Now, you’ve written your 90,000 word novel. It’s as good as it can be. You spent nine months writing the first draft. And that’s all it was – a first draft. And you rewrote it. And you rewrote it again. After one year you have finally written a manuscript on a Word.doc that you are happy with. Time now to change hats and become an entrepreneur. The writing part is nearly over and that has been relatively cost-free. You have decided to be an Independent Author. That is, you will pass up the traditional literary agent/publisher route and publish the book yourself. Have no illusions. The entrepreneur part is anything but cost-free. And here we go.
1) An independent author cannot produce a first-class book on the cheap. Regardless of the high standard of your writing, your self-published book cannot look self-published. Your book needs to equal the quality of the traditionally published books sold in book stores. SELF-PUBLISHING IS NOT DIY. Here are the critical parts of the self-publishing process that will require an investment. That investment in direct costs could be around $2,500.
(A) Attend a writers’ conference (an indirect cost). The workshops and contacts you make there are invaluable. I recommend the Southern California Writers Conference (SCWC) in September in Irvine, California.
(B) Hire a CONTENT EDITOR. I found mine at the SCWC in September 2014. If you think you cannot afford a content editor, the truth is you cannot afford NOT to have one. I am happy to recommend my editor to you.
(C) Hire the best cover designer you can find. The book will be sold (or not) initially by its cover. A cheap cover reflects the quality of the book in general. I can highly recommend my cover designer.
(D) Hire an interior designer to properly format the entire inside of your book – from the copyright page all the way through to your final Acknowledgements page.
(E) My interior designer also prepares the book, including cover and formatted interior, for uploading to the publishers (CreateSpace/Amazon, Ingram, Kindle, ePub, iTunes, Nook, etc.)
(F) Engage proof readers (three are recommended). One of them should be a professional. The other can be family or a friend who is especially qualified. They proofread as a round – not simultaneously. When that is complete, you are ready to upload your finished product to the sellers/publishers. You can order up to five proof copies from CreateSpace (Amazon). These proof copies of the actual book are what you use for proofreading.
2) It is imperative that you have the most effective KEYWORDS and PHRASES when your book is listed for sale on Amazon and Kindle (and all of the rest of the sellers). These online publishers are not set up as book stores. They are set up as SEARCH ENGINES. Thus the importance of Keywords that readers type into the search boxes. Note you will list and search by RELEVANCE. Save a lot of time in determining your keywords by downloading Kindle Spy. You want to narrow down the number of books that appear when one searches for a keyword or phrase. Try for a keyword/phrase that comes up with about 1,000 books for sale (or less). Be sure those on that list have plenty of reviews, meaning people are buying the books. Example: The category/genre “Thriller” is far too broad and has too many books listed (over 300,000). So narrow it down to: “Thriller Espionage” (14,000). Or even narrower: “Thriller Military Espionage” (1,900). “Military Espionage Novels” (649). I determined my choices for CHINA SEA using Kindle Spy within an hour. You can do this without Kindle Spy by going to your Amazon/Kindle Store website and just start plugging in keywords. That could be very time-consuming. Note Kindle Spy will also give you the Popularity, Potential for Earnings and the degree of Competition using three different color codes – Green, Yellow or Red. Stay away from Red dots (for example in competition).
3) Selling your print book to Barnes & Noble stores. Your book must have at least ten reviews (e.g. on Amazon). Send your book directly to Barnes & Noble head office. The details on how to do this are listed on their website. See their publisher and author guidelines: getting started. It is now possible to have your Indie book sold at B&N stores using this procedure. That is one good reason to establish your own publishing company. Mine is King Harbor Press. There is no way a book store is going to handle a book where CreateSpace (Amazon) is listed as the publisher.
4) Ingram Spark is worth considering if you want to have books distributed to stores. Ingram is the largest book distributor in the world. I would like to distribute my book internationally, so at some point I will follow up with my Ingram account and upload my book to them. Note Ingram requires special formatting. So the professional formatter might be required (unless you’re really handy at that sort of thing). See 1(E) above. Again, you need to set up your own publishing company.
5) While the content editor is spending a month or two working on the structure of your manuscript, it is a good time for you to commence your marketing and promotion plan. Your marketing plan may include: Social Media (a Facebook Page, Twitter, etc.), writing a BLOG, setting up a website for yourself or your book, joining Goodreads and compiling an email list. An email list is very important. Have a business card made that lists each of these media. I am now reading a book that describes how to use Goodreads as an author by Michelle Campbell-Scott. Recommended.
6) The direct and indirect costs connected to your work as an author may be written off for tax purposes for five years. After five years you will have to show the IRS that you have generated a profit with your book(s). If you have not, then the IRS considers that your writing is a hobby. And you may have to pay back taxes, penalties, etc.
7) Don’t limit yourself to only one or two sales outlets. Hit them all – print and eBooks. There are plenty of people who prefer to read books in print rather than on a tablet. So use CreateSpace and possibly Ingram for PRINT. Publish with Kindle, iTunes, Nook, Google Partners for eBooks.
8) How do you price your book? Does a free or a 99 cent book infer low quality? Probably. Check out Wattpad as a means of promoting your book when you write it as a serial.
I am at the end of this process and my novel CHINA SEA will be published on Amazon and each of the eBook outlets next month. May I suggest that you follow this blog so that I can update you on that. And if you have any comments on this subject of preparing your book for self-publication, please do comment here on the blog.