Self-publishing is an attractive and inexpensive way to get your book out there! The tips below will help you get started.
For very low cost (or no cost – I’ve done it that way!) you can:
- print an attractive memoir for family and friends
- publish and sell your own creative writing
- bring an idea or a cause to the attention of the public (free ebooks are ideal for this)
- sell copies of your own book at speaking events
- publish and sell a book about any topic that interests you
How is publishing-on-demand (POD) different from vanity publishing?
- In vanity publishing, you pay to have copies printed and bound. You store, sell, and ship them yourself. The process is expensive, especially if the company formats your manuscript for you.
- In POD, copies are printed only when someone wants to buy them. You don’t store or ship them. Your book is available from online booksellers, which will give you a free marketing page and opportunities to post a bio, reviews, and a video. Most important, the whole process is free unless you want to pay for professional editing, custom formatting, original cover artwork, or other special services. And because publish-on-demand services are inexpensive, you can buy copies of your books very cheaply (a boon if you’re doing book signings or sending out review copies). If you use CreateSpace, there are even more benefits: a free ISBN, a free marketing page on Amazon.com, a free “Look Inside” marketing feature, and other marketing tools.
Before you begin writing:
- learn how to use styles in Word software (Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2, indent, and so on)
- learn as much as you can about Word
- use the settings in your style menu for indentations and other special effects. DO NOT use the tab key or space bar for indentations.
- familiarize yourself with writing conventions like quotation marks and capital letters
- have a professional photographer take some digital head shots of you
- go to an online provider to start a blog free. Or you can have a designer create a WordPress blog for you: www.Wordpress.com. Warning: free blogs don’t provide customer service, and you and your followers may have difficulty with access.
- educate yourself about permissions and copyright
- consider participating in one or more free social networking sites, such as Facebook (www.Facebook.com) or, if you’re a professional, LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com).
- start thinking about friends and colleagues who might write endorsements or a foreword for you
No matter what publishing option you use, you’re going to have to create a publishable manuscript on your own. Do it right the first time to avoid spending days cleaning up your manuscript later (or paying a pile of money for someone to do the job for you).
- use your computer’s spellchecker and grammar checker. They’re not infallible, but they’re a tremendous help.
- use only one space (not two) after a period. (You’re not in high school any more!).
- fact-check relentlessly
- choose the styles you want (Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.), and monitor them carefully while you’re writing.
- write with the “Look Inside!” feature at Amazon.com in mind. It allows potential buyers to read your table of contents and first chapter online, free. Make sure your table of contents effectively presents your content and unique approach to your topic, and make sure your first chapter positively sparkles.
These tips from Joel Friedlander at www.CreateSpace.com will help you convert your manuscript into an e-book:
- Use styles to control paragraph indents; don’t use a few spaces or a tab to indent the first line of your paragraphs. This can be set in the style definition in Microsoft Word under “first line indent.”
- Use styles to control space between paragraphs instead of just hitting Return. You can stipulate this spacing in the paragraph formatting dialog in Word under “Spacing after.”
- If you’re planning to publish an e-book or Kindle, create a bookmark for your Table of Contents so readers will be able to navigate to it from anywhere in your book. Name this bookmark toc.
- Don’t “Paste” in photos or graphics; use “Insert” instead. This will ensure your photos and graphics get into your eBook with the best resolution. In Word, use the “Insert” menu.
- Use heading styles, not local formatting, for emphasis. Word comes with heading styles, named Heading 1, Heading 2, and so on. Modify them to your liking, then make sure every similar heading is assigned the same style so your book is consistent throughout.
- If you’re planning to convert your file to an ebook, remember that you’ll need to remove any running heads or page numbers you’ve inserted for the print edition.
- Always work on a backup copy of your print book file. You want to end up with two copies of your book: one for CreateSpace to print, the other to be converted to Kindle eBook format using Kindle Direct Publishing.
Publishing options and services:
- www.CreateSpace.com (POD service attached to Amazon website). Their free publication service includes an ISBN and a book page at www.Amazon.com. Free covers are available, and there’s a wonderful gallery of pictures you can use at no charge. You can opt to pay extra for formatting, editing, and other services.
- www.Lulu.com. Free POD service; paperbacks, and hardcovers and other custom services are available for a fee.
- www.Amazon.com (popular online bookseller) publishes books in Kindle format free (the author provides a formatted file). Free publicity through their Author Central service.
- www.Smashwords.com (popular ebook publisher and bookseller). Publishes formatted files free in popular electronic formats (SONY e-Reader, Nook, Kindle, Apple, etc.). Free author’s page. Free listing in premium catalog.
- http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/01/28/be-your-own-graphics-designer/ features an excellent article about designing a professional book cover.
Resources for self-publishers
- Register (free) at the websites below even if you’re not planning to use their services—their educational materials are excellent.
–www.CreateSpace.com (the self-publishing arm of Amazon.com). Top-notch and professional. Free articles and webinairs.
