Self-publishing an ebook decisions

This post is the thirty-eighth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Last week, we talked about making sure your novel is ready to publish and then went over traditional publishing houses as well as taking the option to self-publish a physical copy of your book. But nowadays so many people have an e-book reader or e-book reader app that it might be worth it not to publish a physical copy of your book and only publish an electronic version.

Now with any self-published book, you, the author, make all the decisions. In the next couple of weeks, we will be going over these areas in more depth.


One of the most important aspects of selling your book is to have a good, eye-catching cover. Even though you will be selling online instead of a brick-and-mortar store, many readers select their books based on appearance.

While some authors are skilled enough to design their own cover, I would highly recommend that you have a professional do it. And go to one that is going to custom design a cover for your book rather than just one that will take a stock cover and add your name and title.

Book Blurb

Just like paperbacks have descriptions on the back cover, your e-book will need an enticing blurb. This is the second most important aspect after the cover. Your cool, awesome cover made the reader click on your book link. Now it is up to the book blurb to seal the deal.

Please take a lot of time when writing the blurb. Don’t just jot down something quickly. Go read book blurbs and decide what works. After you write yours, polish it just like you did your novel. It needs to shine!


There is much more to having a novel than just the story. You need front matter (cover page, copyright page and perhaps a table of contents or dedication page) as well as the back matter (a biography and list of other books you have written and perhaps even an excerpt of another book).


This is one of the trickiest parts of preparing your novel for publication. Both Amazon and Smashwords (e-book distributors) offer steps to format your book for their publication. My suggestion would be to follow Smashword’s steps first. It clears out many of the problems that you didn’t even know existed. If you aren’t completely savvy in the ways of computers, please elicit or hire help for this step. Formatting effects how your novel appears on e-book readers so it is an important step in allowing readers to enjoy your writing.


Once you have a properly formatted book, you are ready to self-publish it. And to begin, you should start with the largest e-book retailer out there – Amazon.

Kindle Direct Publishing is Amazon’s platform for self-publishers. They offer step-by-step instructions on offering your book on their website. You have the choice of either 35% or 70% royalties based on the selling price of your e-book. If you approve it, your book will be sold in all markets from the UK to Japan and Italy as well as the United States and Canada. They also offer a program called KDP Select where you exclusively allow them to publish your book. It is up to you to decide if being only found in the largest e-book retailer will benefit you more than having your book available at ALL e-book retailers. (You can opt to do KDP Select for a limited time.)

Smashwords  offers a way to publish your work with many distributors from Amazon to Barnes & Noble and iTunes and many other e-book retailers. It can save you time from having to do each distributor individually though since you are paid through Smashwords instead of directly from the other retailers there is a slight lag in payment processing.

So there is a brief overview of some of the topics that are to come, but we will also be covering selecting a title, pen names, author bios, author websites and more so stay tuned!

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your Novel


Publishing your novel recap – Number 3

I was on vacation last week. That is my excuse for doing another recap post.

This is obviously my third recap of publishing your novel posts. You can read the first one from June 2013 here or the last one from September 2014 here. I like to think they contain some good information.

So you want to self-publish your novel? There is a lot to learn and it is an ever-changing world. Here are my posts on publishing posted in the past year. Listed are the title of the post and the first few lines and then a link if you want to read the post.

Formatting your self-published novel – DIY or hire someone? – You have written your novel and now are ready to publish it as an e-book. But your file needs to be submitted in the proper format as required by the publisher. So do you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you?(To read more, click here.)

CIMG0524Revisiting the all-important book blurb – The book blurb is one of the most important promotional tools you will write for your novel. This short piece of prose can entice someone to buy your novel – or pass it up. Because it is so important, you should spend a lot of time perfecting your novel’s blurb. (To continue reading, click here.)

Choosing the front matter for your self-published book – You have worked hard on your novel and are now ready to publish it. But the first thing readers will see when they begin reading your e-book won’t be your story. Everything that goes before your story is called the Front Matter and introduces your book to the reader. (To read more, click here.)

Deciding on back matter for your e-book – Last week, I covered front matter (all the pages BEFORE your story) in your book. Today, I want to talk about back or matter – which as you guessed is all the pages AFTER your story. (To continue reading, click here.)

preorder amazonPre-Orders: Are they worth it? – When I published my first three novels, setting up a pre-order was not available to self-published authors. Since then, both Amazon and Smashwords have begun offering pre-orders. (To read more, click here.)

Do you need to copyright your self-published novel? – This is often a question that new self-published authors ask. And the quick answer is no. As soon the words leave your mind and you put them on paper (or type them into your computer file), it is already protected under U.S. copyright law. (To read more, click here.)

Preparing for an e-book release – So you have written an awesome story, edited it until it shines and formatted it for publication as an e-book. The cover has been designed and the engaging book blurb has been written. You are ready to release your book to the world. So what do you do now? How do you let everyone know about your masterpiece? (To find out, click here.)

