DIY publishing: Publish completely on your own – the basics

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Everything I wish I knew before self-publishing my book

Self-publishing is nowadays easier and cheaper than ever. It all started with the print-on-demand (POD) technology which allows printing a single book at a time. Gone are the times where one had to invest in a print run and then handle the warehousing and shipping of thousands of books. A POD book is sold through online retailers and is only printed once the customer has paid – hence the name print on demand. But besides creating a printed book there is also the eBook option. Click to learn more.

 

If you are unsure if you want to publish an eBook next to a print-on-demand (POD) book, consider this: The majority of self-publishing authors make most of their money through eBook sales, and more than 80% of all eBook sales in the U.S. happen through one retailer. Yes, you guessed it, it’s Amazon (more below). Such market dominance by only one player can be a bit scary; however it also has the advantage for us authors that we only have to deal with one company to reach most of our audience.

Another reason to have an eBook version in addition to your printed book is that, according to several bloggers, the Amazon search engine ranks books which are offered in both versions better. The reason behind it is that Amazon aims to maximize sales and offering both options means a higher chance of providing what the customer wants.

The good news for the inspiring self-publisher is that you can create a print-on-demand (POD) book or an eBook for sale without any upfront costs. In this article I will be discussing both options, which I consider DIY approaches.

 

(1) Creating a print book: print-on-demand (POD)

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There are two main players in the current print-on-demand POD market: IngramSpark (http://www.ingramspark.com) and CreateSpace (https://www.createspace.com). You will find elaborate discussions online why to use one or the other service. My conclusion is that CreateSpace is a much more user friendly platform which provides all the online tools to upload, check, and proof your book. CreateSpace is now also owned by Amazon. This means you can link your printed book and your eBook project, and both versions are offered to customer on amazon.com. You can also import all the info (title, authors, categories, etc.) from your CreateSpace project into Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) which gives you a head start when you decide to also create a kindle eBook of your creation (see below).

The main problem I ran into is that my book “All I wish I knew before setting sail: a practical guide in the digital age has many color photos and drawings, and printing a color book with CreateSpace is VERY expensive. I still did it, but also created a black-and-white version which I can sell at a reasonable price. A detailed summary of my experience of publishing with CreateSpace can be found here “DIY publishing: Create a paperback with CreateSpace for free”.

The platform offered by the second large player, IngramSpark, has been described as “not very user-friendly” and as having a “steep learning curve”. However there seems to be a consensus that IngramSpark produces very high quality books, plus they also offer hardcovers which are not available on CreateSpace. They also provide a better discount for high volumes of books, and color books are more affordable than with CreateSpace. I have not tried IngramSpark yet, but I will do so in the near future to produce a reasonable priced, high quality color version of my book.

To summarize, CreateSpace might be better for paperbacks and black and white books while IngramSpark seems to be worth the effort for color prints and hardbacks.

 

(2) Creating an eBook

As mentioned above, Amazon has the market dominance when it comes to eBooks with over 80% of all sales; however Barnes&Noble’s Nook (https://www.barnesandnoble.com) and Apple iBooks (https://www.apple.com/ibooks) are also worth considering (see graph below).

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Total ebook sales in the U.S. in February 2017. Pie chart obtained from authorearnings.com.
The chart has been modified to fit this article.

 

Looking at the stats above it doesn’t surprise that most independent authors use Amazon Kindle direct publishing (KDP; https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US) to sell their work to be read on kindles and kindle apps worldwide.

The ideal format for Amazon’s Kindle is a MOBI file, although EPUB files – EPUB is a global standard format for eBooks designed to work seamlessly on most devices – are also accepted. It is recommended to create your MOBI or EPUB files from a word document or a text file since KDP does not accept pdfs – with one exemption (see below). If your book is mostly plain text then converting it to an eBook is an easy task. However if it includes color graphs, text boxes, etc. then major reformatting is necessary or you can opt for a Amazon fixed layout option which restricts the readability of your eBook to certain devices but allows the print layout to be kept and the latest software even supports pdf (for more details see “Converting a print book into an eBook”).

The only books which might not be worth converting to eBooks are children books. They usually feature lots of colored illustrations, which are difficult to convert, and the children’s market has yet to adopt eBooks – less than 10% of children books are eBook sales.   

The last step in publishing an eBook is to promote your work to reach a wide target audience. You can read my more about my book promotion experiences here <coming soon>.

 

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