Publishing a book: Part 3 – Self-publishing an e-book

For the past two weeks, I have been discussing publishing your own book. The first week I covered traditional publishing and what steps you would need to become published through a book publishing house.

Last week, I discussed the options of self-publishing a physical copy of your book. This week I want to focus on the steps to publish an electronic book (e-book).

Of course step number one is to have a well-written novel. I am assuming any editing or polishing has already been done at this stage, and you are ready to publish.

Cover

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

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!

Content

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).

Formatting

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.

Distribution

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 which 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 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. (I use Smashwords for all the retailers except for Amazon.)

As I said earlier, Smashwords had the best walk through in getting your manuscript ready for publication. It strips down most of the formatting and ensures that your novel will look good on multiple e-readers. And I love that you only have to do this once to show up on several major e-book retailers’ websites.

Once you have completed all these steps, you are a published author! With that begins the fun of marketing your books.

Publishing a book: Part 2 – Self-publishing

Last week, I wrote about publishing a book through a traditional publishing house. This week, I wanted to discuss going the self-publishing route.

There are many benefits to be self-published. You have complete control over what you publish and when. You retain all rights to your book, and you receive 100 percent of the profit. The main drawback is that you have to do all the work and pay for any expenses yourself.

You have several options when it comes to self-publishing. You can opt to publish just an electronic copy of your book (an e-book), or you can actually print a physical copy or you can do both. Let’s look quickly at the options for physically printing a book.

Vanity

In this option, you pay for all the services to print your book but own the book and receive the profits. You are in charge of distribution. This is best for the hobbyist or those who just have a goal of seeing their work in print. (Hence the reason it is often referred to as a vanity press.)

Subsidy

While similar to a vanity press, a subsidy publisher contributes toward the cost of editing, distribution, warehousing and marketing of the book. Typically, the author pays for the printing and binding of the book and will receive royalties.

Print on Demand

This is a good option for someone with a limited audience. You use your own money to produce the book and then have a company (such as Amazon’s Createspace) print them one at a time as they are ordered. The plus is that you don’t have any books that you need to store.

Self-Publishing

You pay to produce, market and warehouse your books.

With all of these methods, the majority of the work and expense of publishing falls on the author’s shoulders. And as hard as it is to find a traditional publisher, it can be equally hard to find physical retail location that want showcase your new novel.

But often with today’s technology, many readers no longer buy physical copies of books. Many readers now have e-readers so authors need to determine whether they even need physical copies of their books to sell.

And this leads us to the last section in this three-part series on publishing a book – e-book publishing. Next week I will go over the steps to publishing your e-book.

Pricing your e-book – revisited

When I began this blog, I wrote about pricing your e-book. This was three and a half years ago, and I was new to the industry. Today, many authors still struggle with how to price their e-books.

You worked hard – spending months, even years – on this book. You think it is worth as much as any New York best-seller. The problem is you aren’t Stephen King or John Grisham. No one – or very few people – recognize your name.

Now while e-book versions of New York bestsellers sell from $6.99 to $14.99 (based on my quick glances of prices from three well-known authors), should you expect the same price for your book?

In my opinion, no. You may have a well-written novel but people don’t know you, and many will not be willing to shell out that type of money for an unknown.

There are readers out there who only want discount books. Some will pay 99 cents while others think they can find enough good “free” books. And then there are those readers who are suspicious of a cheaply priced book and consider those not worth their time.

You have to decide what the readers of your genre will pay. And you have to decide what you feel comfortable pricing your book. Sure you want to make money but if no one buys your book because it is priced too high, then even if it is a quality read it won’t sell.

pricingI am among the readers who will not pay high prices for books, whether they are from famous, well-known names or unknowns. I buy books anywhere from 99 cents to $3.99 from an unknown author. And I don’t go much higher for those well-known authors like Nora Roberts. I wait until I see the book on sale (usually in paperback) and buy it then.  I don’t think I have every paid over $7 for a fiction e-book.

