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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How to Self-Publish

Hello my friends! This is a compilation of the five blog posts I wrote on how to self-publish, step-by-step.  Hope they help!

If you’re going to self-publish, the first thing you need to find is someone to print your masterpiece, right? Lucky for you, the print-on-demand business is booming. All the motivated, prolific li’l writers out there are tired of banging on the doors of the creaking-in-its-casket publishing industry. Newly-written books are languishing tragically, gathering the proverbial dust. So, there you are, brushing off the proverbial dust, giving the proverbial finger to all the agents who turned down your brilliant book, and screaming at your computer, “FINE, I WILL DO IT MYSELF.” You look so cute when you’re mad!

Now, down to brass tacks: There are a lot of companies out there that want your self-pub business, which is extraordinary considering that the VAST majority of self-published authors will never sell more than 200 copies of their books. But for the Print-On-Demand printing houses, that’s about $1,000 of revenue per customer, which isn’t bad if they have a big pile of customers.

How do you decide which P.O.D. house to use? You could go with a small local one – there are plenty of those – but personally I don’t recommend it because they don’t have a direct line to the major online selling platforms like

I’m sure there are other sites that are just as good (feel free to email me your experiences), but I can only tell you what I know about two of the most popular P.O.D. websites: Lulu ( and Createspace ( This is a great simple article that lays out some of the pros and cons of each: . 

Personally, I went with Createspace and I was very happy with it. Here are my reasons for choosing Createspace:
1. Createspace is Amazon’s self-publishing arm. This means that it’s SUPER easy to get your book on Amazon once it’s finished. And believe me, YOU WANT YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON. That’s where I do about 99% of my sales. Anyone who hears about your book will look for it on Amazon, so you’re at a major disadvantage if it’s not there. Lulu books get on Amazon as well, but I’ve read that it takes slightly longer to accomplish this.
2. It’s free (so is Lulu)
3. Customer service was great (I’ve read otherwise about Lulu, but let me know if you think I’m wrong).

Createspace will keep about 30% of the book’s list price (the exact amount depends on how long your book is, and whether it’s full-color). This is a good deal, considering there’s NO cost to you for printing. Plus, you pick your own list price! If you want to make a lot of $$, you can sell your book for 20 bucks, although nobody aside from your parents and your BFF likes you enough to pay 20 bucks for your self-published book.

Createspace will get your book on, which takes another 40% of the list price. So, what this means in practical terms is that you have to set your list price at a minimum of about $7.50 just to be able to cover Amazon’s share and Createspace’s share. This sounds like a lot, and it is, but remember, someone out there just printed hundreds of pages and a glossy cover for you at no cost to yourself.

I set my list price at $7.99 because I don’t care about making money – I just want people to read the book. I recommend this path unless you’re convinced you’ll have a big readership. You can also change your list price whenever you want. So you can start out selling your book for 20 bucks (which give you about $18 profit per sale), and then when your parents and BFF have already purchased the book and nobody else will, you can lower it to $7.99 (which gives you about 50 cents profit per sale) and then people who like you, but not quite as much, will buy it.

One thing I have learned for sure: The closer your product is to “FREE,” the more you will sell. I didn’t believe this at first, but it turns out to be true.

I’ll post next time about what you need to do to get your documents ON the Createspace interface.
To anyone still reading, I think you are the bees knees. Fuzzy cutest knees ever!

I have the tech savvy of a squirrel. Computers make my brain hurt, and technological issues quash my soul. But even one as technologically small-brained as myself can format and upload docs to self-pub sites like Createspace. Those sites offer paid services (Createspace’s service is $249) that will do the formatting for you, but I think that’s a waste of money. Here’s what you need to do:

First, pick your fonts. Someone advised me that for paper books (as opposed to e-books), you should use serif fonts. I went with Cambria for the body of the book, and Futura for the chapter headings. Other fonts that were suggested to me: Palatino, Garamond, Baskerville, Caslon, Minion, FF Scala… I went with 1.25 line spacing, which looks nice on paper, but if your book is super long, you could go with 1.15.

Second, format the book. You’ll want a blank page (front and back) before the title page, copyright info on the back of the title page (keep in mind that you’ll be using 2-sided pages when you format). Then if you have a dedication, you can throw that in. You will then need a blank page on the back of the dedication page so that your first chapter starts on the right side of the book.

