So you wrote a book? Congratulations! Now comes the hard part-getting your book into the hands of readers. And the first step to doing that is to make your book available to the public. In other words, you gotta get that book published!
Nowadays, the author has options on how to get their book published, and the one that's quickly rising in the charts (courtesy of the ever-evolving technology of eReaders and tablets) is self-publishing. Believe it or not, self publishing a book is a lot easier than it used to be, and it's really making the publishing houses sweat. But if the thought of going at it alone makes your heart rate fly off the charts, or if you simply don't know where to start, you've come to the right place. I have some insightful tips to help you publish your great accomplishment with minimal hassle!
The Finishing Touches
Regardless of what method of publishing you choose, the first thing you want to do before taking any further steps is to set the book aside and walk away from it for at least a week, if not longer. Why? Because your next step is to edit and revise your book, not just once, but several times over, and you are going to want a pair of fresh eyes to examine it. Before you ever take the next step you want to polish that manuscript until you can see your reflection in HD staring back at you. The very last thing you want is for the first page of your book to have an error, because whether it’s a reader, a reviewer, or a potential agent/publisher, if it’s not as perfect as it possibly can be, you’re never going to get the results you want-sales. Once you have edited it several times and have decided it’s finally perfect, give it to a few other people to edit, then revise two more times. (A word of advice-if you have the budget, hire a professional editor or copywriter, because it is more than worth it!!) Then you should be ready to take it to the next step.
If you’re interested in going the traditional publishing route, you want to start working on your query letter. If you’ve never heard of a query letter before, it’s basically like a letter of interest combined with a resume and cover letter, and for many authors, it is the most daunting and horrifying task of all. Imagine taking the ACT’s, the SAT’s and having the biggest job interview in your life all rolled into 3 or 4 paragraphs. It’s scary and it’s hard, but it’s the hardest part of getting a traditional publisher to accept your book. You can either query agents to represent you and your work or you can now query many publishers without an agent. However you choose to query, you should still do a lot of research on query letters, read examples of successful ones and unsuccessful letters, and start drafting the query.
But for now, we’ll skip over the query letter and trad publishing route, because if you’re here, it means you’re probably already considering self publishing and Publish On Demand (POD) publishing. If you only want to publish an eBook and don’t want your book available in paperback, skip this next section and head down to the eBook Publishing section. If you’re interested in paperback, read on, my friend!
POD for Paperback Books
Okay, so you wrote a book, you painstakingly spent hours, days, weeks, maybe even months editing and revising it, you paid for an editor or had several reliable sources who are “Grammar Nazis” or who otherwise ridiculously excel in the art and rules of writing have their hand at the manuscript, and you honestly don’t think you could edit another word. In fact, you may be at the point where the idea of writing anything-even signing that stupid little electronic credit card machine at the grocery that never looks anything like your real signature-is a torturous nightmare. Good, you’re right where you’re supposed to be.
The next thing you’ll want to do is decide on a POD platform. Personally, I use CreateSpace, which synchs up with Amazon and the platform for the Kindle (which we’ll discuss later!), however a lot of folks have opted for other platforms, such as Lulu. I have no experience with other platforms so I cannot speak to the quality, options, interface, or any other feature of the other platforms. But I have used CreateSpace, and I personally enjoy it. Everyone will have their own preferences, though, so it’s important that you do the research and decide which is best for you. CreateSpace seems to be the choice of many, and for the sake of my knowledge, we’ll use CreateSpace when dealing with the POD process.
First things first, go to www.createspace.com and set up a new account with them. You’ll need this account to manage your titles and whatnot. Once you have your account set up, you can upload a new title. Here, you’ll start the step-by-step walkthrough of getting your book uploaded. Fill in the title of your book (don’t worry if you haven’t fully decided on a title, this can be changed before you submit it for review) and a little other basic info.
The great part of CreateSpace is that it literally holds your hand and walks you through getting it all setup. You’ll upload your manuscript in PDF or Word format, and once it’s uploaded (be patient, it takes several minutes to upload) you can proof it online. Meaning you can see what it’s going to look like in print. You’ll get some hints on your margins and bleed, but I highly recommend you utilize the online previewer so you can see exactly how your book will appear to the reader in print. There is a template you can download in word format that will help you greatly with formatting the manuscript, though it does take some work to get used to it. Keep in mind that the template uses the page break at the end of every chapter. I had to turn on all characters in order to find out that little detail! You’re still going to have to tweak it, but it will get your margins correct and give you great bones to work with. I just pasted my entire manuscript (prologue through epilogue) into the space allotted for the first chapter, and deleted the rest since I use page breaks in my manuscript.
