I’ve self-published three books this year and plan to do two more. It’s been so much fun learning this new skill. Since so many folks have asked me what I’ve learned, I’m going to do a series of self-publishing posts.
Here’s my quick and dirty checklist for self-publishing. I’ll go deeper into detail on some of these points in future posts.
This quick and dirty checklist served as my roadmap as I embarked on this new and slightly scary journey. If you’re thinking about self-publishing, I hope it can give you a framework with which to develop your own plan.
Step 1 Get Organized
How do you keep track of large quantities of information? For me, it’s a Microsoft program called OneNote. It came standard with my Office software, and I use it like my personal journal, notebook, and planning tool. I make notes in OneNote on everything from childcare tips to marketing to newsletter planning to learning something new, like self-publishing.
For you, it might be a different computer program, a series of on-line documents, a physical notebook, or a bulletin board. Whatever system you use, open a “file” called Self-Publishing, and prepare to add lots of “tabs” or “pages” or “sticky notes” or whatever.
I also suggest making a folder in your on-line bookmarks titled Self-Publishing. My folder contains bookmarks to all the SP sites I visit frequently, including retailers, cover art sites, Bowker Identification service, US Copyright office, SP support groups, helpful blogs, and a lot more. All the links to these places are below for your convenience, and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of your own useful sites too.
Step 2 Decide on Your Budget
Regardless of whether you have $1,000, $100, or $0 to spend on your self-publishing project, there are ways to make it happen.
Think about whether your project has mass appeal. Do you expect to sell 10 copies, 100, 1000 or more? What kind of return on investment are you hoping for? Is it realistic or a pipe dream? Can you put up some money now and plan to earn it back, or is this a total vanity project?
Remember, going the traditional agent/publisher route takes longer than self-publishing, but it’s free. You won’t have to spend a dime, so you have nothing to lose. Except time and possible income, if you think you’ve got something you can sell immediately.
I don’t have much experience with self-publishing on a shoestring budget. I am fortunate in that I have a dear friend who believed in my work who gave me a loan. For me, it took about $1000 to get things rolling, and I’ve already made that back. I expect to be able to pay off the loan within a few months now that I’m beginning to see return on investment. I’m also rolling some of my new self-publishing income into things like advertising, publishing more books, and building my author brand. More on these things in future posts.
Where I can speak into free or cheap tips for self-publishing, I will, but move forward understanding that my goal was never to save money on the process. Rather, my stance was: “You’ve got to spend money to make money.” Spending lots of money is not the only way to do this whole SP thing. You can do it for cheaper than I did.
Deciding on your budget ahead of time will help you decide on things like whether you want to:
- Purchase ISBN numbers or use free ones. You’ll need a separate identifier for each format of each book. In other words, if you plan to publish 1 book in ebook, print, and audio, that’s 3 ISBNs. If you might do a box set, that’s another ISBN. (I purchased 100 ISBNs from Bowker Identifier Services for $575)
- Pay for cover art or design your own (I paid $135 for a professional cover, The Killion Group)
- Pay for editing or barter for it by trading some skill you have (i.e. proof-reading, blog design, promo opportunities). (I paid for professional editing. Besides ISBNs and cover, this will be your other major expense. Expect to pay between $300 and $700 for a good editor)
- Pay for a service to format the interior of your book or do it yourself (I am pretty computer literate, so I did this myself)
- Pay for an author website or make a free one on Blogger or WordPress (I have a free WordPress blog; I paid $25 for a domain name through GoDaddy and I pay $72 per year for a simple website through Website Builder)
- Purchase high-profile ads or only consider free marketing/promo opportunities
- One thing you really should spend money on is copyrighting your work. A copyright runs about $35 (US Copyright Office)
Step 3 Decide Where to Publish
As you can see in my OneNote screenshot above, I chose to publish with the following on-line retailers:
- Amazon (KDP) (You get 70% royalties)
- B&N (Nook Press) (You get 65%)
- Draft2Digital (iTunes & Kobo) (I didn’t want to deal directly with Mac, since I’m a PC gal) (D2D gets a cut after the retailers take their 35%)
- All Romance Ebooks
- Google Play
- Createspcae (for print)
Step 4 Plan Your Publishing Timeline
How long does it take to self-publish? How long until I see my book in e-stores? How long until I see my book in print?
That depends. Do you have a finished project all edited and ready to upload to retailers? Do you have beautiful cover art that will draw people to your book? Do you have a blurb that makes people go, “WOW! I have to read that right now!”?
If so, you could see your book in e-stores in as little as a day. If not, well, cover art and editing take time. The amount of time will depend on how you go about these steps.
Generally, once your content is final and you have your cover art, e-Publishing can happen in a day (KDP) to a week (iTunes through D2D).
How long until I get paid?
If your e-book sells in January, you will generally receive royalties in April or May (60 days or more after the close of the sale month.
Please, please, please, put at least 20% if not 30% aside to pay the tax man. YOU and only you are responsible for paying taxes on this income. Don’t be caught off guard when next April comes around.
Step 5 Convert Your Work
Different retailers prefer different files to upload. My advice is to have a conversion program on hand in case you need to convert your files for upload. You don’t need a conversion program to convert from .docx to .pdf, but you do need a conversion program to create a .mobi or a .lit or a .epub file.
I use the free conversion software: Calibre.
You will be fine with standard computer software for uploading to the big retailers. Smaller retailers, like All Romance prefer for you to have converted files to upload.
Step 6 Upload Your Book
Each retailer has its quirks. In the past few months, I’ve leaned that KDP likes documents to be set up pretty much the way I write my books in MS Word. Nook Press, on the other hand, likes you to use section breaks instead of page breaks. After you upload your manuscript, you have to use their manuscript editor to tweak your table of contents or it reads like a folder on your computer, exposing your file name and letting your readers look up your digital skirt. *blushes*
Google Play is just plain confusing. Draft2Digital won’t let you paste your blurb into their system. You have to type it. I’m not kidding. It’s really lame. But everything else about D2D is super easy and streamlined. You don’t have to have your manuscript formatted any certain way. Their converter is set up to accept pretty much any kind of chapter organization and page/section break system, as long as you are consistent.
The point is, you’ve got to do things differently for each retailer. If you plan on publishing more than one book, take notes (remember Step 1, organization). You’ll be glad you did when it’s time to publish book 2.
That’s probably enough info for a general checklist. Look for future blog posts on:
- Places to Go for SP Help
- Formatting for KDP vs Nook Press
- Converting Documents
- Formatting for Print
- Keeping Track of Sales & Royalties
- Promoting Your Books
- Using Social Media to Build Your Author Brand
I’ll take requests, too. If there’s a topic you’d like to pick my brain over, let me know in the comments.
If you’re tackling self-publishing, where are you in the process? Are there any tips or tricks you’ve learned that you can share here?
Leave a comment below, and let’s keep the conversation going!