How to self publish. Part 1

How to self publish. Part 1

The traditional rout

Most writers write with the intention of someday publishing some of their work as a book. But even if we do finally get that first novel written, trying to find a publisher is hell. Unless you have a PHD or you are a journalist or you have some sort of credentials or an in, you are not likely to be met with a lot of enthusiasm... and you end up out.

Most publishers won’t look at your work unless it is presented to them by an agent. Some won’t publish anything they have not commissioned. There are a dozen road blocks in your way before anyone ever reads your manuscript. So even if you are a Hemingway in the making, a new writer faces rejection after rejection after rejection unless they catch a really lucky break.

What’s the alternative?

Some people go the vanity press rout. A vanity press is a publisher who agrees to print your book, but you pay for each copy. You do all your own advertizing. Often they set the price for your book. They give you a percentage off if you buy in bulk. You can sell to your relatives and friends for as much as you want. They also pay you a small percentage on orders they receive from outside sources you no doubt cultivated.

And there are horror stories. Some demand you sign your rights over to them for up to 7 years. Often the paper they print their books on is inferior; sometimes they decide what your cover will look like. You might have extra costs like buying an ISBN number from them. You may have to pay up front for the first copy before they finalize the deal with you. You will never get a free copy for yourself.

It’s a far cry from getting a real publisher and getting money upfront to finish your book, and then sitting back and letting them do all the advertizing while you go to photo ops, talk shows, and book signings.

So some vanity publishers are really bad news. But some are actually not so bad depending on what you expect or use them for. It takes work to sort them out so as long as you don’t jump at the first one that says they like your submission and want to work with you, you’ll find a good one. You have to know, of course, no one actually reads your work before they accept it. No one edits it. So whatever praise they give, it is usually a lie to butter you up to sign on.

The fact is: They provide the press, you provide everything else. They get most of the money.

If all you want is to have an on demand paper book published for family and friends, and you don’t mind doing all the legwork yourself, it might be perfect for you. There has been the odd person here or there who have made it big by self publishing their first paper book. I hear of one or two a year now. You never know.

But the world is changing and it is changing fast. Paper book sales are way down for everyone, and have been declining for several years.

Are you depressed yet? Don’t be.

You are about to enter the world of eBook publishing.

While traditional paper book sales are way down, eBooks are gaining popularity by leaps and bounds. It is said that eBooks will be outselling traditional paper books in the next few years. It’s an emerging market that’s emerging fast.

Why? The reason is technology, simple as that. Most smart phones these days come with eBook readers built in. The new tablets have them. The Iphone “has an app for that.” And there are an entire range of portable readers out there made by the likes of Sony and Amazon. You see them on busses and trains and subways everywhere now. People can even read books off their lap top or on their home PC or Mac.

So what are the pitfalls of self publishing with eBook publishers?

None. It is that simple. You write the book, you make sure you format it correctly and you submit it with a cover and a short description of the book. You get a good percent of the sales and you don’t pay a cent for anything. The point is: they want you.

Who are the eBook companies you can publish for?

That’s the beauty of it. You get to publish with all of the big names all at the same time. The biggest one on the internet being Amazon is one of the biggest book sellers on the internet, and they are turning their focus toward eBooks. They are selling a reader called: Kindle, so all their books are formatted for it. But you don’t have to pay over one hundred dollars for a Kindle to read books in Kindle format. You can get a free Kindle reader for your laptop or PC.

You set your own price and you get a percentage of it. Say if you set your price at ten dollars, you will get around 3.50 per sale. They pay you when you make 100 dollars or more.

But there is another company called Smashwords. They are a book seller as well but if you publish with them they will automatically convert your book to all the major file types. That means if someone wants to download it for their Iphone they can. If they want to download it for their Sony reader they can.

Smashwords has its own outlet so people can buy direct just like at Amazon, and they even provide the conversion for Kindle readers.

But the best part about Smashwords is that if you meet their requirements, you get on their premium catalogue. That means your book will be available through Sony, Iphone, Barns and Noble, Amazon and more. It costs you nothing to get in the catalogue. All you have to do is meet their standards.

