I’m baking a cake tonight.
Last night I made a list of the ingredients I’ll need, checked I had the right baking tins and got my piping bags ready.
I wouldn’t start cracking the eggs in the bowl tonight without having done the preparation. If I did, I’d end up with a cake that’s flat, dry, and disappointing.
Self-publishing is a bit like this.
There are a few things you need to have in order before you start. Get your ducks in a row before you take the plunge into self-publishing, and you’ll find the whole process much easier to navigate.
Keep reading to find out 5 essential things you should have thought about before self-publishing your book.
1) Choose your publishing platform
There are a few self-publishing platforms to choose from. The one we would always recommend is Createspace/KDP Kindle.
Createspace.com is owned by Amazon and is where you can publish a print version of your book. You can set up an account with them for free and upload your book cover, interior and description. Once it is approved by Createspace (which usually takes 24 hours), your book will be up on Amazon within 48 hours ready for people to buy.
Createspace is a POD service (print on demand) so you don’t have to pay for stock. Each book is printed only when it is ordered (on demand) so is the best way to get your print book into the market without a huge initial outlay on stock.
Kindle is Amazon’s e-reader, and a very popular method for downloading e-books. Kindle Direct Publishing is the platform you can use to upload the Kindle version of your book. You can have your book uploaded in 5 minutes, and it will be on-sale within 48 hours.
2) Get your book in the right format
For Createspace, remember your book will be a physical copy, so it will need all the features of a physical book – a cover, interior formatting, and a barcode (and ISBN).
You will need the manuscript usually as a word document or print ready PDF ready for uploading. For the interior text, this needs to be formatted in a way that makes it easy to read. You can do this yourself, use Createspace’s Interior Reviewer tool, or you can get this done professionally.
If you have a Createspace ISBN, a barcode will automatically be printed on your cover when each book is printed on demand.
By the way, what’s an ISBN?…..
An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number.
Since 1 January 2007 an ISBN is always a 13 digit number (it used to be 10 digits). Basically, the ISBN identifies your book’s title, edition, format, and is used by publishers and book sellers to list your book, keep track of sales and orders, and control stock.
However you publish and sell your book, you will need an ISBN so your seller can do all of the above. There is no legal requirement to have one, but without it, your seller will not be able to list your book and process sales and orders.
… and how do I get one?
If you choose Createspace, they will issue an ISBN for free.
If you prefer to buy your own, there are 160 ISBN Agencies worldwide, each appointed as the exclusive agent responsible for assigning ISBNs to publishers residing in their country or geographic territory.
Just do a Google search for buying an ISBN in your country of residence. You usually complete a form and email it back, and you can pay by credit card or bank transfer. It will take around 5 to 10 business days.
If you buy your own ISBN, you have to buy a block of 10, 100, or 1000.
You will need different ISBN numbers for the printed version of your book and the ebook version.
3) Be clear about your goal
Decide what your ultimate intention is.
Do you just write as a hobby or for pleasure, and selling books is just a bonus? Or are you aiming to become a best-selling author, and make writing as your full time career?
Are you happy to generate a little bit of extra income, or do you want to move to a private island in the caribbean with the money you make?
Your goal as a writer will determine how much time and money you spend on publishing and marketing your book. You need to be committed, and plan the steps you will take to get there. Be realistic about the number of books you expect to sell, and about the time it will take to build up sales. Don’t forget about your competition – but learn from them, observe what they do well, and use that a template for your own ideas.
4) Have a rough marketing plan of action
Once your book is on sale, you will need to make some efforts to promote it, so readers know it’s there. Think through a plan of action for marketing and reaching your audience.
Here are some points to consider:
1) Who is my reader?
Think about who your audience is. Who were you aiming the book at when you started writing. What demographic were your BETA readers, and how did they enjoy your book? Is your book about a particular historical event or subject that would appeal to a certain type of reader?
2) How do I reach my reader?
Once you know who your reader is, you will be able think about how to best reach them. If your book is a children’s story, perhaps your local library or school would be the best place to find your fans. If your book is a Young Adult fiction, social media might be the place to start.
3) What is my budget?
How much money do you have to spend on marketing? For each idea you have, think about the costs involved. Consider whether you want to start with the low-cost options first, or tackle the more expensive ideas, to get the most bang for your buck from the start.
Remember, ebooks are there forever, so you have plenty of time to build awareness and sales once your book is published. Your marketing plan should be ongoing, and can evolve as you learn what works and what doesn’t. Read more marketing ideas here.
5) Make your book the best it can be
These days, there are so many other authors self-publishing, there’s a lot of competition. The best way to set yourself apart is with a good quality product. This means the writing, editing, cover, interior and overall presentation of your book on Amazon. Present a professional product, and readers will believe you are a credible, talented author, who has taken care and time over their book. This applies even if readers don’t like your book – and there will be some people out there who don’t.
Think about using an editor. If you decide not to, don’t skimp on proof-reading your book yourself, or make sure you ask a dedicated friend or family member to help you out.
The same applies with the cover. Whether you use a professional designer or not, make sure your book cover stands out, and is easy to see as a thumbnail size image, as well as at full size.
These details can let your book down, so it really pays to take the time now to get it right.
PS: That cake is a spiced carrot cake with cream cheese frosting – we can’t wait to eat it!
We’re Peter and Caroline O’Connor. Creating beautiful book cover designs for authors all over the world is our passion. Every author should be able to benefit from a beautiful book cover design (not just the lucky few who get signed by a big publisher). We design, podcast, and coach authors full-time so we understand your struggles. Currently accepting new clients.