The Dummies Guide To Self Publishing
Updated: May 11
FIRST THINGS FIRST - why have I put together a guide?? Well, there's a hundred million videos on YouTube covering various aspects of the Self Publishing (SP) process - which is wonderful and extremely helpful to newbies/numptys like me - but I thought it would be great if I could collate all the major points and just drop them in one long page!!!
So, hopefully down below you will discover some key bits of information that can act as a blueprint for your SP mission - and help steer you towards success. I've listened to nearly all those millions of YouTube videos while I wash the dishes and change nappies - I've done all that for you!! And this is what I've learnt :D
HEY, WHAT ABOUT TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING?? - AREN'T SELF-PUBLISHERS WEIRDOS?!
Well, yes some self-publishers are genuine weirdos. However the days of scoffing at SP is well and truly over. SERIOUSLY. I imagine a lot of traditional publishers and agents are quaking in their boots, because SP has come on leaps and bounds. More and more big name authors are turning to SP to churn out their next masterpiece - because the process has been simplified, you have total control, and you keep a major chunk of the royalties.
If you're quite a 'lazy' author and words like 'marketing' make you queasy then yes, traditional is probably the way to go. On the other hand, if you are up for a bit of a challenge and willing to put in the time - SP can be successful and extremely rewarding/satisfying. And don't be frightened - before I began dabbling with SP, I had zero knowledge of SP!! - If a dopey stand-up comedian with less IT skills than his 87 year old grandma can publish a novel, then SO CAN YOU :D
WHERE CAN I PUBLISH??
AMAZON. Lets get that out the way!! These are still the big boys, the behemoths of SP. And having no prior knowledge of the SP world, I was so impressed with the system that Amazon has created.
-It's FREE. You pay no upfront fees to publish a novel through Amazon
-You can publish E-Books and Paperbacks
-There's potential to receive %70 royalties
-For a very reasonable price you can advertise your book on their site
-They are also linked to Audible - if you choose to add an audio book
-They provide an option to share your book with their other distribution partners
-You can even sell merchandise (funky tee shirts?!) through your author page
-They are linked with Audible which makes it easier to sell your audio books
It's a very easy process - and they even provide templates and cover design tools to help you. The IMPORTANT thing to remember is the 'keywords' and 'categories ' - because these are essential to your book reaching the front page, and making you a 'best seller'.
Search 'Google' and 'Amazon' carefully (or buy Publisher Rocket) - look at the popular phrases and words that pop up for your genre. But you don't necessarily want a stack of keywords that are too popular, because then the competition is too high!! For example - a crime novel - it might be more beneficial to choose less commonly used terms such as - 'hard-boiled fiction' or 'police procedural fiction'. Use the space available in that keyword box though, and fill it with plenty of options - as Amazon uses every combination of the words you input, when deciding where your book goes.
Also, in terms of categories. The default is 2 -BUT, if you use the 'contact' form within 'Help' - you can request up to 8 more!!! Woop woop!!
IngramSpark - this is my next suggestion. These guys are great because they also produce hardcover copies, aswell as e-books and paperback. They also distribute to tonnes of online stores across the globe, aswell as connecting with shops e.g Waterstones. If you want any hope of seeing your book on the high street - this is a potential avenue. You have to pay $49 if you want to publish an e-book and paperback through them, but I don't think that's too bad.
- You can also publish through IS and Amazon at the same time, though if you sign up for KDP Select - then I don't think you can publish e-books anywhere else. IS also distributes to Amazon, so you can end up with duplicate versions of your book!!
Google - Another great option!! These guys are growing rapidly and now offer a much better royalty rate than they used to!! So definitely worth checking out. Why would you not want to publish through a giant like Google?! Your book's presence on their search engine is bound to increase for a start. And again, you can publish through these guys - aswell as Amazon and IS.
PublishDrive - These guys no longer pinch all your royalties, they distribute all over the place - and most importantly, they distribute to China!! Maybe worth checking out
WHAT IS AN - ISBN?? - surely means 'Intelligent Super Book Nerd', right?!
Amazon offer you a free one for your paperbacks, as do Ingram Spark - but I suggest purchasing your own so that you have all the rights to your work. You can get a bundle of 10 for about £160, or thereabouts.
You need a different ISBN for each product - so one for your ebook, one for your paperback etc. Amazon ebooks don't need an ISBN though, as they have their own system.
HOW DO I DESIGN A COVER?! - I'M NOT BANKSY!!
One of my biggest worries was the cover, and rightly so. I think it's imperative you get this right. People are swiping through Amazon - they won't click on your title if it looks like the cover was designed by a chimp. You need a classy looking cover that catches the eye - simple.
You can do it yourself. There's plenty of software like Photoshop or Canva, where with the aid of a few YouTube videos - you could pull off something acceptable. Amazon has it's own 'Cover Creator' tool which is fine.
But I would suggest you part with some cash. If you are going to spend money, and you should if you really care about your book, then do so on your cover and an editor!!
