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On the Blog: Quick Tips for Self Publishing

These days, self-publishing evokes a far more respectable response from readers and the general public than it did just a few years ago. For the most part, it has lost its reputation as the place "losers" go to publish when traditional publishers or literary agents reject them. It has, so to speak, taken its place in the sun, and this is largely due to the increasingly high quality of services offered to writers who want to take this route. An increasing number of authors are able to make a livable income by self-publishing and the options are endless. I'm here this month to offer you a starting point.

I'm just starting my self-publishing journey. My first novel - The Best Kept Secret - was published with a small press called BookFish Books and I had an absolute blast working with them. But, as I wrote about in this piece on my blog last month, I felt that with the sequel it was time to try something different. I wanted to set my own schedule, earn a higher percentage of royalties, and see if I could actually do this publishing thing on my own. The Next Best Thing will be my last novel, so it seems like the best time to try and, thankfully, I have a lot of support.

First of all, when you self-publish it should come as no surprise that you are, in fact, the publisher. You are responsible not only for writing the book, but also for getting it edited, creating a cover design (either for e-books, print, or both), formatting the manuscript, finding printers and distributors, uploading your manuscript and art files, and following up on your own work and with everyone else involved to ensure a thousand little details are correct before release day. It's a hell of a lot of work. It's also a hell of a lot of fun.

But, then again, I'm just starting. Ask me again on January 3rd when my novel comes out.

What I've discovered so far is that the information is out there, and it's not that hard to find. With Amazon, it's quick and easy to get your e-book published and they also have a print-on-demand service called Createspace, which prints and ships high-quality books as they are ordered. BookFish used Createspace for my first novel and I thought it was great. My books are absolutely lovely, so I'll be going with them again when it comes to print. I'll also be using Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing for digital, but I won't stop there. While Amazon is certainly the most widely shopped site when it comes to e-books, if you're an author and you're only uploading your manuscript to Amazon you are missing out on a wide variety of retailers...and, as a result, a wide variety of readers.

Enter e-book distributors like BookBaby and Smashwords. They offer many of the same services as Kindle Direct Publishing - such as help with ISBN numbers and manuscript formatting - while also making your book available through popular retailers like Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Scribd, as well as libraries and companies like Baker & Taylor. The reason this is important, beyond the potential for increased readership and sales, is that Amazon is a bookstore's biggest competitor. Meaning that if you, as an author, want to get your paperback on the shelves of an independent bookstore in your city, asking them to order it from Amazon is going to get you the stink eye and probably not much else. They'll want to order it through a distributor like Baker & Taylor, not another seller, like Amazon.

Bookbaby is not a free service, but it is certainly a reputable one and they have options for print books, e-books, and a package for both. To learn more about their complete list of services, you can click here. Smashwords, however, is free...but it's only for e-books. Still, they offer everything you need to get your book ready for publication and I'm so excited to work with them on The Next Best Thing. The way they make money is by receiving a small kickback when you make a sale, but that's to be expected so don't be scared away. They are a business, after all.

To rewind a bit, pre-publication necessities like editing, formatting, and cover design are all crucial elements of selling your book and becoming a successful author. Do not skip over these steps because if you do it will be obvious to any competent reader. For example, I often use the website Canva to create social media graphics for book teaser promos. Canva offers paid as well as free images for personal and commercial use, but any image that isn't free is covered by a watermark to prevent copyright infringement. A few nights ago, I reached for my Kindle and saw that one of the featured books on my screensaver had used a Canva image for its cover...and the watermark was still clearly visible. I couldn't believe it. It was so large it actually interfered with the title and it was obvious the author had used the image illegally. Now, I'm not presuming any of you would do something as ridiculous as that, but I think it's important to mention because your readers are smart people. And they will notice the care you take - or don't take - with your book.

I intend on sharing more self-publishing tips as I near the publication of my latest novel, but if you have any questions in the meantime please feel free to email me! You can find my contact information here.


Have you self-published? What are some tips and tricks you would offer to authors just starting out? Leave them in the comments!
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