Ok, so you’ve figured out that you want to publish for all the right reasons and you’ve determined that self-publishing is probably the best option for you. Wonderful! So umm… where in the world do you start?!
It can seem incredibly daunting at first, when you don’t know what you’re doing. But the cool part is that it’s a learning experience- you basically get to teach yourself. For some people that’s nerve-wracking, but I like knowing that my success/eventual satisfaction is directly related to how much research and work I put into it, as opposed to waiting around for some arbitrary third party to finish proofreading or designing the cover or whatever, while I stand around helplessly hoping things turn out the way I’d like. As a self-admitted control freak, I can’t work that way.
The first thing I did and the first thing you need to do is get on the internet and research, research, research. A simple Google search of the word “self-publishing” will give you loads of useful information, including many of the most popular self-publishing services as well as a slew of blogs and articles with helpful hints and advice.
Don’t be afraid to allow yourself enough time to research. Take notes. Make sure you’re learning enough about the process before you even begin so you can know what to expect and so you can make an informed decision about which route to take. I can’t stress enough how important it is to let the process take as much time as necessary. You’re not gonna walk into a dealership and buy the first car you test drive, and you’re not gonna marry the first person who buys you dinner, so why hurry the process of something as important as publishing your first book?
From the time I first started seriously considering self-publishing to the final, finished product, the whole process took me about 4 months total. Mind you it was for a short collection of poetry, so my processing time was considerably faster than what you might expect for a novel or lengthier work. Still, whatever it is you’re thinking of publishing, don’t rush it. Give yourself more than enough time because believe me, you will hit unexpected snags that will make you crazy if you’re trying to adhere to a rigid schedule. Take your time and learn as much as you can.
While you’re doing your research you’ll be presented with several options for websites that will help guide you through the process: Smashwords, Lulu, Createspace, Nook Press, Blurb, Author House, Xlibris, etc. It’s hard to keep track of them all yet alone muddle through and figure out which one’s the best for you. That’s why it takes some time. I ended up choosing Createspace because it was easiest for me to understand, cheap, gave me a lot of control, and is well-respected among the self-publishing community. But what worked best for me may not be best for you; here are some important things you’ll need to look out for:
1) Cost. Some sites charge an upfront fee and some take a portion of the royalties. Some give you the option of purchasing services from their company professionals, such as cover designers or copy editors. But be aware that self-publishing will always cost you some money. Createspace doesn’t charge an upfront fee, but they do take a percentage of the royalties you earn. (Through a partnership with Amazon you have the option to earn up to 70% of the royalties if you agree to expanded distribution, which means anybody on the internet can sell your book. You still get the royalties from those sales but it makes it a bit harder to control the marketing.) Other than that, the only money I spent was the $12.00 it cost to buy and have two proof copies shipped to me for approval.
2) Ease of use. This is going to be specific to you and a personal preference. Whichever site is easier for you to understand and use, go for that one. Especially since this is your first time publishing, you’re going to want to use a site that lays it all out for you in black and white. Createspace’s format was very user-friendly for me. The ordered steps of the process are checked off as you complete them, and there are additional resources such as community forums and tutorials if you get stuck.
3) Perks. With so many sites out there wanting your business, each of them offers perks to get you to decide to use their services. Every site is different, but for example, Createspace gives authors a significant discount on ordering copies of their book. My list price is $9.99 but I can order as many copies as I want for $2.15 each plus shipping. This is especially useful since I want to fill up a bathtub with copies of my book. (Just kidding!) But if you’re into making the rounds around town on author tours, it’s pretty cheap to order a bunch of copies and then sell them to people at coffee shops. Also they give you the ISBN for free, which some sites make you pay for. And best of all, Createspace has the Amazon/Kindle partnership so it’s super easy to get your book (in printed and e-book format) on a selling platform that’s popular and familiar to customers.
Have I convinced you to go with Createspace yet?! That’s okay, I’m not suggesting it’s the best at everything or the best for everyone. But it is what I used, so if you want to use something else, then great! But I can’t give you any advice about that because I didn’t use it. So stay tuned for So You Want To Publish A Book? Part 4: The Ins And Outs Of Createspace.
Blessings and happy reading,