How to Self-Publish: eBooks and Kindle

Most of my discussion so far has been regarding paperback books. However, it’s pretty simple to also offer eBooks, and a great way to increase your readership, as well as give more value to your customer.

Converting files to eBook

It’s not hard to use a converter like Calibre and convert your existing PDF to ePub, and offer it as a file on your own site.  Calibre is free and simple to use.  It’s just a few mouse clicks to do most conversions.

However, Lulu.com and Kindle Direct Publishing also offer ways of doing that, as do many of the other self publishing sites.

CreateSpace makes it especially easy to offer an eBook of your work. At the end of your publishing process, they will ask if you want them to convert your existing work to Kindle. Then they send you over to Kindle Direct Publishing, where you can set your prices and territories. You have to wait about a day for review on those as well but it’s not a big deal. There is no fee for that either.

You can even offer a package where someone can get an ebook version of your book, either cheaply or for free, when they buy a print copy.

Kindle Select

When you tell them to bring your book over to Kindle, I highly recommend taking a copy of your book and converting it to .doc. That makes a much better looking product and the Kindle software has an easier time converting. LibreOffice does that easily, it’s just a matter of hitting “save as” and selecting “.doc” in the file dropdown.

You will also be offered to join Kindle Select. I usually do this as it offers some great benefits. It lets you run promotions for your book at no cost to you, lets you take a bigger cut of the profits, and gives you more sales options. The only tradeoff is you are agreeing to only sell your eBook on Kindle while you are a member of Kindle Select, but it’s a limited term in case you change your mind later. I’ve never regretted it.

Kindle Select also makes your book free to people who have Amazon Prime. You’re still paid when they read it – you are paid a proportion of the profits, which usually works out to be about a half a cent per page. It’s great to be able to say to your buyers “check out my book for free if you already have the Kindle subscription.”

If you end up using CreateSpace, your paperback and Kindle versions will show up on the same Amazon listing and that makes it really easy for customers to pick what they want.  It also means that if a person reviews your paperback version, that review will be visible on the Kindle version, and vice versa.

eBook covers

The only other note about eBooks as opposed to print books, is the cover is a little different. You only need the front half of the cover. I generally go into Gimp, use rectangle select to isolate the part I want, hit “crop to image,” save that new file, then boom. Done.

Some people do the Kindle or eBook version first, then set up a paperback later, some do the other way around.  Either way is fine.  Kindle Direct Publishing is starting a feature where they convert your Kindle boosk to paperback without you having to use CreateSpace, but that option is currently very new and I haven’t used it yet.

Self Publishing – preparing and uploading your work

As I mentioned  in Part 2, don’t let anyone tell you that you need to pay for an ISBN, or for submitting things to the US Copyright Office to “protect your copyright.” Keeping the file on your own computer is fine.  That will show the time stamp on it in case anyone doubts your ownership.  I do recommend backing up your work on a thumb drive or external hard drive, though!  If you publish a book, putting the copyright notice near the front of your book protects you as well. You know the one, “this is a work of fiction… ” etc, etc.

 

First steps

I like to set up the title and author info on CreateSpace (or Lulu.com) first, so the service gives me the ISBN, then I put it into my formatted file, convert it to PDF, and then upload it.  After that, CreateSpace asks you to briefly describe your book, say who wrote it, and asks you how big you want your book to be. 6″ by 9″ is a good size to work with, that’s the standard trade paperback size. If you need templates for covers or interior pages, CreateSpace provides those too. Google “CreateSpace templates” for more information.

 

Your Blurb

Your short description is often called a “blurb.”  It’s best to keep this relatively short, maybe a few short paragraphs, because the idea is to entice the reader in and tell them what’s special about the book in a short amount of time. You can use your cover description for this, or something a little longer. Your book may have really great points about it, but a text wall is not inviting to readers.  Just reading the descriptions of a lot of books online will start giving you ideas about how to do this and what it needs to say. Notice what you like, what you don’t, and what works for you with what you see.

