Quick Guide to Self-Publishing

January 26, 2015 | By | 14 Replies More

KHE pubshot1Nov14The stigma around self-publishing is still strong. ‘If it’s a good enough manuscript it will find a publisher,’ is an oft repeated phrase (particularly by those who have found a publisher). After thirty years of writing, honing my crafting and, yes, on occasion being traditionally published, I no longer believe this to be true.

Yet still I balk at saying I have self-published. I am an indie publisher/author. In my mind the word ‘indie’ indicates the effort expended on, and concern with, quality which I and my indie publishing colleagues sign up to. We take time to create the best novel we possibly can, then we publish it with care and finally we attempt to market it with integrity.

The indie publisher wears many hats. There’s the main one: the one of the author. But after that there are many more, including (in no particular order): legal eagle; editor; copy-editor; proof-reader; designer; IT specialist; marketing expert; tea maker; office manager; accountant; and so on and so on.

Yes, truth be told, I’d rather have only my author hat firmly on my head, but at the age of fifty I decided I had no choice if I was ever to find an audience for the novels I was bursting to write. So I’ve been effectively and not so effectively spinning hats for the last eighteen months and the first in the crime series I am writing was published just before Christmas.

And I am one of a growing number. According to an article in The Guardian newspaper in June 2014, the self-published books’ share of the UK market grew by 79% the previous year, with 18m self-published books, worth £59m, bought by UK readers. Though they still account for a tiny proportion of the overall market – 5% of the 323m total books bought, and 3% of the £2185m spent on books – their share is rising year on year.

It is not, however, an easy option to take. It takes a good amount of self-motivation and determination, plus organisation and sheer bloody-mindedness. There are many things to think about and, for me, at least, a number of new skills to learn.

One of the main things I’ve taken from my experience of self-publishing is that I don’t have to do it all myself, indeed it would be madness to try.

How I Did It

The process by which we authors create a quality manuscript is amply discussed on the Women Writers Women’s Books website and by its facebook page. I will assume, therefore, that the manuscript is in final draft. If I’d had money I would have paid for a professional editor to get to this stage, however, I think I probably did almost as well with my lovely band of critical readers. But I did pay for a professional proof-reader. Personally, I cannot proof-read a document which is over 60,000 words long and I think it is unfair to ask anyone else to do it unpaid. I also consider a decent proof-read essential for my commitment to quality.

I chose to publish both an ebook and a paperback at the same time and I chose to do so through Amazon Kindle and Createspace. I know there are many arguments against continually feeding Amazon’s domination and power, however, the fact remains that 67% of ebooks are bought via Kindle.

If I wanted to find an audience with the meagre resources at my disposal, I had to use the platform which would get me out there to most readers. I chose to sign up to KDP select to get extra benefits which means giving 90 day exclusive rights for the ebook to Amazon on a rolling basis. Createspace does not take exclusive rights to the paperback, so you can choose to have it printed elsewhere as well if you wish.

The_Art_of_the_Imper_Cover_for_KindleMy techie skills are moderate; I was nevertheless able to format my book for both Kindle and the paperback. Amazon has created excellent guides for both processes and I have found their support team very prompt with their helpful advice. One thing which appears missing from most of the advice is that it is best to wipe your document of word formatting before starting to prepare it for Kindle. I did this by copying it to notepad and then copying it back into a word document where all the auto-format functions have been turned off.

This did mean I had to put some formatting back in, for example italics, but it did avoid bits of weird coding appearing in the completed Kindle version. I have noticed that even Kindle books from traditional publishers sometimes appear with errant coding in them and I am pleased to say this is not the case with my novel.

There are no up-front costs with either Kindle or Createspace. I also chose to use a free cover-design template available through Createspace (which could then be replicated on Kindle, the reverse is not the case). I’ve had no negative comments about my cover, and, indeed, the buyer for my local independent bookshop said it looked more professional than many books she had come across.

