Questions About Book Publishing: How to Self Publish a Book?
I am writing this blog post in response to several emails that I get each week. These emails usually start like: How do I get published? How to self-publish a book? How to publish my poetry book?
In this blog post, I am going to attempt to make book-publishing simple for all of you aspiring writers.
The Naked Soul Partners
How to Self Publish a Book
Many of you might have heard of “less is more” adage before. Therefore, for the sake of clarity, we are also going to leave many of the tangential topics. I will cover them separately in other blog posts based on your comments.
Questions About Book Publishing
Create a Publishing House
Hire Best Editors
Hire the Best Designers
Rest of the things
Be Confident. You Can Do It.
If you are seeking external validation and confirmation of your ability to publish, I am here to tell you, yes, you can do it. If you are reading this blog, you have it in you. Eventually, you will make it.
Also, your feelings and fears are totally human. Even self-confident people have self-doubts. We all need some motivations at times and especially whenever we enter into unfamiliar, new territory.
How and Where to Publish
Now we are going to cover all the necessary steps and expense associated with each individual step in the book production process.
But, first thing first, you have to decide which route you want to go. You’ve finished your novel, a poetry book, or work of non-fiction now you need to find someone who will publish it. Or perhaps you want to publish it yourself.
You can go the traditional way and you’ll have three options in front of you. Or, you can self-publish. In total, you got four choices.
You Have A Choice
You have two routes and four choices in front of you.
Route 1. Traditional Route
There are three categories of the publisher under the traditional model:
Route 1, Option A: Non-Paid Large Publishers: The term non-paid large publishers refers to those publication houses which do not charge author at all to publish the book. They pay you an advance (usually, a little sum these days).
They are your big name New York publishers such as:
- Random House
- Simon & Schuster
Word of caution: Many book publishing companies around the world maintain a strict “no unsolicited submissions” policy and will only accept submissions via a literary agent.
This shifts the burden of assessing and developing writers out of the publishing company and onto the literary agents. At these companies, unsolicited manuscripts are often thrown out or sometimes returned if the author has provided prepaid postage.
Young authors, please also note that if you’re under 18, publishers tend not to bother with all the legal hassle. Since you are not of age to sign the contract and need parental consent, this brings further problems, and publishers tend to avoid young authors for that reason.
Established authors are often represented by a literary agent to market their work to publishers and negotiate contracts. Literary agents take a percentage of author earnings (varying between 10% to 15%) to pay for their services.
Once you have decided on a few publishers (the more the better), start researching about them. Some choose to publish for adults only selected genres, but all information should be available on their websites. Some have different guidelines and word limits, or whether it needs to be solicited or not.
Some also require a summary. However, almost all publishers require a hard copy (printed) version of your story. Usually, they don’t tend to return them so keep your original with you. Also, keep in mind their specifications.
Route 1, Option B: Non-Paid Tiny Publishers: The term non-paid tiny publishers refer to those hundreds of small publication houses which do not charge author at all to publish the book but they also do not pay you anything because they can’t.
They are too small and they are usually publishing books in a niche. Some examples of these publishers are: Lectio Publishing (a Christian publisher), Little Red Tree Publishing (poetry and fiction), etc.
Route 1, Option C: Paid Publishers or Vanity Publishing: The author has to meet with the total expense to get the book published and the author has full right to set up marketing policies. This is also known as vanity publishing. This is the worst of all in this route. You not only pay to publish your own books but you also share the rights of your work.
Plus, like option B above, they are usually tiny and they are business model to make money from authors and not the book buyers.
A Word of caution
Some big publishers such as Penguin also operates Vanity presses. The Penguin sponsored Vanity Press is no better than a true Vanity Press. Also, notice the use (or misuse) of the word “vanity”. Ironic, isn’t it?
Route 2. Self-Publishing (Modern day, DIY)
If you want to self-publish (which I think you should) then you’ll have many options to choose from.
The big ones are, CreateSpace (now KDP and owned by Amazon) and Lulu.
Many popular authors have self-published their books from Lulu. I self-published under Naked Soul Press using CreateSpace as my print-on-demand printer.
Route 2, Option D. Self-Publishing
Self-publishing is the publication of any book or other media by the author of the work, without the involvement of an established third-party publisher.
