Okay, here it is. Everything I learned from self-publishing my first book, Stalker.
First of all, I read online about tons of other people’s experiences, and while I’m hoping to put all of my learnings here, I highly recommend you look around for the sake of thoroughness. That said, I hope you feel more informed about how to make your own decision going forward.
To start things off, I decided early on to work with Amazon. Yes, I know, they’re big and corporate and that makes them semi-evil. But to be honest, as an unknown writer on a budget, I need all of the tools they can give me. So, if you’re looking at LuLu (who doesn’t let you retain the rights to your work), then this probably won’t be much use.
The first tip is regarding the ISBN number. Fact: You need a different number for both your physical copy and your ebook, and these run $125 each, or $250 for 5 (something like that). So, Amazon makes it easy. Through their publishing subsidiary CreateSpace.com, you can use a number from them for free for the physical copy. The catch is that they’ll remain the publisher, etc. Also, by going through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, they’ll distribute your ebook for free, by using a distinctive KDP number, which saves you $125.
You retain the rights to your book in both circumstances, which was very important to me.
There’s another $99 ISBN number where the number is registered to you, but Create Space is still registered as the publisher. I chose to spend the money, and quickly set up my only little company, Natalie Saar Publishing. Honestly, it’s just a matter of filing paperwork, and is fairly simple. Also, you keep more of the royalties this way too.
Another benefit of going through Amazon is that they print the books for people as they order them. So, you never have to deal with printing or shipping EVER. Also, by using KDP, they give you two types of promos every 90 days. One allows your book to be free for five days, and the other allows your price to “countdown” which offers it at a discount for people as well. Both of these options allow the book to be featured in their respective sections on Amazon.
Now, the tricky part: uploading your book and designing your cover. I was given a very valuable piece of information about the cover by a friend of mine who is an agent: it’s going to be a thumbnail, so there’s no need for it to be elaborate. That said, it’s much harder than I thought it would be to make the cover you probably have in your head. You’ll need some kind of program that can not only make it look the way you want, but also save it as a PDF (do most programs do that? I don’t know. Apologies if they do and this sounds ridiculous!). Don’t forget to make the back cover as well. I made that mistake, and your book has to be taken down for 24 hours to approve the revised one. (If you are one of the 12-15 people who got the blank white cover, then lets just hope this book becomes famous and you’re all millionaires!)
You’ll also need to resize your document to fit the page size you want. To me, these are tedious, horrible things that I seriously hate doing… but I didn’t have the $250 to spend on Amazon’s design services. Since I didn’t go that route, I can’t tell you personally how helpful they are. What I CAN tell you is that even if you don’t pay for their services, the customer/publisher support is fantastic! They literally walked me through re-uploading the cover, step-by-step, for as long as it took. You can choose to look at your proofs online or have a physical one shipped to you as well.
As far as pricing goes, you just need to be realistic. Of course, I think my book is worth the $25 that other books in Barnes and Noble get, but that’s not how things work. I’m a new author, and my book comes in at around 70,000 words (it still comes in at over 300 pages). Normally, a new author needs 90,000-120,000 to get a deal because people want to feel like they got their money’s worth (or at least this is what I’ve read and been told). So, I chose to price my physical copy at between $11 and $12 (depending on if you get it off CreateSpace or Amazon). My ebook is priced at $2.99 because — and this is where you get your hopes up — if a publishing company sees really good sales numbers at $2.99 and higher, they’re likely to be more intrigued.
And CreateSpace has great prices for publishers to buy their own books for distribution!
So, the things you need to consider are:
Do you want to buy your own ISBN?
Is it important to you that you’re the publisher as well as the author?
Do you need help with your cover, and can you afford it design services?
What do you think is a fair and intriguing price for potential readers?
I hope you found this info helpful in your journey to self-publish. I’ve found it immensely rewarding, and am happy to help anyone who has questions. You can either comment, send me an email (natsaar at gmail dot com), or find me on Twitter (@nataliesaar).
Marketing my book will be the next phase, and I look forward to sharing my learnings with you then as well.