The legal and royalty guidelines are well explained on both Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace websites, but if you are not a resident of the US, ensure you fill in the right form to avoid paying US tax. Once your Kindle and paperback are published on the Amazon site make sure they are listed on the same page (this took a bit of backward and forward with the support team).

You can then order copies of your paperback at cost price plus delivery and have them to sell locally or at the author events you’re going to organise. You get a royalty for every paperback you sell from Amazon (except the ones you buy as an author) and also for every Kindle. These are paid directly into your bank on a monthly basis.

And now you’re published, you can sit back and watch the sales mount up. Right? Wrong. You have to shove on your marketing hat and get started on promoting your newly birthed baby. This is where I spent the bulk of the money I’d put aside for my indie endeavour. But that’s a whole other story. And before you sally forth, don’t forget to celebrate, with the significant others in your life, your achievement. You’ve written and published a book. Well done you!

Kate Evans is a writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her book, Pathways Through Writing Blocks in the Academic Environment, was published by Sense Publishers in 2013. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Sussex University and teaches on the Degree in Creative Writing at the University of Hull, Scarborough campus. The Art of the Imperfect, the first in her crime series set in Scarborough, was published in December 2014. Her crime fiction is inspired by Ruth Rendell, Minette Walters and Ann Cleeves, though one reviewer thinks she writes like Hilary Mantel. She is trained as a psychotherapeutic counsellor. She loves walking by the sea and afternoon tea, and has an inexplicable drive to bring a new generation to the poetry of Edith Sitwell. Find out more about her on her website:  www.writingourselveswell.co.uk



Kate Evans

Please visit my website & blog at www.writingourselveswell.co.uk Enjoy!

The Art of the Imperfect a crime novel exploring themes mental illness and marginalisation is available on Amazon.co.uk http://goo.gl/5r9WBv and Amazon.com http://goo.gl/GsQ6a8 My blog is at: www.writingourselveswell.co.uk


Words: 1075.


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Category: Contemporary Women Writers, On Publishing

Comments (14)

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  1. Lise Mayne says:

    This is a true reflection of the self-publishing journey. It too had many rejections, and finally, after a health crisis, decided that I would self-publish so I could see my book in print in my lifetime and leave it as a legacy for my daughter. I am so glad I did. It was a big investment, but the benefits outweighed the expenses, in terms of joy, satisfaction and connections with wonderful people who supported my work. As much as you put into the project, that is what the project will give back to you, I believe. You must be prepared to market and sell your book, track your sales, keep accounts, travel, hire a publicist, etc. Now, as I approach the completion of my second novel, I am hesitant to begin this process again. I will try once more to find a publisher, yet I know that even if I do, much of the marketing will fall on my shoulders. Books today do not fly off the shelves, nor sell themselves through the internet. Every sale is a victory and a connection with a new reader. I read somewhere that you should not publish your first book until your second is done, to keep the momentum of your readership. I wish that would have been possible, but I couldn’t wait any longer. Fortunately, I have lived to retire, write poetry, and another book. It’s my passion. Self-published or not, it’s an honour to share our words with others.

  2. Laini Giles says:

    I’m where you are. Finally got to 176 rejections and said, “Forget it. I’m done. There’s a market for what I do, and I’m self-publishing.”

    So I did. My books are all about the silent and early sound era of movies. My first marketing stop was to a big silent film fest in Hollywood. Dream big, I say.

    I saved the last of the stock options from my job and had a killer cover made (and told them to make it duplicatable, so I can tweak the colors, main pic, and titles). The inside is JUST as beautiful. I actually fooled an ex editor from Harper Collins, who couldn’t tell it was self published.

    Splurge for as GOOD a cover as you can afford. Take out a loan if you can afford it. Because every time you put out a cheap, badly designed one, you not only scream “self-published”, but you continue to affect the rest of us. That’s part of the reason why people won’t buy self-published books, because many of the covers are so horrendous. Like it or not, people DO judge books by their covers!

    In Canada, we’re lucky because we can get free ISBNs from the government. I did that instead of using Createspace’s, and I created my own publishing company name. All Createspace does is print these for me. I also did Ingramspark so I could get into bookstores. Bookstores can order from Imgram so get copies rather than me having to ship consignment copies to them, which gets ruinously expensive.

