Getting Started: DIY Self-Publishing
There are several ways you can approach self-publishing. Our mini-series will look at all of the options and explain how to get started, regardless of your chosen approach. Starting with completely independent self-publishing, we will cover every aspect of what’s required and direct you to articles that will go into even more detail.
What does DIY self-publishing involve?
You can publish an ebook or a printed book completely ‘DIY’. This means that you would be responsible for every aspect of the self-publishing process. These are the main things you would need to consider:
An ISBN is a unique identifier that retailers rely on to make stocking decisions. The identifier tells the retailer a number of things about the book or ebook, including the publisher name (ie. whatever you choose to call your ‘imprint’). Nielsen, the UK ISBN agency, now sells individual ISBNs to indie authors. You’ll need to register your purchased ISBN with Nielsen through Nielsen Title Editor and fill in metadata about your book. This includes inputting everything from the title and subtitle to a short description that will display on retailers’ product pages alongside your cover image (which you can upload to them when it is ready). The purpose of this step is to disseminate data about your book to retailers so that they can set up a record in advance of the publication date. You will need to assign a new ISBN to each format. The only exception to this is if you choose to publish an ebook through Amazon exclusively, in which case they don’t require you to have an ISBN. For more information, go to Nielsen’s website. Another crucial element of setting up your title is writing a blurb that will hook your readers. This text will display next to the front cover on retailers’ sites, so it is vital that you get it right.
Interested in articles like this?
Preparing your Files
You will need to design a cover to the correct specifications (these vary between retailers for ebooks but can be found relatively easily in most retailers’ FAQs). For a printed book, design a front cover, spine and back cover. Print resolution is 300dpi and you must own the rights to use any images that you use. The pagination will determine the spine width, so that would need to be established once you have typeset the files. How are you going to prepare the files? Word is not a typesetting programme, nor is it a cover design tool. If you want to design your own cover and typeset your own book professionally, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with your printer’s specifications and invest in some typesetting and design software such as InDesign and Photoshop.
Top Tips for DIY Self-Publishing
- Identify your target audience. Use this as the basis for your marketing strategy and distribution plan.
- Budget according to your strengths and weaknesses. Typesetting software might be a worthwhile investment, or how about an online course in supplying metadata to retailers?
- Do your research by connecting with other indie authors, and attending events like The Self-Publishing Conference.
- If you can’t do something to a professional standard, consider asking an expert for assistance.
How and Where do you Intend to Print your Book?
Are you opting for print on demand (POD) or a print run? This will determine whether you should approach a POD company such as Lightning Source or CreateSpace, or go directly to the printers. Different printers have differing specifications and will offer a variety of paper types and enhancements – worth bearing in mind if you’re looking to have embossed text. Do your research. A lot of authors have a fixed idea of what a book should look like, but it’s not always correct. A4 and A5 aren’t standard book sizes, but a lot of people think they are. If you browse in a bookshop you can observe the most popular paper colour (clue: it’s usually not white) as well as learning about current trends for books in your genre.
Where Will your Ebook be Available from?
Decide whether you’d like to publish your eBook through Amazon only (using their KDP Select programme, which demands exclusivity) or through a range of retailers eg. Kobo, Google Play, iBooks. It really comes down to personal preference; read retailers’ Ts & Cs and look at the comparative benefits. Sometimes, the genre of your ebook will make this decision easier. The ‘perks’ available to authors in Amazon’s KDP Select are best suited to popular fiction, thrillers and romance fiction. Other retailers tend to sell higher volumes of some types of ebooks than Amazon does – fans of non-fiction tend to buy ebooks for the iPad, for example. Picture books and enhanced ebooks display best on an iPad, too. Furthermore, Amazon charges a delivery charge for every ebook file downloaded, on top of the percentage that they take from each sale. This charge varies depending on the size of the file; picture books can be charged as much as £1 extra. What device is your target audience likely to be viewing a file on? Mobile devices are the most popular way to read ebooks, so it may be worth exploring Apple iBooks and Google Play. That’s not to mention the expanding library market that you could choose to embrace.
How will you Store and Distribute Books?
Arguably, this needs to be decided before all else. Matador’s distribution manager said, ‘It’s by no means impossible for an indie author to find a company that will store and distribute their books for them, but it is going to be hard. Print on demand is a more sensible option for a DIY author as it all but negates the need for storage and distribution. Selling books on Amazon is also possible without distribution links as they accept orders that are fulfilled by authors direct.’ However, if you’re determined to have a print run and make a go of trying to get your book into bookshops without the help of a self-publishing company with established distribution links, gain an understanding of how the book industry works. Books are sold on a sale or return basis, which means that even if Waterstones purchases 500 copies, they could return all but a couple, six months later. Most bookshops will only order books through a wholesaler such as Gardners. Publishers and self-publishing companies often have accounts with them and will act as the middleman, supplying orders. You’ll be hard pushed to find many other companies that will fulfill orders to them on your behalf, and they don’t generally work with individual authors.
Finally, how do you plan to tell people about your book?
How do you hope to generate sales? In such a saturated market, nailing the basics is absolutely essential, but your work can’t stop there. Without a considered marketing campaign that takes your target audience into account, you will not make it into the bestseller lists. Look into the possibility of paid ads on Amazon, Goodreads and Facebook, approach BookBub and utilise social media effectively. Peruse the marketing section on this site for detailed tips and tricks aimed at authors who are undertaking their own marketing.
If you’re willing to dedicate the time and resources to becoming a fully-fledged ‘authorpreneur’, it is absolutely achievable.