Createspace has templates that tell you the margins you’ll need in order for your book to look good on the page. I found that I needed more space than was recommended in order for the page numbers not to be partially cut off on the bottom of the page. You’ll also need a “gutter,” which allows for the extra room on the side of the page where the book is bound. My book was 5X8, and the margins I used were:
Top: .75
Bottom: .85
Right: .5
Left: .5
Gutter: .3

Once your book looks great, you’ll need to save it as a PDF. Then you can upload it to the Createspace website! After you upload your cover art (which I’ll talk about in mah next blog), you’ll be asked to order a “Proof” copy of the book, and if there are any formatting problems you can fix them ASAP. It takes about 5-7 days for the proof to arrive, during which time you’ll be staring out the window constantly waiting for the mail man to arrive with your precious proof package, but I can tell you that you shouldn’t even start your mail vigil until 4 days after you order the proof. You’ll just be tormenting yourself.

I gotta say – my Createspace-printed book looks fabulous. Super professional, good color on the cover, pages clean and well-cut.

You are delightful. Have a cookie. Head south for the winter. Mwah!

Hi friends! You have such a rosy glow from all your Thanksgiving indulgences! It becomes you. Now down to bizness: 

Once you have your book formatted properly (see my last post), there are a few other things you’ll need to do before your book can be published. Namely, you’ll need to buy an ISBN, create your cover art, copyright your book, and decide how rich you want to become. So, here’s a li’l how-to guide for each of these:

ISBN: The official U.S. ISBN-selling agency is, and it’s super easy to buy an ISBN on that website. It’ll cost you $125, but that’ll be just about your only cost for self-publishing. 

Copyright: You can upload your book directly to the U.S. Copyright Office website at You’ll have to register a username and password and then follow the instructions, which aren’t entirely straightforward, but I was able to figure them out, so I reckon that means that just about anybody can do it. Your book copyright will cost you $35.

Cover Art: With Createspace, you have a few options. You can use their free “Cover Creator” at
 (You may have to create an account with a username and password in order to view this page). I didn’t use the Cover Creator, so I can’t say whether that’s an easy tool to use. Alternatively, you can have someone design your cover for you, and you can get a template for your chosen book size online (my paperback is 5X8, which is a great size for a paperback). On this page, you enter your book dimensions, you’ll be provided the template: Another FANTASTIC option is to use CrowdSpring ( On this website, you enter the name and synopsis of your book, how much you can pay a designer, and then designers COMPETE to win the right to design your cover! Designers will submit artwork for your review, and you pick the best one! If my fabulously talented friend John hadn’t been willing to design my book for me, I would’ve used Crowdspring. 

Royalties: The good news is that you can choose your cover price! So, if you want to make a zillion dollars, you can set your list price at $100,000 per book, and you will be rich if you can find a sucker who will pay your price! However, one thing I’ve learned is that the CHEAPER your book is, the MORE you will sell. So, I recommend setting your book price as low as possible. If you want to use Createspace to sell on Amazon, you should be aware that Createspace is going to take the first five and a half bucks per sale (they’re printing the whol thing, so this is reasonable), and then Amazon will take an additional dollar and a half (ish). So, for example, my book is priced at $7.99. If I sell a book directly from the Createspace website (, I get paid $2.21. If, however, I sell from Amazon (which is where I do the VAST majority of my sales), I only get paid 61 cents. This is fine with me, because I have MORE than paid my costs for publishing the book, and I’d rather sell lots of books than make lots of money. That’s a personal choice, and you might make a different one. But since most self-published authors never sell more than 200 copies, and I wanted to sell a LOT more than 200 copies, I figured I’d do everything I could to make that happen. And it worked.

Createspace will walk you through the steps for uploading your ISBN and cover art and selecting royalties. Now you are ready to publish, YAY!!!!! DO IT!!!! Your book will be available the next day on Createspace, but it might take a week or two for it to show up on Amazon. Be patient – it’s cominnggggggg!!!!!

Next week I’ll write about how to publish to Kindle, Nook, iPhone, etc… Til then, have fun being you.

Today is one of those days when I am loving that my book is out there, self-pub style. Sold about 10 books in the last few days, got some superpositive feedback from another reader, and I feel powerful like volcano. Like bull. Like bull-shaped volcano. 

So, your turn: Here are some tips for getting your brilliant new manuscript onto Kindle/Nook/iPhone, etc.