A self-published physical book is said to be privately printed. The author is responsible for and in control of the entire process, including, in the case of a book, the design of the cover and interior, formats, price, distribution, marketing, and public relations.
The authors can do it all themselves or outsource all or part of the process to companies that offer these services.
Some writers follow a non-standard route to publication. For example, this may include bloggers who have attracted large readerships producing a book based on their website’s content.
Self-publishing is not limited to physical books. You can self-publish your book only as an ebook. There are a variety of eBook formats and tools that can be used to create them. The most popular formats are epub, .mobi, PDF, HTML, and Amazon’s .azw format.
Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords all offer online tools for creating and converting files from other formats to formats that can be sold on their websites.
Because it is possible to create eBooks with no up-front or per-book costs, eBook publishing is an extremely popular option for self-publishers. Some recent bestsellers, such as Hugh Howey’s Wool series, began as digital-only books.
What will you write? / The Naked Soul Partners
Did you know?
Eleven-year-old John Ruskin sold a book of poetry he self-published with his father. Other authors who self-published include Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Martin Luther, Marcel Proust, Derek Walcott, and Walt Whitman.
Many contemporary authors have also self-published. James Altucher’s Choose Yourself (2013) sold 44,294 copies in its first month, debuted at #1 on Amazon’s top non-fiction list, and is a Wall Street Journal bestseller.
J. K. Rowling sold the e-book versions of the Harry Potter series directly from her website, Pottermore.
James Redfield originally self-published The Celestine Prophecy, selling 100,000 copies out of the trunk of his Honda before Warner Books agreed to publish it.
As of May 2005, the book had sold over 20 million copies worldwide, with translations into 34 languages. Celestine Films LLC released a film adaptation titled The Celestine Prophecy (Film) in 2006.
E. L. James first self published her Fifty Shades of Grey novels as an eBook and print-on-demand. Later when the book got viral, theÂ publishing rights were acquired by Vintage Books in March 2012.
Research different publishers. You may choose to self publish, but getting published by a big-time publisher is better for getting a larger audience. Most publishers only choose to publish or even read solicited material (that is, manuscripts have gone through an agent.)
Agents usually also choose to read only material that they are acquainted with or the authors they know. Prices range. However, there are quite a few publishers that do publish unsolicited material, such as Penguin or Allen & Unwin.
But, with the recent changes in the publishing landscape, it is easy to predict that the future of publishing is self-publishing. Most of the large bookstore chains are out of the business or operating on loss. A few remaining ones might not be around in the next 5 years.
Furthermore, note that eBook sales are almost 30% of the total book sales. There is enough evidence to support that people’s buying choices are not related to whether a book is self-published or published by New York publishers.
Lastly, at the end of the day, do what is in your control. If you want to pitch your book to an agent and your book is accepted, cool, if that’s what you want. If not, you can always self-publish.
The Path of Self-Publishing
Assuming, you are going to take the path of self-publishing. Let’s start with the types of self-publishing.
Unless a book is to be sold directly from the author to the public, an ISBN number is required to uniquely identify the title. ISBN is a global standard used for all titles worldwide. Most self-publishing companies either provide their own ISBN to a title or can provide direction.
As a self-published author, I recommend retaining ownership of ISBN ($99 to $125) and copyright instead of using a number owned by a vanity press or POD company such as Lulu or CreateSpace.
Print On Demand
Print-On-Demand (POD) publishing refers to the ability to print high-quality books as needed. For self-published books, this is often a more economical option than conducting a print run of hundreds or thousands of books.
Many companies, such as CreateSpace (owned by Amazon.com), Lulu and Lightning Source allow printing single books at per-book costs not much higher than those paid by publishing companies for large print runs.
Most POD companies also offer distribution through Amazon.com and other online and brick-and-mortar retailers, most often as “special order” or “web-only” as retail outlets are usually unwilling to stock physical books that cannot be returned if they do not sell.
As a general rule of thumb, if you self-publish with Lulu or CS, there is close to 0% chance that your book will be kept in a B&N store. (Do not worry, you will be on their online store)
KDP vs Lulu vs Lightning Source
These are bog three of Self-publishing. They are similar businesses. CreateSpace cream paper is yellowish. So white paper is the only option.