The fun part comes when it’s time to design a cover. If you hired an artist/illustrator, make sure you haven’t shoved them off to the side, as you may need him or her to adjust the image a bit! You can also create a cover for your book using their free images and pre-made cover templates, so even if you’re not an artist, your book won’t be naked.
CreateSpace steps you through the process from beginning to end, and the only part you really have to do is input the information, write up the blurb, upload the images, and set the pricing. With my first book, I started the process and had my book on sale within 48 hours, and that’s with CreateSpace having to process everything. It’s a very simple process, but if you get hung up, there is a community to help you and the CreateSpace team will help you too.
Whether or not you do physical books and eBooks or just eBooks alone, you’re going to become great friends with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). This is the website where you will upload your formatted book to be published on Kindle. Now, if you went through CreateSpace (and possibly other POD platforms) they gave you the option to download the Kindle-ready file. If you waited until everything was processed and your book was on sale through the POD platform, then you were given the option to upload from CreateSpace straight to KDP, along with the front cover, taking the work out for you. If that’s the case, then your work is minimal.
Well, really there’s not a lot of work involved either way. But once again, the first step is getting your account set up and ready to go. That way you can log in and upload the file. To begin, click on “Add New Title.” The first thing you’ll see will ask you if you want to enroll the book in KDP Select. This is totally optional, I will not tell you what to do here, but what this does is makes it so you’re not allowed to upload the book in any other digital format (including excerpts for blogs) in exchange for being able to have 5 days within the 90 day enrollment period for which you can use to give your book away free. I tried this for both books, and have learned that everyone has a different experience. Some people have had tremendous success with the free days, other people have found that it only inhibits them from selling on the Nook or other eReader devices. The choice is yours alone, so I recommend researching it on your own prior to making the decision. You can always choose to not enroll at the time you upload your book and enroll later down the road, giving you the opportunity to research while your book is already available. The only catch is that you can’t pull your book out of the program until after the 90 day enrollment period ends, except in instances where you cancel enrollment within the first few days (forgive me, I can’t remember how many, but I want to say ten) or before your first free day, whichever comes first. So again, this is a choice only you as the author and publisher can make.
Moving along, you’re going to input the details again, including the blurb/description, upload the front cover and the formatted file, and verify your right to publish the book. If you don’t have a formatted file, there’s a little option that says “Help with Formatting” that may come in handy. You can also convert files from one format to another using a file conversion tool. They’re free online, I use www.convertfiles.com, but there’s no shortage of websites that will do the work for you. Of course, when you upload the book, you can check it out on the Kindle Preview tool, however I’ve come to learn it does not always look like what you see in the previewer. This part gets a little tricky. Have you ever downloaded a book on your Kindle or Nook (or other eReader) and found that the pages are kind of wonky? Like a chapter will end and another begin on the same page, breaks aren’t in the right places, and so on? Yeah, formatting it to fit every single eReader is difficult, to say the least. Are you going to get it perfect every time? Maybe. But you’re really a master at your craft if so.
After you upload your file, you’re satisfied with the cover and the file, the next section lets you set the price and select what your royalties will be for each book sold. This is vitally important, because if you price your book too high, nobody will be able to afford it, and if you price it too low, some people may think it’s not worthy of a higher price tag. As a general rule, the eBook copy is going to be a lower price than the paperback (if you have one), so do keep that in mind, too. After everything looks good, click “Save and Publish” to complete the process. It typically takes around twelve hours for everything to process and to see your book available from Amazon’s Kindle store, but that’s really all that you have to do. Everything else is marketing and promotion, but that’s another blog post for another day.
After you upload your files and are waiting for KDP to publish your book, you should also consider publishing it on the Nook by Barnes & Noble, too. Of course, only if you didn't enroll in KDP Select, otherwise you can get into a tiny bit of trouble for that one. But it's a very similar process, the only difference is the company, the device, and the types of files you can upload. But again, that's where a file converter comes in really handy! Having your book available for purchase on different devices (while not enrolled in KDP Select) is a good way to reach people who may not have a Kindle, so check out PubIt! to get your book available for Nook devices too.
See, told you there was no reason to freak out!
I hope you find this post helpful. Make sure you check out future blog posts on the subject of publishing for information on traditional publishing and other helpful tips!