How you determine your e-book price is totally up to you. You can price it high because you think it is worth that, or because you know how much work went into writing, editing and publishing your work. But readers typically don’t care much about what goes into writing a book. They only care about the end result. They want to know what is in it for them.

Assumingly that is hours of enjoying a good book. It can also take them to exotic destinations or even to other worlds. It can introduce them to interesting characters. It can provide them an escape from daily life. Your book may be able to offer them all this and more.

But just because you offer all this to your reader doesn’t mean you can automatically price your book at a higher price. Many readers will still not take a chance at a new author with books priced too high. This doesn’t mean you have to ignore your books value to the reader. It just means you need to price it low enough to entice readers to give it a try.

As with anything, there is always an exception to any “rule.” There is nothing wrong with offering a short story or the first book in the series at a really low price to entice a reader to give your work a try. My short story, The Search, is free everywhere but Amazon (where it is just 99 cents). I wrote this short prequel to my The Elemental trilogy to be a loss-leader. I am hoping people will download (or buy it) and enjoy it so much that they will want to buy the next three books (and then my stand-alone book, The Heir to Alexandria). I know many authors that have the first book in their series either perma-free or priced at 99 cents for the same reason.

So bottom line…consider carefully what price you give your e-book. A lot of authors, including myself, price their books at the $2.99 mark since this allows the higher royalty rate on Amazon but is still low enough to entice readers to give an unknown author a try. Is this rate right for you? Only you – and the e-book market – can decide.

 

Is it worth converting your self-published book into an audio book?

Audio books are becoming increasingly popular. People listen to books while driving, exercising, doing household chores or simply relaxing. To have your own work performed is an exciting idea.  But is it worth it for an independent author to make the jump into the audio book market?

Let me start out by saying that making your book into an audio book can be a daunting task. And while audio books are popular, selling an audio editions is harder than selling a paperback or e-book especially as a relatively unknown author.

audio-booksThe first thing you would have to decide is if you want to do it alone or hire someone to help you put together your audio book. While self-publishing an e-book is easy to do yourself, I would suggest getting some help on doing an audio book.

One of the most popular digital platforms for producing and distributing audio books is Amazon’s ACX (Audio Book Creation Exchange).

If you go to ACX, they list the steps for producing an audio book through their site. You can do your own narration and upload it or they can help match you with narrators (called producers on the site).

Producers on ACX are either paid up front (at $200 to $1,000 per finished hour with the average book 8 to 12 hours) or they can agree to split the royalties 50/50 with the author and receive no advance payment. (This option is only available if you do the exclusive option for audio book distribution).

Of course, many producers aren’t looking to split the royalties unless you are a well-established, bestselling author. This means if you are an unknown indie author you will need to shell out your money upfront.

ACX allows you to hear samples of thousands of narrators and you may “audition” them with your own work. (Hint – make sure you select a section that includes dialogue between key characters.)

Once your audio book is complete, ACX will distribute it through the three leading digital retailers for audio book – Audible, Amazon and iTunes. One major drawback is they control the pricing of your audio book (unlike KDP and CreateSpace where you set the price.)

If you grant ACX exclusive rights to your work, your royalty is 40%. If you opt out of the exclusive rights, the royalty rate is 25%.  Keep in mind that Audible is the largest seller of audio books so it might be worth taking the exclusive option.

You also are agreeing to give ACX the right to distribute your book for 7 years no matter if you pick the exclusive or non-exclusive rights. They renew their agreement yearly after that unless they receive written notification of termination of the agreement.

So with all this said, is it worth it do make your self-published book into an audio book? Considering the cost of producing the audio book and the amount of marketing, I would say that it isn’t the right choice of a majority of the indie authors out there. I know for myself that I am just now establishing a following and doing decent with my e-book sales that I don’t want to venture into the audio book market – or at least not yet.