If you are self-published, you might be considering using Kindle Direct Publishing’s Select program. To find out my most recent stint with KDP Select, check out these two posts. The first one goes over the program and author concerns with using it. The second is my results from using it from January to April of this year.

Considering KDP Select again

KDP Select free book promo results

If you have any ideas for further posts about self-publishing a novel, please feel free to suggest them.


KDP Select free book promo results

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverI posted about trying out Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select back in January before I released my fourth full-length fantasy novel The Heir to Alexandria. It would be my second time trying the Kindle program. (I first tried it with my short story The Search.)

KDP Select is a program where you sell your e-book exclusively on Amazon. As part of the perks, you can either offer your book free for up to five days or offer it at a discount using their Kindle Countdown promotion. Your agreement with Amazon lasts 90 days, and then you can choose whether to renew your enrollment in the program or not.

Now some authors don’t like the program for its exclusivity as not all readers have a Kindle. You could be losing or angering some fans who have a different e-reader. By choosing to be exclusive to Amazon, you are in a sense putting all your eggs in one basket (though a really good basket as Amazon is the largest e-book retailer).

Now my thought about this is that I would only use the program for the initial 90 days and then release my e-book in other formats at Barnes & Noble, Kobo store, I Tunes and all the other e-book retailers after that. I don’t have such a following (yet) that I need to worry about angering my fans by only using Amazon for a short period.

So now let’s get on to my results from using KDP Select’s free book promotion.

First Free E-book Offer

I was really busy when my book came out at the end of January that I didn’t get a chance to offer it for free until March. Research showed that Tuesday and Wednesday would be best for a free promotion. So I picked March 10-11, which was during my kids’ Spring Break vacation from school.

Figuring out how to get the word out about your free book is always complex. I of course announced it on my blog, and my Tribber team helped spread the word. I also listed it on Independent Author Network‘s and World Literary Cafe’s free book sections. Many other websites won’t list your free book if you don’t have the required amount of reviews (typically 20 or more 4 or 5 star reviews) so I didn’t have a lot of other options.

Here is the breakdown from my first two free days…

March 10 – 65 books

March 11 – 11 books

Total free books – 76

Now that wasn’t as good as a result as I would have wanted. But my April was set to be really busy in the beginning and many websites, in addition to the review requirements, want notice of up to weeks in advance.

Second Free E-book Offer

So for my second set of free days, I decided to purchase a few advertisements. I spent $15 ($5 a day) to appear on Digital Book Today‘s website. I also applied to be on E-Reader News Today‘s email and website. (They have to approve you.) For only $15 I would be on Wednesday’s e-mail list and on their homepage. So in addition to these and my previous efforts, this time my free days would also happen during the A to Z challenge when my blog would be getting more traffic.

Here is the breakdown of my second set of free days…

April 21 – 234 books

April 22 (day of E-Reader News Ad) – 1769 books

April 23 – 737 books

Total free books – 2740

top 100 - 82During the free promotion and the week after, I received three new reviews and sold five copies of The Search, two copies of Summoned (Book 1 of my trilogy), one copy of Quietus (Book 2 of my trilogy), and five copies of my trilogy box set. This is in comparison to only one box set sold during my March free promo.

#1 fantasyDuring the free promo, I also rose in sales rank. The Heir to Alexandria got as high as 82 on Kindle’s top 100 free list. It also stayed at number 1 in Epic Fantasy for a whole day.

So do I regret offering my hard work for free? Not at all. I am pleased with the results. I gained reviews and sales. And hopefully as more people read my free book, I will get more of both.

(Really, a free book promo only benefits an author who has other books to offer.)

Of course now my deal with Amazon is over. I have since published my novel on Smashwords and soon it will be available at more e-book retailers.


My KDP Select experiment is over

The SearchOn Sunday, December 9th, The Search ended its run in KDP Select. Here is my take on the requirements and/or “benefits” of placing your book in Amazon’s program.


Amazon requires that you do not offer your book in any digital format (you can still sell the physical copies) during your enrollment which lasts 90 days unless you re-enroll. (Note they automatically re-enroll you unless you deselect that option.)

My take….Most of my sales of my other books do come from Amazon so limiting my short story to the largest e-book retailer out there really didn’t bother me. But I am a firm believer that you shouldn’t put all your “eggs in one basket” and that part of selling a self-published work is to have a lot of exposure, which would dictate you have the books on Barnes and Noble, iTunes and the Kobo store.


While enrolled in KDP Select, you receive five days in which you can offer your novel at no cost as a marketing attempt to gain readers. (Is free worth it? Check out my post on that topic.)

My first free promotion, done 11 days after The Search was released, resulted in 119 downloads. I did this on a Thursday and Friday with very little promotion.