 

Setting up your book

While you are setting up your book on CreateSpace, there will be a place where it asks you to set up a BISAC Code. That’s really easy. Basically, you are giving the two main categories that your book fits in. That will affect who sees the book, and who Amazon tries to sell to, as well as where it would be shelved if you get into a bookstore or library. For example, my comedy book might be in fiction: comedy, as well as comedy: business. Play around with it to see where you might fit, you can change it later.

Also, they will ask you to set up five to seven keywords. A keyword can be a short phrase. This makes your book easier to find in net searches. For example, my comedy book might have “comedy, humor, business, customer service, advice” as the keywords. Note that “customer service” counts as just one keyword. Again, you can change those too.

Next, CreateSpace will ask you where you want to sell your book. They will give you the opportunity to market your book worldwide! No extra fee is needed for that. You will also learn what the basic price is to print your book, so you can choose how much profit you get. There are certain guidelines to this but everything is really clearly explained.

Finally, when you have your cover uploaded, your interior text uploaded, and everything filled out, it will let you do a final review, and you can submit. It takes about a day for final approval. When the files are ready, they will email you and you can give your final stamp to it. You can either use their interior reviewer to check the final proof, or buy a proof copy. It costs three or four dollars plus about four dollars shipping. That step is optional, but at least look at the digital copy before submitting.

Then, feel free to publicize all over, put it on your blog, brag about it, and pat yourself on the back! You’re an author! I’ll give tips on marketing in the next post.

Bonus tip about covers: Make sure and leave space at the bottom or to one side of the back cover for the barcode. If you don’t leave space, or if your art wraps around the whole book, they will overlay the barcode somewhere on the back, so it’s best to leave a spot for it. You can leave a three inch by two inch gap if you want, or use a barricade generator and put it in yourself. Then they won’t add it because it’s already there.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

Dice of Fate Cover Final.png

 

Self Publishing: Formatting and Covers

It’s not nearly as hard as it seems to get your book ready to be published. The main thing is to have decent software for it. I believe Word can do most of the things I talk about, but personally I use Libre Office. It’s free, stable, works on nearly any computer, has no adware or spyware, and has a lot of people who use it. LibreOffice also lets you convert things to PDF, which will be important.

 

The Basics

The main thing with getting your book ready to print is converting it to the right size. Many of the books you will be making are nine inches by six inches, and you can go into your page settings and just set the file for that. 11 or 12 point font is about right for many books, though you might want to go a bit smaller depending on the story. Georgia and Times New Roman are good fonts for readability, I really don’t recommend Arial or other sans serif fonts. Still play around and see what you like.

LibreOffice lets you add page numbers too. It’s a fairly simple process to add a header to the top of your document, and create a field so it will automatically number them. LibreOffice’s excellent help files will take care of that, or I could create a tutorial if enough people have trouble. Basically, the idea is that the numbers take care of themselves.

 

Some tips:

Make sure you have all starts of chapters on odd numbered pages. That way they will be to the reader’s right when they come to them.

Same with important pages like author notes, forwards, acknowledgements, frontspieces, tables of contents, etc.

Don’t forget to have a copyright page – CreateSpace lets you get your ISBN before uploading your work, so you can stick that in your copyright information. If you need a good example of what that looks like, pick up any novel and flip to the front.

When you have everything perfect, use the handy Convert to PDF function in LibreOffice. Take a look through and make sure it all looks good. This “locks in” all your careful formatting so it can’t move around.

A note: if you convert your book over to a Kindle version, it’s best to save a copy as a .doc file. Luckily, LibreOffice can do that too. Anybody who’s stuck can feel free to message me, though LibreOffice is really easy to use.

