While this post focuses on self-publishing with Amazon, I’m going to briefly cover the three most common avenues to publishing.
Traditional publishing- For an unknown author this method requires the most effort and often yields the least results. Querying agents to represent you to traditional publishers is not only time consuming, but it can be demoralizing as well—prepare for rejection. I finally gave up on finding a better than thou publishing agent when I learned that the odds of an unpublished author landing one, is roughly 1 in 6,000. I was given that number by a professional in the publishing industry.
The Vanity Press- A vanity press is a publisher that, if you pay them, they will publish your book. We’ve all seen the TV commercials: ‘Have you written a book and want it published? Call us, we’ll publish your book and get it in bookstores everywhere.’ Once it’s published, they will also market your book, and you will receive zero royalties from the books they sell. Leaving the author with a slim market margin to sell and receive their own royalties. If you want to make any kind of money from publishing and selling your book, this is not the way to go.
Self-publishing- This option will likely leave you less frustrated, less demoralized, and more optimistic. It did for me. Self-publishing puts the author in complete control of their book, from formatting, to cover design, to marketing and making money from their work.
The outline below will lead you down the pathway to self-publishing your book. Take one step at a time, focus on the task at hand, and you can have your book published and available for purchase sooner than you might think. It's very possible to go from blank page to published book in less than 90 days.
- Write book
- Design cover
- Purchase ISBN
- Apply for copyright
- Upload on KDP
1. Write the Book. While this may seem like a no-brainer, it actually isn’t. In reality, if you want to have a successful book launch, one where you sell copies as soon as it goes into print, then marketing your book is the official first step. I’ve heard it said that if one plans on publishing a book, they should begin marketing three years, or more, in advance. This gives the author time to build a fan base and for people to become familiar with them and their work. When the book comes available, there will be a multitude of people anticipating its release, leading to immediate book sales. This post, however, is about getting your book published, and in order to do that, you must first write your book.
If you need help, or ideas for writing, do a search, there are countless articles on this topic. You may also consider something like the #WritersCommunity on twitter, it is a great place to find writing advice, encouragement, and support from other writers. And it’s free!
2. Proofread. Once your book is written, you’ll undoubtedly want to read through it for mistakes, but be not deceived. A once through will not suffice. It’s common to write something, and since we’ve written it, we think we know what it says, making it very easy to read over the same mistakes time and time again. I have read some of my books a dozen times after the initial draft, only to have someone else read them and find mistakes.
It's been said that you don’t have to write a good story in order to sell your book, your book just has to be well written. This means very few (if any) typographical and grammatical errors. Freckle a book with typos, misused words or forms of words, punctuation errors and other common writing mistakes, and we have a book that no one will likely ever finish reading.
Having a professional set of eyes to proofread your book before publication, is the best thing you can do for your writing. You spent all the time and effort writing the book, make sure it’s the best it can be, hire a professional proofreader, it’s money well spent—it’s an investment!
My last book was proofread by Mark Schultz at wordrefiner.com. I also plan on hiring him to proofread my future books. He provides a professional service, he has an eye for errors, and his rates are completely reasonable.
3. Cover Design. While your book is in the hands of a proofreader, you’ll want to get to work on the cover.
Note: if you plan on marketing your book before it’s published, or even written, mocking up a cover for a visual representation is one of the first things you should do. Even if it’s subject to change. You will need something for people to see and become familiar with.
By the time your manuscript is complete, you have undoubtedly thought about what you want the cover to look like. There are a couple options when it comes to cover design. You can hire someone to do it, or, you can design the cover yourself. The online tools available today, make the second option a realistic prospect, check out DIY Book Covers.
It’s also very easy to make a professional book cover using a graphic design program and a free book cover template from amazon. Don’t want to purchase an expensive program? Here’s a link to a great program that many Indie Authors use to design their covers, it’s FREE to download and use, get it here GIMP! It’s the perfect alternative to Adobe PhotoShop, and as I mentioned, it’s free. There are endless YouTube videos on how to create a cover using Gimp, everything from retrieving and uploading a cover template, to program functions, and putting it all together.
If you are looking for a professional cover designer, I recommend checking out Ellie Douglas. Her cover designs are outstanding, they’re high quality and they stand out. She has a knack for creating great covers.
However, if you’re like many Indie Authors, the thought of designing your own cover is an exciting prospect. The easiest way to do this is to sign up on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). You’ll first need an Amazon account to sign up and access the cover creator tools. I have not used their cover creator tools, I simply download a template (from KDP) and load it into my design program. In order to create a cover, you’ll need a page count of your book, which you now have since your manuscript is complete.
DIY Book Covers, or the KDP cover creator tools may be the way to go if you want to design your own cover, but have no experience with a graphic design program.
You will want high quality images for your cover, this will likely require using one of the image download services to ensure that you don’t infringe on the copyright of a picture. I personally buy my images from Shutterstock. I found them to have the best purchasing options for my needs.
If you have a good camera, taking your own pictures for your book cover is another option.
If you’re looking for a professional, custom-designed image, I recommend checking out Desha001 at fiverr.com. He is the best illustrator I have found, bar none. His illustrations are high def. between 300 and 600 dpi and his rates are totally reasonable.
4. Purchase an ISBN. Note: eBooks do not require an ISBN. If you plan on making your book available exclusively on Kindle, you do not need an ISBN.
Amazon will also assign your paperback a FREE ISBN if you wish. However, that ISBN is only good for Amazon. If you want to sell your book elsewhere, you will have to purchase an ISBN.
For this, you will need to open an account at Bowker.com, this is the place where you can purchase ISBN’s, bar codes, and start your copyright application. Bowker can also assist in book marketing. Sign up for their newsletter and you’ll receive all sorts of great information on self-publishing, launching a book, and successful marketing tips. Bowker is where a lot of the magic in self-publishing takes place.
Note: It’s not necessary to purchase a Bar Code from Bowker. Amazon will place one on the back cover of your book for free. When you order author copies of your book, the Bar Code will be there.
5. Copyright Application. While you’re on Bowker, it’s a good time to purchase a copyright package for your book. They charge $79 for the initial fee, the US Copyright Division charges another $55 for filing. This is the best deal I have found for a copyright service and here’s a hint, if you place the copyright into the shopping cart and sign out, Bowker will send you an email within a day, containing a coupon for $10 off your copyright. That’s a good time to sign back in and purchase it.
It takes a few steps, but broken down, it is relatively easy to submit your work for a copyright. It’s also a crucial part in publishing your book. You want the protection of a legal copyright.
6. Upload on KDP. You’re now ready to publish your book. If you already signed up on KDP to access Amazon’s cover creator tools, or download a cover template, all you have to do is sign into your Amazon bookshelf. If you haven’t yet done so, you’ll need to sign up on KDP at this time, it does require an Amazon account.
On your Amazon bookshelf, you’ll be able to upload your manuscript, book cover, write a description, set a price, monitor sales and more. They even provide you with marketing tools and a barrage of information, covering most anything you will want to know.
Closing. This post was written to help aspiring authors (who would like to self-publish on Amazon) place things in order and gain perspective. This has been a broad-brush overview of the steps to self-publishing. I will cover each of these steps more in depth as I go through them with my latest book.
Thank you for reading, and happy writing!