For my second free promotion which ran Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 (Thursday to Saturday), I did a lot more promoting. I started planning my promotion about three and a half weeks in advanced. I submitted my information to 14 different websites though I never did check to see which ones listed it on their sites. I also posted my free book on various Goodreads groups and the World Literary Café free boards.

I joined the tweet teams on World Literary Café and posted it on my blog, which meant my tribemates on Triberr all tweeted about it for me. And I was featured on two different blogs that were both run by some great people who promoted my free book on numerous Facebook pages as well as through their own Triberr/Twitter connections.

So needless to say, I had a LOT more promotion this time, and it paid off. On day one, I had 50 downloads – a slow day but I have heard that it takes awhile for the word of your free book to get out there. On day two, I had 691 downloads and then on the final day I only had 187. That is a total of 928 downloads. Now I know that for some they do that number in a day but for me, I am quite pleased with this promotion. Even if only 10% read my short story that is 92 new readers.

Now I had hoped to crack the top 100 free but the closest I came was #280. However, I did make it to the #2 on the Young Adult/Fantasy Free list. I never really meant for The Search or my trilogy to be marketed in the Young Adult category but have had several reviewers place it in that category, so I figured a little marketing to that group couldn’t hurt and it seems to have paid off. ranking blog

My take….Whether these free promotions are worth it is hard to say but I have had an increase in the sales of my other novels. In the first 2 days after my promotion ended, I sold 5 more copies of The Search plus 18 of my other novels. For me that is a personal best in such a short time.

I will say since Amazon allows this feature, they make it easy to offer a free promotion. All it takes is clicking “Manage promotions” on your KDP bookshelf and entering the dates you want the book free. If you aren’t a part of KDP Select, it is much harder to do this type of promotion (but not impossible).


Amazon touts that you will receive a share of their allotted money when people borrow your book as part of their Lending Library for Amazon Prime members. This month they have added a $700,000 bonus to the standard $700,000 usually allotted for paying authors in KDP Select who have their books borrowed.

My take….Well, I only had two people borrow my book (and these came after this last free promotion). I really hadn’t expected to have anyone borrow my short story which is only priced at 99 cents. I know that if I had Amazon Prime I would be using my one-a-month borrow on full-length novels over short stories.

I decided not to re-enroll The Search in KDP select and as of December 10th, it is available on Smashwords and soon will be distributed to the other e-book retailers.

Do I regret trying KDP Select? No, not at all. Will I do it again? Well, that depends on what they are offering at the time but right now, I am leaning toward no, I won’t do it for my next novel.  Can it be worth it for some authors? Sure, it can. If it is your first novel, I don’t think it is much help since a “free” promotion is of little benefit (see the above referenced post on free books). But if you have written many books and want to feature either your latest work or perhaps an older one, I can see the benefits of it.

My experience with KDP Select (so far)

When I released The Search in September, I chose to enroll it in KDP Select. I had read many authors’ blogs and opinions on the subject about offering your work exclusively to one distributor. But most of my sales come from Amazon anyway so I am not sure in my case that it matters.

The Search is a short story using one of the main characters from my The Elemental trilogy. It is set before the trilogy happens, and I hope to use it as an introduction of my writing to readers. I liked the option of promoting it for free that KDP Select offers.

After carefully weighing the pros and cons, I decided to go ahead and give KDP Select a try. I used my first 2 (out of 5) free promotional days about 10 days after The Search was released.

Before using my promotional days, I researched many websites that said they would help promote or at least list your “free” book. But I found many of them had qualifications such as at least 10 reviews and a 4+ star rating. Well, for a new release that had only one review at the time that meant those avenues were closed for me.

I promoted my “free” book on some Goodread groups and on Facebook, but mainly I used Twitter as my marketing strategy.  I announced it was free on my blog so that my tribe from Triberr would be tweeting it out. I also joined Tweet Teams from World Literary Café on both the day before and each day of the promotion. That means an additional 27 people were tweeting my message. I must admit I received a fair amount of retweets. But of course, the problem is you don’t know who – if anyone – is reading those tweets. And if they are reading them, are the motivated to act right then and get a book for free?

I ended up with 119 books downloaded in two days. It wasn’t the hundreds I had hoped for or had read about from other authors who had done free promotions.

My book ranking went from 256,699 to 1683. No, I didn’t crack the top 100, but I didn’t expect to. I still don’t know whether to consider this a success or not.

I have learned a few things about offering your book for free. One, make sure you plan in advance. (I started planning a week before the promotion.) Two, make sure you have the necessary 10 reviews to use those other sites – the more exposure the better, right? Three, run your promotion as long as possible so that momentum can build each day. (I have heard this advice from other authors but did note that most of my free books were downloaded on the first day.)

So I have now used two of my five promotion days. I plan to use the other three in November and will see if I get a better result. If anyone has any marketing strategies for offering your book for free, I would sure love to hear them.