With Lightning Source (even though it’s more work) it has the best options. Lulu is the easiest or as easy to work with as much as CS but they charge a little more than CS for per unit cost per book.
Just so as you know, CreateSpace gets their book printed from the lightning source.
One example could be a book for $3.80 with Lulu can be $2.15 with Lightning Source. Whereas with CreateSpace your unit can be $2.91. For the most part, the quality is the same between the three.
Besides these three there are a ton of other POD companies out there which you can find out by google search.
Read a very detailed article on CS vs Lulu vs LSI here.
Publishing includes the stages of the development, acquisition, copy editing, graphic design, printing (and its electronic version), and marketing & distribution.
As editing of manuscript progresses, front cover design and initial layout take place and marketing of the book begins. This is the time you get on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, et al. if you are not already there.
For me personally, this was the time I started an Indiegogo campaign, roughly 8 months before my came out. I also started a Facebook page and Instagram page. I leveraged my existing Twitter, Tumblr and Youtube account. I created this blog.
The author works with editors (one or several) and is often asked to improve the quality of the work through rewriting or smaller changes.
The editors often edit the work in two rounds. In round one, they correct the grammar and punctuations. In the second round, they look for the overall flow of the text and coherence. I highly recommend doing two rounds of editing with any editor.
From my experience, editors often choose or refine titles and headlines. The real benefit comes when you take their suggestion seriously and consider improving your manuscript. You do not have to accept all of their changes or suggestions but most of the time they are pointing to a hole in your work.
Editing also involves structural changes and requests for more information. Sometimes you may want to hire an editor to do fact checking for you, particularly for non-fiction work.
After the editing is done, you submit your final manuscript for design. You need to have the book’s interior designed and book cover designed.
Design phase consists of laying out how the page looks, how chapters begin and end, colors, typography, cover design and ancillary materials such as posters, catalog images, and other sales materials.
Since my book also had a lot of illustrations, the design phase was more expensive and longer.
Non-fiction illustrated titles are the most design intensive books, requiring extensive use of images and illustrations, captions, typography and a deep involvement and consideration of the reader experience.
For eBook conversion, the final files are saved as formats appropriate to the target operating systems of the hardware used for reading. These may include PDF files, mobi files, or similar file types. I had CreateSpace do this for me for $79.
The first step involves the production of a pre-press proof, which the printers send for final checking and sign-off by the publisher. In the case of self-publishing, this is you.
The author’s proof (or the final proof) shows the book precisely as it will appear once printed and represents the final opportunity for the publisher to find and correct any errors. Some printing companies use electronic proofs rather than printed proofs. Once you have approved the proofs, printing begins.
Book printing process (The Naked Soul Partners)
Printing and Binding Stage
After the end of editing and design work the printing phase begins. Binding follows upon the printing process. It involves folding the printed sheets, securing them together, affixing boards or sides thereto, and covering the whole with leather or soft or hardcover.
In the case of printing-on-demand, the book is not printed until you receive an order for the book from a customer. This procedure ensures low costs for storage and reduces the likelihood of printing more books than will be sold.
Whenever someone orders your book, your book is printed and shipped.
Sales and Marketing Stage
The sales and marketing stage actually starts from the pre-production stage itself. But you need your book cover to really create a buzz.
As front cover images are produced or chapters are edited, you may want to start talking about your book with your ideal readers to build early interest.
I personally tested my poems from Naked Soul: The Erotic Love Poems on Instagram and Facebook. My original manuscript had almost 150 poems and depending on the feedback from my readers, I would often discuss with my editors.
I removed a lot of poems and finally got down to 97 poems. During this process, I added 12 new poems which were not part of my early editing but were part of the final line editing. The final book came out with 1o9 poems in total.
It is crucial to capture this early interest and also it will help you if you measure your engagement. I also used my reader’s feedback to design my book cover.
The sales and marketing is totally on you. You have got Google ads, Social media, your Blog and Goodreads. You work is to create a buzz around your book and get some early reviews.
For step by step information on how to do this, read my blogs here:
- How I Am Growing My Author’s Platform: How To Find Your 1000 True Fans and Your Tribe
- How I Am Marketing My Self Published Book | Book Marketing & Promotion Plan for Poetry and Fiction
The final stage in publication and during Sales and Marketing involves making the product available to the public. The goal is to make your book available to as many places as much possible.