Cover Reveal as a Marketing Tool

So you have written a book and are in the process of editing it. In just a few months, it will be out there for the world to buy. But before you publish your book, you will want to create a buzz about your upcoming release. That is where a cover reveal comes into play.

Blank Book CoverA cover reveal is exactly what the name implies. It is simply letting readers see the cover of your new book BEFORE the book is published. It is a great way to promote interest in the book and remind your readers that something new is coming.

Great covers spark interest in your work. That is why there are so many posts about creating a professional, eye-catching book cover. The cover is the first thing readers see and often where they decide if your book is worth their time to even read the book description.

So in a cover reveal, you are hoping to build anticipation. You want to make the reader curious about the story. And hopefully make them eager to buy it when it comes out or is available for pre-order.

There are many websites that will help you set up a cover reveal by scheduling other bloggers to post your new cover, blurb and bio on their sites. Most promos range from about $40-$60.

Of course, you can do the work yourself by contacting bloggers you know or posting on message boards looking for bloggers to host you. Only you can decide if the price of paying someone else to do it – someone with possibly good connections – is worth it.

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverI have only done one Cover Reveal. It was for my last novel, The Heir to Alexandria. I only posted the reveal on my own blog, but I do belong to a great group of Tribber members who tweeted out notices about the reveal.

Remember, readers have to see your book many times before they buy it. A cover reveal gives you an early start of getting in front of potential readers and creating hype. Even if you don’t have a publication date, you can do a reveal.

Now whether my own reveal built in any anticipation, I don’t know. But there is no such thing as too much promotion so it was worth it, and I will do it again with my next book.

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.

 

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.

Now before I go on, let’s cover what copyrights do NOT cover. They do not cover words, names, symbols (though some symbols can be trademarked) and ideas. That last one is something that often confuses people. If you go around talking about an idea for a novel, it isn’t copyrighted and anyone can take that idea and write a story that is 100% theirs. But as soon as you put those words on the page, those words, your story, is yours and copyright protection is extended to you without having to apply or pay for it.

Now some people will tell you that you need to register your work to get copyright protection, but this isn’t true. As of March 1, 1989, you are automatically protected. You can still register with the U.S. Copyright office for a fee. I found a few websites that said you need to have it officially registered to have your copyright hold up in the court of law. This is FALSE.

So what does registering your copyright provide you?

  • It gives you a public record of when your book was created.
  • Registered works can be eligible for additional statutory damages and/or attorney’s fees if someone violates your copyright, and you take them to court.
  • Registration is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law (which roughly means that is considered a fact without needing further evidence.)

If you are interested in registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, here is how to do it.

Note: If you are submitting your work to a traditional publishing house, do not file an official copyright before you submit it. This is something the publishing house will do after they agree to publish your story.

Speaking of copyrights…you should have a copyright page as part of your front matter.

So what goes on your copyright page?

  1. The © symbol, or the word “Copyright”
  2. The year of first publication of the work; and
  3. an identification of the owner of the copyright—by name, abbreviation, or some other way that it’s generally known.

Together, it should look like this:

© 2015 Susan Leigh Noble

Your copyright page will also have your legal notices and any disclaimers you want to include.

Here is what appears on the copyright page of Summoned.

Note: Since I had submitted my first book, Summoned, to several publishing houses before going the self-publishing route, I listed the copyright date to reflect that.

*******************

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination. Any resemblances to persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.

 

Original Copyright © 1995 by Susan Leigh Noble

First Digital Publication: August 2011

 

Published by Susan Leigh Noble

Cover design by Donna Casey (www.digitaldonna.com)

Photos used to create the cover were obtained from dreamtime.com

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system — except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a magazine, newspaper, or on the web — without expressed written permission from Susan Leigh Noble.

*******************

So basically it is up to you to decide if you want to officially register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright office. I have not done so with any of my books – and that was with the advice from my husband who is an attorney.