No, they don’t read your book and don’t edit it for you. What they mean by standards is that it has to be readable in all file formats. And for that to happen you have to format your work in a specific way. To be sold through Iphone your work also has to have a price that ends in 99 cents. But if you do all that, submit your request to be included, get an ISBN number from them for free, or bring your own, your eBook is added and you have exposure in all the major outlets.

Again, Smashwords allows you to pick your own selling price, but charge a smaller fee. So if you set your book at ten dollars you get around 6.50 per sale.

If you want to participate after that you can build your own web site showcasing your book. You can use the URLs to your book as a signature at the end of all your emails. There are dozens of ways you can advertize your book. It’s all up to your imagination. But at least you have a major well known distribution network, so even if do nothing you will get some sales. The more books you publish the more sales you will get.

Some people publish their book for free. The publishers like Amazon and Smashwords love that. It draws people to their web site and may encourage them to buy a book. After all, they got one free so now it’s like they are paying half price.

At both Amazon and Smashwords the potential buyer gets to read a few pages to see if they like it, just like they would do if they picked up your book off a shelf in a store.

And who knows? It could take off and you might get an offer from a traditional publisher. Great. You retain the rights to your work so you can do what you like with it.

My advice is to publish with both Amazon and Smashwords. You might take a hit on royalties with Amazon but in my own experience 75 percent of my book sales have been through them.

In the next instalment of the series I’ll tell you about how to format your book for conversion; and more.

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Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

OMG - This is the most useful hub I've read since I got here - seriously. Now all I have to do is actually finish the book and get to publishing. Wow. I'll be anxiously following the rest as well, of course. Thanks a bunch for this. Bookmarked, up, useful, and awesome.

Two Poles profile image

Two Poles 5 years ago from Morgantown, West Virginia

I agree with Motown. This is very helpful. Thank you for sharing!

kmashman profile image

kmashman 5 years ago from south wales - United Kingdom

Totally agree. I have published with smashwords this week and found the experience very easy and positive. I have posted my first hub here yesterday outlining the same thing, trying to convey encouragement in the first instance. (kmashman - the rise and rise of e publishing) Over the next few days, I could outline the experience if that helps. Letr me know. Thanks again slarty.

Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 5 years ago from Isle of Man

This is an excellent article and I for one found it highly informative and with the kind of no nonsense practical advice that appeals to me. I am surprised that you haven't put a link to your own website and books so people can see what is not just possible but definitely achievable.

This is a great idea for a series that will definitely help a lot of great writers here in HubPages to get their work out there. Thank you Slarty. Voted up.

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mikeq107 5 years ago

Love it, Thank you for writing...From what you have written I can Publish the same book with as many E publishers as I like Correct ?

Mike :0)

Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

Awesome hub with clearly written practical advice. Thanks so much for sharing this information. Am rating it up, useful and awesome. Will also bookmark it.

Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thank you all. I know there are a lot of writers out there who are just itching to get something out there but don't know where to start. If I have helped anyone I am only too happy to have been of some small service.

I made the mistake of publishing with a vanity publisher for my first book. Then when I found out Amazon was accepting eBooks I had to look into it. I was lucky I kept the rights to publish my first book in electronic format.

Hub pages is full of good writers. They need to know they can be published authors. It is not out of anyone's reach anymore.

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Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author


"From what you have written I can Publish the same book with as many E publishers as I like Correct ?"

Let's put it this way. Amazon publishes your book in only one format, theirs. You retain full rights to your book and can publish with any other eBook publisher.

At Smashwords you are publishing with all the top eBook distributors like Iphone, Sony. Diesel, Kobo, Barns and Noble and even Amazon if you only publish with them.

And yes you retain all your rights.

At the moment I do not know if there are other eBook publishers out there that are doing self publishing programs. If there are they may or may not want exclusive rights to publish your work. I couldn't say.

If anyone finds other eBook publishers that are allowing self publishing let us know. Write a hub about them.

There is also the world of Audio books to be considered. I haven't done that yet but am considering it. I've played with voice software but nothing is really sophisticated enough. Always sounds bit robotic.

If I come across an easier free way then doing the reading yourself I'll let everyone know. ;)

Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author


The more we let people know about the fact that they can be published authors the better. Write on... ;)

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graceomalley 5 years ago

This is great information. I'm just wondering - if one publishes a print book, it stays within a certain length. Is there a length for ebooks? A length that people prefer? Do you know what sells well on ebooks? Is it the same as print, or is the market different?

Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author

Hi Grace

I mention in the second part that you needn't worry about length too much. Anything over 100 pages is good. You just price the book accordingly.

graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 5 years ago

I've been wandering around the Smashwords site, and I just have to say, this is rocking my world.

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Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

That's what I thought when I saw it, grace. Slarty deserves a whole bunch of gold stars for this!

graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 5 years ago

Gold stars from me for sure!

topquark profile image

topquark 5 years ago from UK

This is a very useful hub. Voted up! How easy/difficult is it to publicise your book once you've got it e-published?

Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author


That depends on how well it does, I should think. Publishers like a sure thing. If your book sells well you have a better chance to be picked up.

With some publishers it hurts your chances because they won't publish what already has been published. But as I said, if you do well and have not published with a vanity press you would still be able to sell them the rights to the paper book publishing side of things.

And you keep the right to un-publish the book at Amazon or Smashwords if your new publisher wants exclusive rights and you want to give it to them.

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dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I am looking into publishing ebooks, reading Smashbooks requirements.Also trying to get the formatting down pat. I know from working on technical manuals on the job I used to have that formatting can get into all sorts of strange results in Word.I figure I have to get it right the first time. General wisdom is to publish a free book first for the sake of getting known.

Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author

I was going to tell you about this hub because I when I read your hub about short stories I noticed in the comments that you were talking to someone about e-publishing. But I didn't think it appropriated to be promoting my hub on our first meeting. Glad you found it and hope it helped.

It is probably a good idea to publish something for free like you said. But Smashwords and Amazon allow the reader to sample up to 20 percent of your book on line. So really they get a chance to know you before they buy. Everyone has their own stratagy, of course. And publishing your first work entirely for free isn't a bad one.

Like I say in the hub, if you can't seem to get the formatting right toss the entire work into note pad and transfer back to a new page in word. That will get rid of any formatting issue. That's why I always write everything first, then just as a rule toss into note pad before finishing it in Word. It just seems to save time and energy.

meow48 profile image

meow48 5 years ago from usa

so this is a doable thing, and it sounds like something an old dog like me can figure out. thankyou... it would be a dream to see something published... thankyou for this information.

Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author

Yup. It is doable alright. I published for the third time a couple days ago. I have a little more writing to do and I'll be publishing my fourth book in a couple days.

You can't be an older dog than me, so what are you waiting for> ;)

meow48 profile image

meow48 5 years ago from usa

wow. thankyou so much.

Self Publishing Company 5 years ago

As a hardworking writer who dreams of seeing your book in print, you have the right to a positive publishing experience. Whether your goal is to publish through a traditional house, become your own publisher, or seek the help of a publishing services provider such as iUniverse, take the time to consider your publishing options. Only then can you make an educated decision about which alternative provides the best path to meet your publishing goals. Self Publishing your book with the support of iUniverse is a professional, affordable, and fast way to get your book into print. Compared to publishing on your own, you do give up control of some aspects of the publishing process, but only in exchange for less hassle and expense. iUniverse professionals with book-publishing expertise will educate and guide you through the entire process for an affordable price. Supported self publishing also enables you to test your marketing abilities and to learn about the publicity process without emptying your bank account or making it your full-time career. And, because you control the rights to your book, you can get started with supported self publishing but move to a traditional publisher—or choose to self publish on your own—after you have experience and a track record. Traditional publishing can be a great way to get published, but it's difficult to break into the business. Self publishing on your own can be lucrative, but it requires a significant investment and long-term commitment. While supported self publishing may not be the right long-term solution for all authors, it is the most efficient and affordable way to get started and, ultimately, get published!

fashion 5 years ago

Very informative.I enjoyed reading how to self publish.well done.

Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thank you. ;)

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Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

Yep, this one comes highly recommended by a mutual friend in The Isle of Wight; and he was right Slarty. There is a labyrinth of deception out there in the business of making dreams come true. Smashwords is most interesting on how they operate.Great info, appreciate this Hub along with the others.

Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author


Only too glad to be of service. ;)

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