Once you’ve decided you want to pursue self-publishing, it’s helpful to make two important decisions as early as possible:
- Which formats do you want to publish in? Print and e-books? Just e-books? If print, which kind of print, hardcover, paperback… papyrus scrolls? Stone tablets?
- Where do you want to publish your books? Who do you want to print your books? Do you just want to go to Amazon for e-books? Do you want to have e-books available wherever e-books are sold?
“Wait a darn second here,” you might be protesting. “Isn’t getting everything published the last step?”
Here’s why it’s important to decide where you’re publishing as early as possible. The format(s) and distribution methods you choose influences several key steps in the self-publishing process:
- You’ll need to design interiors (or have them designed) for the right print and e-book formats.
- If you’re publishing in print, you’ll need to draft cover copy.
- It will help decide the format and size of your eventual cover, which you’ll need to tell your cover designer.
Decide early and decide often!! Err… Scratch that. Decide early and TRY to decide only once. You can change your mind later, but you may have to repeat some steps.
Here’s how to decide where to publish your books when self-publishing.
Do you want to publish in print?
One still prevalent myth about self-publishing is that it is difficult and/or expensive to create print versions of your work. This is no longer true.
You don’t (necessarily) have to pay anything up front to have your book available in print! There are print-on-demand publishers who will happily, well, print on demand, meaning they’ll print copies when someone buys your book. Gone are the days when you have to pay a bunch of money to invest in an expensive print run of a few thousand copies.
That said, you will have some decisions to make about which service you go with. Some of the players include:
- Kindle Direct Publishing – KDP is owned by Amazon and it’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways of getting your book in print. However, they only offer paperback, and books with color are more expensive. So if you have a very design-heavy project, you may want to look elsewhere.
- IngramSpark – While IngramSpark costs just a bit more up front, they offer a few more distribution and format options (including hardcover) that may be of interest to people who are confident they’ll be selling quite a few copies.
- Blurb – Blurb’s emphasis has historically been on design-oriented books, so if that’s your jam they may be a solid option for you.
The features offered by these services are constantly changing and there are tons of service providers in this space, so rather than try to give you a super-comprehensive rundown that might be out of date in two days, I’d just encourage you to shop around and check out the pros and cons for your particular project.
But be on the lookout for scams and be wary of people who try to upsell you on a bunch of services you don’t need. I’m also happy to help you decide what’s right for your project.
For e-books, decide if you want to go Kindle exclusive
For e-books, Amazon’s Kindle platform is by far the dominant format, to the point that as of early 2018 some people are estimating it represents more than 90% of e-book sales.
Amazon also offers authors some benefits for offering their book exclusively for sale on the Kindle platform, which is called Kindle Select. These include:
- Making your book available on Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s subscription reading service
- A 70% royalty in certain territories
- Access to additional promotional tools
Do you want to maximize your Amazon sales or do you want to make your book available more broadly? It’s ultimately up to you and your goals for your book — it’s tempting to make Kindle your one stop shop, especially given how dominant it is, but you may want your book available in as many places as possible.
Decide where you want to go direct
If you do decide you want to make your e-book available elsewhere, you have another decision to make. In order to make your book available on iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and other e-book platforms, you can…
- Go directly to the e-book retailers and publish through them
- Go to an e-book distributor like Smashwords or Draft2Digital, who will make your book available in other formats.
- A combination of the two
The advantage of going directly to the publishers is that you usually get a higher royalty. The disadvantage is that it takes longer and you have more places you need to monitor for sales and other updates.
For my guide to writing a novel, I published the print edition through Kindle Direct Publishing and Ingram Spark, I published the e-books directly through Kindle, Nook, and Kobo, and I used Smashwords for iBooks and others. I have been largely happy with my life choices.
Publish and profit
Once you’ve made these key decisions, you’re ready to move on to the next steps in your self-publishing journey. But you’ll be much more prepared for your voyage.
Self-publishing veterans, any tips or tricks I missed? How did you go about this process?
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my guide to writing a novel (now available in audio) and my guide to publishing a book.
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Art: Die Schriftgelehrten by Albert J. Franke