot attest that they are all update, but as of October 2015 all are active. No evaluation or approval is implied by the listing; you must evaluate the merits of any site you check on the list. On just a few listings there will be some pros or cons. Some items on this list contain lists of their own—links to other sites just as this list. So there is a great deal of information to be gleaned here, some better than others. This is just a small sample of what’s available, but it’s a start. To update that old biblical quote—search the web and you shall find [some good stuff and some junk].
- Advertising/promo sites
- 90 sites to advertise your book
- 35+ Alternatives to BookBub
- BookBub (a paid service that doesn’t take all submissions; for free or discount books only)
- Book Promo Sites curated by Indies Unlimited
- Book Promotion Opportunities (free, may be time-specific; see site) by Chris McMullin
- Booklikes (based in Europe; authors can have a page once a book is published)
- An Interactive List of Book Promotion Sites & Free Submission Tool—table with lots of information and links to sites
- Snowflakes in a Blizzard—descriptive of what most books are; free promos of your book
- Email marketing
- Miscellaneous promotion techniques
- Press releases, etc.
All of the above and all of below—special multifaceted sites
- Indies Unlimited—writing tips, marketing, publishing and much more; good site
- Michelle Rene Goodhew—primarily a good cover designer but also has articles for authors
- Publishing and other forms of insanity—author Erica Verrillo’s site with frequent info on new agents, publishers accepting submissions without agents, writing contests and more (great)
- Preditors and Editors—was a preeminent source for checking on agents, publishers, editors, etc. The folks running it gave it up and a new crew is setting up. Once they’re up and running, we’ll check them out and either put in the new link or drop the listing.
- The Story Reading Ape Blog—guest posts on writing, marketing, design and much more including free author profiles and book promotions (a great site); follow/sign up
- Writer’s Digest—major source of information; not all free but check it out
Author blogs/sites of interest—most have many tips about self-publishing, writing, etc.
- Allen, Anne R. (with Ruth Harris)
- Best Author Blogs—link list from Writers Write
- Blake, Russell–can be a bit pessimistic/misanthropic but you may find helpful kernals here
- Colletta, Sue—crime fiction writer
- Cronin, Sally–has a very eclectic site which includes helping to promote other writers and offering tips on this and that
- Howey, Hugh—very successful self-publisher
- Kaye, D.G.—lots of tips from essayist/memoir writer Kaye.
- Rossis, Nicholas—fantasy/sci-fi writer
- Verrillo, Erica—great blog with tips on agents, contests, submissions without agents and more
Blogging/content writing and related topics
- Brain Pickings—Maria Popova’s site has few tips but is an example of great curation/writing
- Brevity—a flash fiction website (very high end) to which you might submit 750 word pieces
- 50 Free Resources To Become A Great Writer
- Power words to increase traffic
- Liz Strauss—Successful Blog—with over 50,000 followers, this is a very successful blog, although not quite so much as Brain Pickings
- Barcode Graphics—company will create barcodes for print books
- E-book formatting explained—simplifies the mystifying process
- How To Make a Free 3D Cover Image of Your Book (David Henderson has lots of tips on free and low cost techniques for book design, promotion, etc. while also offering paid services)
- Michelle Rene Goodhew—paid cover design and other assistance (see above)
- Vedic Design—paid cover design, etc.
- Updating your eBook after publication—YES, you can do that and may need/want to this tells you how
General self-publishing tips and resources
- Aaron Shepard’s Publishing Page—a little different; you may find it useful or not
- Getting your book translated for global reach
- Independent Publisher—has a monthly webzine, annual IPPY awards, reviews and more
- Midwest Book Review—major player
- Money, Writing and Life with Jane Friedman on the Creative Penn site
- POD database—free from author/designer Dehanna Bailee; may not be 100% up to date
- SELF-e—get your book into libraries; a BIG deal
Reviews of your book
- Author/Publisher Information (Get a Book Reviewed)—Midwest Book Review (see above)
- How to get reviews for your book—from Your Writer Platform, with links
- How to get Amazon’s top reviewers to review your book–from a writer
- Indie Book Reviewer—links to bloggers who review books, organized by genre
- Indie Author’s Guide to Paid Reviews, The—from Publishers Weekly (think long and hard before paying for a review)
- Indie Reviewers List, The—from the Indie View, with hyperlinks to reviewers in a table format
- Kirkus Reviews—expensive for and not up to par with the free reviews for traditional publishers; do a web search for authors’ bad experiences with them
- Prestigious Reviews and How to Get Them—don’t hold your breath or spend big bucks for a self-published book (especially an eBook) except possibly if you have your own company
- Reviews Readers will Pay Attention to and How to Get Them—from Sandy Appleyard
- Facebook—if you are already on it, you may find it useful; don’t join just to promote your book
- Goodreads—offers author pages, promotional opportunities, ability to blog or link to posts from elsewhere, networking, reviews, and more BUT must have a book out to get an author page. You should be on here and networking with prospective readers.
- Google Plus—Facebook competitor with blogging capability and brand sites
- How to benefit from the LinkedIn publishing platform—(long form posts)
- How To Use SlideShare To Market Your Book (SlideShare is now a part of LinkedIn)
- Long-form posts on LinkedIn—overview with more links (on LinkedIn itself)
- More–Yes there are more, more than listed below. If you like or use any of them already or think they will help you market your book, go for it. Just remember, while it is important to have a presence as an author, every minute you spend on social media is a minute you are NOT spending working on your book(s).
Other Writing Resources
- Absolute Write—great source for lots of things, too much to describe here just check it
- Beta Readers
- Copyright—the government agency for the United States; sorry, no links for other countries
- Creative Non-Fiction—magazine, website, books, tips (memoirs, etc.)
- Critters Workshop—info/links, critique exchange for sci-fi, fantasy and horror writers; more
- Library of Congress cataloguing for print books–not a great shot at getting your book on a shelf there, but you can go for it just in case
- Morris Rosenthal’s on self-publishing—one of the originals in self-publishing; site is technical and not so great for beginners but his information can be helpful
- National Writers Union—an actual union of all kinds of writers; offers lots of help and takes positions on issues concerning writers
- Specific writing tips—dialogue, motif, etc.
- Conflict, using it to make your book a page turner—an essential plot element
- Crime Writers Resource—links and tips compiled by author Sue Coletta
- Dialogue—how to write it; not new but these tips don’t age
- 52 tips for writing better—links to tips on other sites; still has good stuff
- Keeping readers hooked (turning the page)
- Motif—using the literary device of motif
- Turning a blog into a book—tips on how to do that
- WritersEdit—various resources for writers, book reviews and some opportunities
- Writer’s Guild of America, West—NOT for book authors; this is for content writers– screen, TV, web/mobile apps, etc.
- Writer’s Market—paid subscription service; for freelancers and others—where to sell your work
- WritersNet—a site that includes agents, editors, publishers and writers (or so they say) with resources on various topics
This is the final instalment in the series.