–www.SelfPublishing.com (not as professional—I often spot editing errors in their materials—but features some great articles)
- Download and read these free ebooks (free registration required):
–Publishing Basics (www.selfpublishing.com/free-ebooks)
–Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (www.smashwords.com/books/view/305) Although this book targets ebook authors, many tips will work for any kind of book. Helpful features include a detailed template for writing a press release.
–Smashwords Style Guide (www.smashwords.com/books/view/52) Detailed instructions for converting a computer file for a book into an ebook.
- Find illustrations at www.Google.com by typing in your search term and clicking the Images link. Then click Tools and Usage Rights. Click Labeled for Non-Commercial Uses for copyright-free images. Warning: Not everything that you find there will actually be fair use. Click through for the sources. Wikipedia and Wiki Commons are also wonderful sources for fair-use images.
- Consider a paid subscription to Stock.Adobe.com (there’s no “www”). You’ll get up to 10 images a month, and unused images carry over to the next month.
- Building Your Book on Kindle (free) will help you format your manuscript as an e-book.
- For 99¢ you can download Alan Shepard’s Kindle book From Word to Kindle: Self Publishing Your Kindle Book with Microsoft Word, or Tips for Formatting Your Text in MS Word So Your Ebook Doesn’t Look Horrible (Like Everyone Else’s). If you don’t own a Kindle, you can read it on your computer.
- I use a paid hosting service for my marketing newsletter: www.ConstantContact.com.
To market, to market:
Getting the word out about your book is the biggest challenge in any kind of publishing. Even if you’re publishing with a big commercial company, you’ll have to do most of the marketing yourself. Here are three free marketing strategies:
- Write and post articles about your topic at ezinearticles.com (Note: There’s no “www”). You can put up to two links at the bottom of each article to send readers to your blog and book page. Your articles will be picked up and republished by online magazines and newsletters.
- Publish a short free ebook at www.Smashwords.com. Display your website on the title page. At the end of your book, include a preview (such as the the first chapter) from the book you’re trying to sell.
- Use the tips in the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide mentioned earlier.
- Learn how to set up a blog at www.makeawebsitehub.com. Click the Start a Blog link.
Miscellaneous things self-publishers should know:
- Install Word on your computer. Using another word-processing program might cause huge headaches later when you have to convert your files to Word.
- Sometimes formatting commands are hidden in the hard return at the end of a paragraph. If formatting problems are driving you crazy, try deleting the hard return at the end of the paragraph, and then re-insert it.
- You’ll need an ISBN for anything you self-publish. ISBNs are free at CreateSpace, Lulu, and Smashwords. Those companies will be listed as the publisher, but you can also put a company name that you make up yourself on the title page. (For example, I use “Maple Leaf Press” for my books.)
- If you’re using CreateSpace, stick with their free ISBN. I made the mistake of purchasing my own ISBN for a book. It was a waste of money, and schools and libraries had difficulty ordering my book. You’ll save yourself some headaches by using the free ISBN.
- On Word, you’ll find a ready-made copyright symbol © in the Insert pull-down menu.
- Headers and footers can be a huge headache. To get your page numbers and chapter headings right, insert Section Breaks and click (or unclick) “Same as Previous” in the header/footer menu. Sometimes “Same as Previous” appears (confusingly) in two places in Word. Be sure to find both of them, or your Section Breaks won’t work properly. You may have to unclick “Same as Previous” several times. (I wasted hours before I discovered this useful information!)
- If you’re converting the file for a book manuscript into an ebook, begin by making a new copy of your manuscript file and saving it in .txt or Notepad. (Yes, you’ll lose all that lovely formatting!) Then redo your headings by using your style menu, with one important warning: Use the same typeface (such as Times New Roman, Arial, Garamond) for everything.
- The style settings in your word processor are your best friends. Set them up carefully to get the look you want for your manuscript. Don’t use the tab key ever. Use the space bar only to put a space after a period (one, not two). Never, NEVER underline.
- If you want to copy something another person has written, or a picture produced by someone else, you’ll need written permission unless the work is considered “fair use.” Often you’ll have to pay a fee. Learn about copyright at http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html.
- Another great resource for learning about copyright is posted at https://blog.reedsy.com/how-to-copyright-a-book
- This slide show is a virtual mini-course in self-publishing: http://www.slideshare.net/Smashwords/mark-cokers-ebook-self-publishing-workshop Although the focus is e-publishing, much of the information is relevant to anyone who wants to publish a book.
- Here’s another Smashwords slide show that’s chock-full of useful information: http://blog.smashwords.com/2015/07/how-to-publish-ebooks-ebook-publishing.html.
- To learn how to convert a manuscript file into Kindle format: kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A2RYO17TIRUIVI.
- Free online dictionary: www.Dictionary.com.
- To read articles about successful POD publishers:
Good luck, and have fun!