I used Reedsy.Com - which I can't rate highly enough. They provide a list of carefully selected professionals - be it editors, illustrators, designers etc. So you are guaranteed a top notch pro.
My cover designer cost around £600 but he was worth every penny. He sent me six potential covers, all of which were great - and he did so promptly. He also formats everything ready for ebooks and paperbacks etc.
-I also recommend Reedsy Editor - which is a brilliant, easy to use, tool for formatting your ebooks and paperbacks. And Reedsy Discovery - where you pay £50 to have your work reviewed by their panel, and mentioned in their newsletter.
DO I REALLY NEED AN EDITOR?! - HOW HARD CAN IT BE TO EDIT A FEW SPELLING MISTAKES?!
Pay for an editor!!
Again - I found an editor through Reedsy, with years of experience in the publishing business. It cost me around £1200 - but again, I think that was a fair price. Your mum and your best mate are going to gush over your work no matter what - they are not going to look at your work with an experienced eye, and a knack for spotting problems.
A top editor can provide lifesaving feedback on things that none of your buddies will notice. I shudder thinking of my manuscript before it passed through the hands of my editor. She pointed out issues that I would never have stumbled upon alone - because she knows the business, and she spend her life hunting through books for errors. None of us want to hear that we need to remove a character, or chop out a chapter - it's a bitter pill to swallow - but truth is, you need to be ruthless.
You don't have to spend as much as me either. Check out Facebook forums for writers and you will easily find editors keen to help. Just do your homework before signing them up - check out their website, and look at their previous clients. Don't get stuck with a nutter!!
HOW DO I FORMAT THIS THING?! - CAN I DO IT ON WORD?! HELP!? ARGHHH
I dread to think how many videos I watched and articles I read, trying to work out how to format my manuscript. It's quite a daunting task if you've never done it before and can be really fiddly.
And yes, you can do it on Word if you like. But I wouldn't.
I promise I don't work for Reedsy -but yes - try Reedsy!! Seek out their editor tool !!
It's such a pain free way of formatting your novel. And then you can export it, ready for uploading on Amazon etc. And all for FREE :D
Amazon has templates if you prefer, and they are fine, but Reedsy was simple.
I think for Kindle - you have to use the KDP Formatting tool -but actually that's pretty cool too.
Ok, technically you don't need to officially get copyright for your book.
All you need to do is drop the little circle copyright symbol on one of your first pages, and say 'All Rights Reserved JTBIRD 2020' and your fine. As soon as you publish your writing, your fine - and it's yours. And Amazon etc help provide the schpeel that you print on the page, so don't worry.
However, if you want to be extra safe you can apply for copyright in your country. It doesn't cost more than about £30 - and just provides a bit more safety if somebody sued you, or you think someone pinched your book etc
But, again, the little symbol and schpeel in your book should be sufficient and prove you came up with the story first.
HOW DO I GET REVIEWS?! - GRANDMA HATED IT AND MUM SAID 'IM HARDLY GRISHAM!'
As early as you can - jump on Twitter!! Build up some followers!! ASAP
It's a great way to meet fellow writers, share your work, and get advice - it's a brilliant community for writers. I was surprised how friendly it was compared to Facebook and Insta etc - which I think are less helpful for a writer. Stick with Tweets!! Just make sure you engage, re-tweet, share and say hello :D
Facebook is a great way to get reviews from friends and family. Just make sure your email is different when you sign up to Amazon - because otherwise your friends reviews might get chopped. Amazon is clever!!
Goodreads - this is brilliant. Sign up ASAP. You have to pay £145 but for that - your book is put up for a 'Giveaway'. People sign up for a free copy of your book, 100 then win a copy - and afterwards they are prompted for a review. It's a great way to get initial reviews!! And you can post those reviews within your description on Amazon :D
Bloggers!! Websites!! Reviewers! Journalists!! - Pester them all!! - Ping a polite email asking them to review your book. Maybe offer them a free copy. No harm in asking, and it's worth it if they respond.
PR - this is more of a gamble. But if you have money to burn, then why not?! Certain companies can help launch your book through contacting newspapers etc on your behalf. I think it's a good option - as saves me spending hours sending out emails to the media!!
WILL I MAKE MONEY?! - I WANT A FERRARI AND A SWIMMING POOL FULL OF GOLD
Have you written a great book?? Start with writing a great book!!
You need to ask yourself - will people search for my book? There's no point releasing something that nobody wants to read. Will readers use the keywords you've picked?
Have you written a juicy description, packed with keywords? Is the title catchy? And maybe the subtitle too?
Are you getting reviews? Are you posting reviews - within the description if needs be?!
Is your cover striking and hard to ignore?!
Is the price reasonable?? But not so cheap that you make no profit?!
Are you reaching enough stores?? - try IngramSpark, Google, expand your distribution!
There's a lot of people out there writing books, all fighting for the readers cash. It's not easy to make a fortune. But it's possible. Just take my advice on board - and unleash a top quality product - and you've got a fighting chance!!
Best of luck - and let me know how you get on!
And, let me know if I should cover anything else in this blog?! I'm happy to update it!!