I’ve had some PM questions into how to self publish a novel (or at least how I do it), so I thought I’d make a post to explain and make reference to.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert. Please don’t blame me for an mishaps from the below info. This is just what I’ve had luck with, after a bunch of trial and error. You may find the below doesn’t really work for you.
Why I did it – I chose self publishing for the control, but also because I’m impatient and couldn’t wait for some agent and/or some publishing company to maybe decide to take my books on (then find out they might want to change things as a stipulation to taking on the works). I did send queries out, but I had had enough waiting by month three. Like I said, I’m impatient. So I looked into self publishing and haven’t looked back.
Self Publishing can get expensive or it can be pretty inexpensive depending on the route you take. On my Patreon page I explain that my first goal would be to reach $3000 a year. This is what I estimate it would take to publish one novel and one novella a year; if I were to delegate some of my tasks out to professionals and upgrade my website. However, at this time my costs are around $150 a year.
If you don’t have a lot of money to drop on your books, you can certainly keep it as inexpensive as possible.
Reasonable expectations – Unless you already have a huge fan base (say maybe a bunch of fans off Wattpad who have shown interest in purchasing your book), chances are that you are only going to be selling to friends and family for a while. Expect to make anywhere between $0.50 to $2.00 a sale (if you want to keep competitive prices for comparable books).
I read somewhere that they estimate it takes an average author multiple books and about ten years to make a livable wage of their books. So, don’t be discouraged if nothing happens immediately.
Not everything has to happen at once either. I started out just publishing my books only as eBooks (no expense except that of cooking supper for friends who helped edit). Alexa’s POV in Dezirah was the first book I published (about three years ago). I didn’t get paperback until about one year ago when I published Dezirah V1 with all three POVs inside. (With extra mistake expenses.)
- Write a novel – I mean this one is obvious. Can’t publish anything if you don’t have a novel written to publish.
- 1000 spell/grammar edits – Edit your novel. Have a friend or family edit, or two or three. Edit your novel again. *Pay someone who edits for a living to edit.
- More editing – This time it’s a formatting edit. Edit the book into the different versions and printability you need. (Different requirements for whoever you decide to go with and what you decide to do.)
- Read it over again – One last final read through and I bet you will still find at least one spelling/grammar/formatting error that needs fixing.
- Figure out who you are publishing with (if you haven’t already decided). I use Smashwords.com (ebooks – free) and Ingramspark.com (paperback and ebooks, Amazon, set fees).
- Get an ISBN for each version. I’m in Canada, so as long as I send over a paper version of my paperbacks to an archive, then I can get my ISBN’s for free. Different self publishing sites may offer ISBN’s with the publishing as a package or extra cost. Also you can buy directly from the distributers. Beware of fine print and who you are buying from. Some sites will place themselves as publisher on the ISBN, so you can’t take that ISBN with you if you go elsewhere.
- Cover – No joke, I’ve used a combination of Word and Paint to make some covers. So if you don’t have a fancy photo shop program, or are not an expert cover designer, there isn’t a need to rush out and get one. Or you can jot down what you want and have someone else create it (lots of the artists will throw in extra marketing promo for little extra cost at the same time). Just make sure that, no matter what route you take, dimensions are correct, and that all the formatting is correct. Each company will specify what they need and have different expectations.
- Create your blurbs (short, medium, and long summaries). Figure out what genre book you have. Figure out ten tags (keywords for search-ability).
- You should have all the things you need to input and send off for approvals by the companies you went with. If you’ve done everything correct Smashwords will put your ebook up immediately (or you could set a date in the future for presale), and within a few days you’ll know whether it was accepted into their distribution for other companies (Kobo, B&N, etc.). If you’ve done everything right with Ingramspark, then you’ll get access to a proof for you to approve, once approved they will start putting into distribution. They say to be prepared for it to take 4 to 6 weeks, but I’ve seen some of the companies they deal with start to have it in as little as two weeks.
- Start your marketing and promotions. Social media (as many channels as you can manage) can be a great way to get the word out for free. Put yourself out there.
Other basic info:
- Pay the extra amount for a paper copy proof if you aren’t confident that it will turn out. It can get expensive to resubmit once you have accepted the proof. Then again, if you’ve gotten to the proof and spot an error, I believe, you have to pay a resubmission fee anyway with Ingramspark. Sometimes the extra money involved is not worth it when you are trying to keep costs low.
- Print companies usually let you buy your book in bulk for cheaper (or at least cheaper shipping). Get a bulk order together from friends and family who live close to you so that everyone can save on shipping.
- Buy an extra copy or two with your bulk order. There is always that person who didn’t see your post, didn’t answer the text, or changed their mind. Or that distant aunt you didn’t think would be interested, lives too far away, or what have you, that happens to come to town and would love to have a signed copy from you to put in her china cabinet for sentimental reasons. It’s cheaper to stock an extra couple copies with the bulk order than to have to put in a separate order later. If not, you can always sell to someone on Kijiji or a buy and sell in your local area.
- Sign your books for friends and family. I got yelled at on my first round and had to return to sign books because this hadn’t even crossed my mind.
- Play with the pricing quote. I had an initial idea of the size of book (length and width) I wanted and ended up publishing with a larger size. Print companies vary their quotes but it has a large part to do with the number of pages. A smaller book with 800 pages will cost more than a larger book with 500 pages. Can mean the difference between having to price a book $40 versus $25, and pricing yourself out of people’s pocketbooks. All for the same $2 royalty in your pocket.
- Free. Ebooks, have no cost to you when you give them out for free. While, I don’t believe in free forever, I believe that free can be a useful tool for getting people to take a chance on a new author. Free can also be a great way to thank existing fans. (Ex. 100 free copies on launch date.) Smashwords.com has an easy price setting and coupon system. Wattpad is a great place to accumulate fans. You post your book for free and people read it there. It’s a site for authors and readers.
- Ingramspark will sometimes give a promo for free title set ups. If you can manage to time for these free set ups, you can save around $60 in fees. This certainly helps if you don’t have the money to spare.
- Have a website. People like to have a place to go to as an anchor. Learn about you and the books; where to buy them. It looks more professional. You can get a domain name for cheap at a place like namecheap.com. WordPress is cheap for hosting and mapping if you do free plus a small charge for mapping. Use a free theme. When you have money to spend then you can upgrade.
- There are hybrid companies you can pay to publish your book. Freelancers of all types who will get you to the publishing stage. Pay them if you are confident that you can do something yourself.