Once a book is printed (or available as POD), you may use a variety of channels to distribute it. You may want to do the following here:
1. Have your book available on Amazon and Kindle store. If you are a first-time author, consider enrolling in Kindle Select.
2. Order some Author’s copy and send to anyone (mainly book bloggers) who would be interested in reviewing your book on Amazon and Goodreads.
3. Try to talk to foreign distributors if you have readers in Australia, New Zealand, and Asian countries. Amazon distributes to USA, Canada, UK andÂ European markets.
4. Talk to local booksellers in your area and offer them the book a commission basis. Offer them 100% return guaranteeÂ if the books are not sold.
Resources for Authors
- Write. Publish. Repeat.: The No-Luck-Required, Guide to Self-Publishing Success (paperback) (However, I would suggest, a better investment would be to get the eBook from Kindle. Click Here for the Kindle version.)
- Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should (paperback) (Again, get the second updated edition of the book as an eBook from Kindle and learn just as much. Click Here.)
Questions & Answers
Photo by The Naked Soul Partners
But most likely, it will be hard for new writers starting out to get the attention of a publisher — small, medium or large — but there are small presses around who will working with emerging writers, as well as literary agents who can spot the diamond in the slush pile and will represent them to larger publishers.
If you have a strong platform (eg. a frequently updated blog with a decent following and active on social networks) publishers will be more likely to take a chance because the author is already familiar with some of the work they will be required to do to promote their book.
6. After self-publishing with CreateSpace for my personal copies, can I edit my book and publishing and sell-through to another publisher or POD?
Yes, you can (with $99 ISBN). Many authors do the proof copy with CreateSpace and later print and distribute through LSI.
7. Can I just order the proof copies without publishing my books at all?
Yes, you can. You can decide not to publish for the public.
8. I am considering publishing someone else’s book under my imprint (with their permission). Is this allowed at Create Space, Lulu, LSI?
Yes. There are several such publishers using CreateSpace and LSI in this way. CreateSpace is set up to accommodate small to medium publishers as well as single authors. However, a few things to keep in mind.
If you have your own ISBN ($99) and registered imprint name (eg. Naked Soul Press), CreateSpace will not question your right to publish another person’s work, as there is an expectation you will have formal contracts in place.
But, if you are using the free or $10 ISBN, CreateSpace might ask you for proof that the author has granted you permission. You would want to get an email from the author explicitly granting me permission to publish.
9. Can a (self-published) writers make their living by just selling their books? Is it possible or it is just an extra source of income?
The short answer is “No” to both questions. No one can predict if the book will sell enough to supplement a side income. (Even if it is a great book).
To provide a decent income, a book must sell consistently. And this is very difficult. There are millions of books out there and ~ 3500 new books are published each day (in the English language alone). Your competitionÂ is fierce.
But what you can do is look at writing as a side-business. You should consider writing more books and the combined sales from all of your books can become your extra source of income if your books are really good and if you have a good fan base.
You may one day be able to earn your living from writing. But, in the beginning, keep the expectations low and work hard.
You’re running a business when you get published, your business is selling your own book to others. Depending on your book and the market, you can also create other merchandise.
Summary: As a whole, most serious writers don’t earn enough to make a living, but earn enough to add to their income. The mediocre writers won’t make much though.
10. In the Copyright pages, is it OK to put something like: “Published by XYZ Press?” and does the publishing company mentioned have to be incorporated?
Yes, it is okay to put that. You are the publisher of your book. You can put the name of your publishing company. It always looks more professional. However, you do not have to register a company.
As a single author, your income from your books is taxed. Also, if you do choose to register your publishing company then you can show your book production expenses and other expenses. If you are thinking long term, I would suggest, it is always a good idea to register your own publishing company and run your writing career as a business.
You do not have to establish and register the company (and the imprint name) before publishing the book. But in that case, anyone can claim that business name (by registering it) and can later legally ask you to not use their trade name or logo or whatsoever.
If you are not very serious about writing and may want to publish just one or two books, I guess, you can simply use the Free ISBN or $10 ISBN and mention, Printed by CreateSpace (KDP).
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