 

Your Cover

When it comes time to create your cover, there are a lot of ways to do it. If you’re like me, you will paint something and put it in GIMP, another free graphics program, and add all your own text etc. Pixabay is actually an awesome resource if you need photos. I prefer GIMP because it lets you work in transparent layers – great because you can have a text layer, a background layer, and more, and when you have to fix something on one layer you don’t have to change the others. For example, I can paint something, take a picture of it, put it into GIMP and make that the background layer, then arrange the text on top of it. It gives me tremendous flexibility.

For those a bit less comfortable with graphics, there is also the option to use a cover creation program. Both Lulu.com and CreateSpace have those integrated. So it’s perfectly possible to make a nice cover without having to hire anybody. If you need ideas, go online and look up other books in your genre. You can learn a whole lot by looking, noticing what you like and what you don’t, and maybe taking a few notes. Cover design is a fine art but you can do some nice work if you pay attention to what is effective in other covers.

If you’ve created your cover in another program, convert that over to PDF too. GIMP does that so you don’t need a fancy converter. Make sure you leave space on the back for the barcode, it’s about 440 pixels wide by 354 pixels high, which works out to about an inch and a half wide by just over an inch high. Your cover should be saved at 300 dpi if you make your own.

Go to CreateSpace and follow their publishing wizard. It will literally walk you through the process, explaining everything as you go along.

If you have more questions, of course I’m here, and my material on under the authors links and publishing links to the right of the page is still there too.

A note regarding ISBNs: There is no need to pay for them, and no need to submit works to the Library of Congress either. Both Lulu.com and CreateSpace will give you an ISBN for free and your copyright notice suffices for protecting your work. If someone tries to charge you for either, run away.

When you want to publish your book: tips for aspiring authors

The only thing worse than failing as a writer, is failing as a writer and paying someone else for the privilege.  Writing and getting your things published doesn’t have to be hard, though it often is. There are certain things you can do so you aren’t taken for a ride. I’ve watched the publishing industry change over the years, helped publish a few books, and in all of it I’ve seen that certain things remain true. So I have come up with some tips and rules to help protect you from career-breaking mistakes.
Do not ever pay an agent fee or publishing charge. Those are used by vanity publishers and scam artists to separate you from your money and give you nothing.

There is one small exception to this. If you complete the NaNoWriMo writing challenge and earn the 75% off coupon from FastPencil, that’s actually a pretty good value. For around a hundred dollars you get a fair amount of marketing help and wide distribution for your book, as well as a larger cut of the profits. Otherwise, don’t pay agent fees or publishing charges.

Also be cautious of anyone who says “you need to help us pay for a thousand books and you need to do all your own marketing.” Real agents don’t charge the author.

If you are an aspiring writer and want to be published traditionally, do not let your desire blind you to scam artists. Be particularly wary of any unsolicited emails from publishing companies with glowing testimonials, compliments about your work, and promises of big profits. I’m looking at you, SBPRA! Unless you are really well known, publishing houses don’t approach you unasked, and if you are well known, you won’t be needing these tips.
Carefully check any contracts to make sure you retain control over your work. Look for hidden fees. Read them. Reread them. If anyone objects or tries to get you to rush, don’t sign.

Before signing up with any agent or publishing company, check their online reputation. Several good authors groups, like the Science Fiction Writer’s Association, have lists of scammers. No reputation might not be a deal breaker but a bad reputation is.

When you self publish, and even if you don’t, use a beta reader. Have one or more people carefully read your work, looking for typos, misspelled words, awkward grammar, or anything else that will make your work look less than its best. The more eyes, the better!

Write what you love, write what you know, and never ever write something you don’t know about unless you have expert help. That is, talk it over with someone who knows the subject very well, and then listen to what they have to say!

Finally, any time emotion (especially love or fear) is involved, the market is ripe for scammers and they know it. You love your book, you love the idea of success. You fear failure. Scammers know that and they play to your emotions. This is your work, hopefully your best work, and you owe it to your future to let reason rule over emotion. You’ll be thankful later.

If you have any comments or tips, comment here and I’ll add them with attribution.