Hello friends! Greg and I get questions all the time on self-publishing, so we have decided to do a blog post on it for you.
Here is our advice, answers, and tips for you:
1. Why did you self-publish vs. publishing the traditional way? Well, that answer is quite simple: time and money.
TIME: It could take a long time (years!) to be properly accepted by a publisher. Just thinking of how many letters we’d have to send out, then be patient, then receive rejection letters, all the while trying to keep our spirits up, and then send more letters out, etc… ! Before we sold everything and moved to Costa Rica in 2013, we had both never written a book before. While our Costa Rica blogs were gaining viewers and popularity, they were also brand new and virtually unknown. Why would a publisher pick up our books to even glance at them? On the flip side, my pal Brittany has an extremely well known blog, so for her – it paid to go the standard publishing route (in fact she had publishers fighting over her book!).
MONEY: Sure, with a publisher you get an advance, but then you’re at their mercy of book and editing deadlines. To be honest – you’re not going to have as much input as you would if you just did the whole thing yourself. Also, I’ve heard of people having to pay their advance back to the publisher, in part, if their book didn’t go over as well as initially thought. With self-publishing, there is no out-of-pocket money to you! Unless, you have an editor or book cover artist to pay. For my first book, I had some fabulous friends who helped me with my editing and I did the cover myself (but I love playing around with pictures, and it doesn’t hurt that Greg is a pro at Photoshop). If you’re not familiar with either of those things, I would definitely hire someone to do a professional job for you (more on this below). Your cover and title are the most important things to first grab someone’s attention.
2. Can anyone do it? Is it hard? Greg and I both grew up as avid readers, and I used to journal when I was young up until the time I got married. In the span of 6 years, Greg and I now have eight (8!) published books — Greg has 2, I have 5, and 1 we have written together. So, we have proven that it can be done with very little knowledge in the beginning. It doesn’t hurt that Greg and I both are tenacious and like a good challenge. You can learn as you go, like we did. If you’re interested in our books, please check out our Amazon pages (Greg’s and Jen’s).
3. Does it matter how long my ebook is? My advice on proper length, is to NOT try to fill it with fluff just so it’s longer. I say write from your heart, and whatever length it ends up being that you are happy with (after editing, of course) – that is what it is! On the other hand, Greg likes to write by word-count, he works better that way. Everyone is different.
4. What to write about? Write about something you know well, and what other people are interested in. Books don’t sell themselves, so getting an audience before you publish is very important. Greg and I did this through our blogs. We built our blogs up first, and then once we published – we had a captive audience. This worked well with our Costa Rica blogs, and most recently our Appalachian Trail blog.
5. Editing? PLEASE have your final book edited! You can use a service like Fiverr for getting it done cheap. Same goes for the cover, unless you have graphic art experience. People DO judge a book by its cover.
6. What about the publishing process? The actual process of publishing is pretty easy if you go through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). There are other ebook publishers besides Amazon (Barnes & Noble, iBooks, etc.) but Amazon has the lion’s share of the market and is who we’ll talk about here. KDP walks you through the process (there’s even a video to watch first), you upload a formatted word document (other forms accepted as well), and then you review the ebook online and make any necessary changes. You can see how it will appear on various Kindle formats (including an iPhone, etc.), which is really helpful.
There are a couple of options for pricing with Kindle. If you publish the book as a “regular” Kindle ebook, you can have any amount of words, and price it between $2.99 – $9.99 to get 70% of each book sold. If you price it over $9.99, you only get 30%.
The other option is to publish it as a “Kindle single.” You have to have between 5,000 – 30,000 words (translates to about 15 – 90 pages), and you can price it lower than $2.99 and still get 70%. However, this also automatically puts you in the “KDP select program,” which means you can’t sell it anywhere else. Also you have to choose one of the Kindle Single categories, and there are only a few – so if your book does not fall into any of these, you are out of luck. The Single is really meant for novella-length nonfiction literature or long-form journalism.
For the paperback, you also use KDP (this used to be a separate company called Createspace, but now has been bought by KDP). The paperback process is separate from the ebook, but both are similar and pretty user friendly. After you’ve uploaded your paperback, you are able to view it page by page as well, which is very helpful (you can see the page breaks, how the font looks and how it is displayed on each page).
After both your ebook and paperback are approved and published – Amazon will “tie” them together, so when someone looks up your book on Amazon, they can view both your ebook and the paperback on the same screen (toggling back and forth). Using KDP for your paperback is great because you don’t have to spend any money up front, and you don’t have to buy, say, 500 books to get the best deal. The book(s) are “print on demand,” so each book is not printed until it’s ordered – and your cost remains quite low. You, as an author, are able to order “author copies” at cost (plus shipping), so if you want to sell on your own or sign them for people, this is a very affordable way to do that.
Also – KDP makes it easy to track how many books you’ve sold! Someone in my family looks at this DAILY (it’s not me).
7. Marketing? Finally, once published, you need to market your book. If you have a blog, of course the first thing you should do is a post on it! But, you need more, more, more. Guest post on other peoples blogs in your genre, find podcasts where you can be interviewed, submit your book to reviewers and advertise it all over the place when you get a good review. Don’t be shy!
Also, book-signing party’s help! I was lucky enough to have two parties for my first book Costa Rica Chica.
8. How important are reviews? Reviews are VERY important. Give friends a free book in return for an honest review. In the end, bad reviews might hurt your feelings, but they don’t hurt the sale of the book, they actually provide proof of the book – that other people are reading it. Also, once you get over 50 reviews on Amazon, Amazon will start listing your book in its newsletters and other promotions (free marketing for you!).
9. FREE help? Here’s some FREE ebooks on amazon that you should read to help you while writing your book and with publishing on Amazon when you’re ready:
There’s other books out there, but the above all free, and two of them are published by Amazon themselves.
We hope all this helps. It all seems daunting at first,
but it is definitely doable. Heck, if we did it – you can do it too!
Happy publishing! — Jen & Greg
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