First, let me say that I didn’t use BookBaby (, but I hear good things about it. I’ve used their partner site, CdBaby, for the digital distribution of my albums, and they’ve been great. For $99, BookBaby will convert your book to ePub, and it’ll get your book on Nook, Kindle, Sony eReader, and Apple iBookstore. If I were starting this process again from scratch, I’d use BookBaby even though I got my book on those sites for free. I think BookBaby would save a fair amount of time, plus ALL your digital sales are managed from one source. So, if you can spare the $99, I recommend Bookbaby. Here’s a list of prices for additional services like cover art, use of graphics, etc:

If you wanna save some money, you can do it the way I did: You can upload directly to Kindle and Nook. People can put the Kindle file on their iPhones as well. Here’s how to upload to each site:

Kindle: Go to Kindle Direct Publishing (kdp): Get a username and password. Go to “Add New Title,” and enter the relevant info. Then you’ll have to choose your rights and pricing. Most of the time, your proceeds will be 70% of whatever your list price is, and you can choose your own list price. However, if you price your book BELOW $2.99, you’ll receive only 35% of the list price. 

Nook: Go to Again, go to “Add a Title,” enter the info, and pick your royalties. 

The best advice I can offer here is for you to price your book as LOW as possible. I started off selling my eBook at $2.99, which I thought was SUPER cheap, and I sold a decent number. But when I lowered the price to 99 cents, my sales LITERALLY DOUBLED. I think that people perceive 99 cents as almost free – it’s almost no money – so they’re willing to give away that amount of almost-no-money-at-all.

If anyone disagrees with any of this advice I’ve been puttin’ out there, please let me know! By no means is my method the only one, or even the best one – I’m just telling you how I went about self-publishing because I found it easy and rewarding. Next week I’ll offer some suggestions for marketing your book, and I would LOVE to know what suggestions YOU have!

I’ll be honest: promoting a self-published book sucks. Local bookstores don’t want your book unless you get articles in local magazines/newspapers. And newspapers/magazines treat self-published authors like dirty beggars. This will change in time, but for now, self-publishing requires a massive dose of self-confidence, a lot of outside-the-box marketing efforts, and a ridiculous amount of hard work. I haven’t cracked the code yet on how to make mahself filthy rich, but I’ve done a few things that were successful. Part of me wanted to keep these successful efforts close to my chest, so that other people wouldn’t start doing what I’m doing and thereby dilute the power and uniqueness of my efforts. But then I realized that if I didn’t share my ideas, I’d be as much of a dickwad as the newspaper editors who don’t want to help self-published authors. So, here are my suggestions for self-pub book marketing. And please please PLEASE feel free to suggest other ideas – I need them!

1. Goodreads is phenomenal for self-promotion. You can offer your book as a “Giveaway,” and people will sign up to receive your book for free. Each time I sign up for a “Shadow Swans” giveaway, about 500 people apply for the free book, and about 100 of those people put my book on their “to-read” shelves. That’s great exposure, and only costs me one paperback copy plus postage. Once the giveaway is over, I write to the people who didn’t win the giveaway to tell them that my Kindle book is only 99 cents, and they can find that here: (see how I just threw in my own self-promotion there?  

2. Self-promote relentlessly. Make a list of every email address you have, friends, family, and coworkers, and send a note to all of those people with a short summary of your novel, a couple of impressive press quotes, and links where the book can be purchased online. I sold a few hundred copies right off the bat with that kind of email.

3. Author talks: as I mentioned, a lot of bookstores won’t want anything to do with you. BUT, your high school will be willing to hold an author talk for you. I sold a lot of books at an author talk at my high school, and it’s a fantastically supportive audience. Also community centers will host author talks. You can also do author talks in peoples’ homes.

4. Libraries: Most libraries will stock a copy of your book if you send it to them. This is a great way to get exposure and costs you next to nothing.

5. MOST IMPORTANTLY, network! I’m still working on this portion. I’m trying to meet anyone I can who works in publishing (if you work in publishing, please email me at - I want to talk to you!). I want to meet magazine writers, book editors, bloggers. I’m signing up for writers’ conferences where I can meet publishers and editors and other writers.

I can vouch for the success of the first 4 things, and I’m hoping that #5 will take me even further than the first 4. Keep your fingers crossed for me. And your toes. Legs. Arms. Eyes, maybe even? Cross it all. I need it. And if you work in publishing, holla!!!!

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