  3. Anna Castle says:

    Great post, thank you!
    I’m curious about the “errant coding” you’ve found in digital books here and there. What does that mean? Are you talking about stray whitespace, paragraph breaks where they shouldn’t be, that sort of thing? I’ve seen poor page breaking, especially when authors insist on using special graphics for eg scene breaks, but never anything I would characterize as “coding.” But like many recovering programmers, perhaps I’m splitting hairs.
    Still, I’m wondering what I might be missing.
    Thanks again!!

    • Kate Evans says:

      Hi Anna, sorry for the tardy reply, I’ve been off-line for a week as I walked St Cuthbert’s Way, Melrose to Lindisfarne, very nourishing. Kindle/Createspace is always updating, so what I wrote several months back may not be true now. However, the errant coding for me came in with words which had accents on, such as café, and I have seen this in traditionally published books too. But you’re right, it is more often weird spacing. Apparently the spacing on my book looks different depending on what device you look at it on. Thanks again for your interest and good luck with your recovery.

  4. Ondiswa says:

    thanks Kate
    we are all in the same boat. the marketing hat is the most heavy for me.

  5. Sites like this are excellent to give mutual support. I stumbled on the same route as yourself quite by chance but do a print run too. Have you registered with Nielsons Book Data? Best of luck with your venture into writing Kate.

    • Kate Evans says:

      Thanks Diana for your comment and encouragement. Yes, absolutely, I registered with Nielsons when I got my ISBNs, it’s how I would receive orders from bookshops. Also had to fill in an extra form through Gardners in order to receive orders from Waterstones. Long learning curve!

  6. Diane Hall says:

    I completely agree that there’s an elitist attitude towards those self-publishing from the rest of the industry, yet the level of disruption these authors are having is making even the Big 5 publishing houses sit up and take notice. I’m passionate, even though I sit on the other side of the fence, so to speak, that self-publishers are not seen as inferior. They have to fund their title, find their readership with few resources, ensure their book is aesthetically pleasing and compelling enough to attract (and keep) an audience, and essentially, make every decision from the manuscript’s first draft onwards, often with no guidance. That this is seen as a cop out really gets my goat.
    Self-publishers can hire equal expertise to that offered by a traditional publishing house; there’s no reason to think that self-published book you’re wondering whether to take a punt on as a reader will be of a lesser quality, or provide a worse experience.
    Publishing houses can’t sit in the elitist tree throwing stones when they’ve published such as Katie Price’s numerous autobiographies.
    If I had any advice for you, however, I’d consider looking into short run printing. As soon as you order more than a few copies through such as Lulu or Createspace you lose out financially, because the print on demand price always stays the same.

    • Kate Evans says:

      Thanks Diane for your helpful comment and your encouragement to indie publishers. You’re right, of course, about the short run printing for author copies, especially if you are, as I am, sending free copies out for review etc, and selling at workshops/talks. It would be a cheaper way to go.

  7. Good information. While I agree your cover looks fine, I do think it may be worth the cost for most folks of hiring an artist to design a cover. I listed my project on guru and got lots of bids for the work, some well below $100 for cover design. I didn’t go with the cheapest, believing spending money to make sure I have a professional-looking cover was worthwhile. My book’s only been out a week but it’s selling well and I believe the cover may be helping boost sales. http://amzn.com/B00TWMKAIO

    • Kate Evans says:

      Thank you Debby for your comment and for your information. I think it important we keep sharing our discoveries as much as we can. Good luck with everything.

  8. Kirsty says:

    Thank you for sharing this! As someone who is finally working towards finishing a final draft on their first novel and looking at potentially self-publishing, this information is really valuable. I’ve done a lot of research on paperback self-publishing and there’s quite a lot of options out there, and I wasn’t sure which would be the best to go with.

    Thanks again for the recommendation on Createspace, I’ll definitely be looking into it when the time comes!

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