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On Self-Publishing: Where to Start

This post (or series) has been a long time coming. I’ve been talking for a while about the benefits of self-publishing, and I’ve spent the last several months bragging about my successes in the field. As a result, I’ve heard interest from a lot of you in doing it yourselves.

I’ve gone through the same thing at school, where I’ve been working with traditionally-published and aspiring new writers alike, and they’ve all been listening with interest to stories of my success. One professor told me she was interested in the new market and had been considering trying it out for a while, but didn’t really know where to start.

As I told her, there are several options available.

Let Smashwords Do It for You (Not Recommended)

The easiest way is to go with Smashwords, send them a Word doc, and let them do all the book packaging and redistribution for you. They take a cut off the top (it comes to about 10% of list price), but the bigger cost is that they do all the conversion and formatting and you lose control.

I don’t recommend Smashwords. They make production and distribution simple, but their product is mediocre and their web page (including the sales reporting and project management) is miserable.

I’m speaking from experience. I used Smashwords for a few books just to get into iBooks, and I don’t even do that anymore.

I can certainly see the appeal of a one-stop shop that does formatting and redistribution, though! I’m working closely with a new startup, Draft2Digital, to provide a superior solution.They’ve already taken over full production of my books and those of my publishing company.

If everything goes according to plan, they’ll be opening their service to the general public sometime this summer. I’ll certainly keep you posted.

Upload Your Own e-Books

In the meantime, you best move is to upload your own books. Virtually all my sales come through Amazon Kindle, but I’ve heard stories of other self-pub authors who, for no apparent reason, sell thousands of books a month on the B&N Nook and see barely anything on the Kindle. The world’s weird.

But as it happens, we end up making our books into epub files (what Nook uses) as a step along the way to turning them into mobi files (what Kindle uses). So since we already have it, it just makes sense to do the extra little bit of work and upload the epub to Barnes and Noble.

If you’re doing it that way, these are your direct distributors:

At KDP and PubIt!, registering an account is about as complicated as setting up a new webmail account or signing up at Pinterest. Then there’s a one-page form to fill out when you’re ready to publish a book.

When it comes to iTunes, Apple makes you jump through some awfully arcane hoops to publish with them, and I haven’t ever sold enough copies on iBooks (even when Smashwords made them available there), so I haven’t bothered. I did finally register an account, but then they made it even more work to publish through them, so it’s currently sitting empty.

Ultimately, I’m just waiting for Draft2Digital to support it for me. In the meantime, all my fans with iPads can read my books on the Kindle app.

Print-on-Demand Paperbacks

While we’re talking self-publishing, I should probably go ahead and throw in the link for CreateSpace. The most common POD publishers are LightningSource and CreateSpace. Of the two, CreateSpace is the easiest. That probably means LightningSource is better, but so far I haven’t had the energy to find out.

One thing I’ve found impressive about CreateSpace is how cheap it is for them to make a copy. If you just wanted a reading copy of a rough draft manuscript, you could do some quick layout, print it to a PDF, upload it, slap a quick and ugly cover on it, and order a proof copy for about $6-$10, depending how quickly you want it shipped.

Compare that to trying to print a 400-page document at Kinko’s! And you end up with a bound paperback.

Of course, I also use them to make my paperbacks available. Again, compared to my Kindle sales I don’t sell enough paperbacks to really matter, but they’re available on Amazon and CreateSpace does list through Ingram and whoever the other major wholesaler is, so if someone at B&N wanted to stock your book, they could easily do so.

Anyway, here’s where you’d go to get started: Amazon CreateSpace.

Next: How to Start

While this advice was languishing in my email somewhere, I got another request from my sister. She wanted to know how to get started in self-publishing.

That information is coming next. It’s going to have to be a pretty brief overview, of course (followed with a longer series later, maybe), but I’ll tell you what to do with your book (and your career) once you’ve got accounts set up at some of the sites I linked above.

2 Responses to “On Self-Publishing: Where to Start”

  1. Heather says:

    Wonderful information! Thank you for filling us in on this overwhelming process. I look forward to hearing what you have to say on the “how” of self-publishing.

  2. Dave Doolin says:

    Something I’ve done in the past is purchased (or had Copy Central crop) paper exactly sized to the volume, then send it through my printer set for, say, B5 paper. Works well.

    It’s also possible to send the draft through the laser printer with the crop marks, but that just doesn’t have the same sort of feel to it.

    Getting a bound proof, even if perfect bound, is pretty cool.