Preparing to Self-Publish

  • Preparing to do business
    • Open a P.O. Box. (You’ll need to print a mailing address on the Copyright page of your book, and you should never use your home address.)
    • Create an L.L.C. (Limited liability corporation). This is recommended, but not necessarily required.
    • Open a checking account for your business.
    • Obtain a state sales tax permit (so you can collect sales tax when you sell books yourself at book signings). In Rhode Island, the fee to get a sales tax permit is only $10 per year.
    • Create an email address, preferably one that matches your website’s name (e.g., Google Apps has a tool for creating a custom email address through Gmail.
    • Set up a PayPal account (facilitates paying bills online easily).
  • Start getting your name/brand out there online
    • Create a website.
      • Register your website’s name at Register.comGoDaddy, others.
      • Hire a professional to create and design it, or do it yourself at WordPressBloggerWixand others. Use artwork from your book’s cover.
      • Reference your website in everything you do (emails, signs, bookmarks, business cards, press releases, online event calendars, etc.)
    • Create accounts on social media sites.
      • Facebook
      • Twitter
      • Pinterest (pinning pictures to online boards)
      • Tumblr (good for quotes)
      • Linkedin (professional networking)

Preparing Your Book

  • HIRE A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR. Did I mention that already?
  • Hire an artist or photographer to create the cover image. Otherwise, use stock photography/artwork.
  • Hire a professional designer to design the cover, and hire a professional formatter to format the interior. (The same person who formats the interior might also be able to design the cover.) You’ll need a PDF file of the interior and a PDF file of the cover for the paperback version, and you’ll need an ePub file for the eBook version.
  • Get ISBNs from Bowker. It costs $250 for 10 separate ISBN numbers. You will need one ISBN for the paperback version and a different ISBN for the eBook version. (If you need help setting up an ISBN, Bowker’s telephone number is 877-310-7333.) Also, if you use an aggregator to publish your eBook, some of them can supply you with an ISBN for a minimal charge. However, they (not you) would own the number.
  • If you’ve made significant changes to your manuscript since you first copyrighted it, it’s time to copyright it again. The date on the Copyright page (see example) of your book should reflect this new date, not the date you copyrighted the first draft of your manuscript. (Publishers don’t usually copyright books until they’re ready to be published.)
  • Get a Library of Congress control number (L.C.C.N.)

Publishing an eBook (two options)

  • A) Sign up with an aggregator to distribute to online retailers
    • Smashwords In addition to being an aggregator (distributor), they also sell eBooks directly on their website. One benefit is that they allow you to give away eBooks for free, and you can also create promotional coupons. However, they still don’t distribute to Amazon, so you’ll have to sign up for Amazon’s KDP program separately, which is not necessarily a bad thing. They also distribute to Overdrive, the database that libraries use. Also, if you want to give your eBook away for free at Barnes & Noble, this is the way to go.
    • Bookbaby They DO sell to Amazon. However, since Amazon’s minimum retail is 99¢, you won’t be able to give your eBook away for free at Bookbaby. And they have great telephone customer support! (877-961-6878)
    • Lightning Source Their eBook division offers two options to choose from. (For more information, call them at 615-213-5815.)
    • BookBrewer
    • Untreed Reads
    • Others
  • B) Sell directly to online retailers
    • Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing for Kindle eReaders) or Amazon KDP Select. Amazon gives you a 70% royalty on eBooks priced between $2.99 – $9.99, otherwise it’s 35%. The minimum retail price that Amazon will allow you to sell your eBook for is 99¢, unless you enroll in their Select program. If you sign up for their Select program, you can give your eBook away for free for a total of 5 days out of every 90 days. The Select Program also allows you to put your eBook on sale for up to 7 consecutive days in that same 90-day period while showing the original retail and maintaining your original royalty percentage even if the sale price of your eBook is less than $2.99. They call this a Kindle Countdown Deal. If you’re not in the Select program, you can’t give away your eBook for free on Amazon, and the only way to temporarily reduce the price of your eBook would be to manually mark down the regular price and then mark it back up again after the promotion is over — which is how you have to do it at all of the other online retailers, anyway. Another benefit of the Select program is that Amazon Prime members can “borrow” your eBook for free while at the same time you get paid about $2.25 – $2.50 per book (give or take) from their Global Fund. Here’s the catch: in order to enroll your eBook in their Select program, you have to give Amazon exclusivity (i.e., your eBook can’t be on iTunes, Barnes & Noble, etc.)
    • Barnes & Noble (Nook Press, for Nook eReader devices) With Nook Press, the minimum price you can sell your eBook for is 99¢. That’s not to say that Barnes & Noble doesn’t give away eBooks for free, because they do. To accomplish this, you need to use an aggregator like Smashwords to distribute to Barnes & Noble, rather than selling it to them directly.
    • Apple iTunes (iTunes Connect, for Apple iPods, iPads, and iPhones). In order to upload your eBook to the iTunes store, you have to first download a software program called iTunes Producer. Be patient, it might take a week or two for iTunes to approve your title. Use iTunes Link Maker to create a URL link for referencing your eBook online.
    • Kobo (Kobo Writing Life, for Kobo eReader devices)
    • Scribd. (Subscription service)
    • Google Play (Partner Program)
  • Amazon is king. This is where you’ll sell the majority of your eBooks. You’ll also get many more reviews at Amazon than at any other eBook retailer. For example, during the last 99¢ promotion that I ran, I sold 2,400 eBooks at Amazon, 1,200 at Barnes & Noble, 250 at iTunes, and 22 at Kobo.
  • Online retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, etc.) do not necessarily report eBook sales to aggregators in a timely manner. Therefore, if you use an aggregator, sales reports may not reflect certain sales until a month or two later. However, if you sell directly to online retailers, sales are reported in real time (except for iTunes, where sales are reported the next day).
  • Amazon generally tries to match the prices of the other main eBook retailers (Barnes & Noble, Google, and  iTunes). So if your eBook is not part of Amazon’s Select program and it’s free on any of those other sites, you might be able to get Amazon to make it free, also. To do this, you have to get all of your friends to go to your Amazon selling page and click on “tell us about a lower price,” which is located at the end of the Product Detail section, just above Customer Reviews, and enter the links to the other website pages where it’s free.
  • To make your eBook free on all of the main websites, use Smashwords to distribute to Barnes & Noble (rather than selling it to them directly), make it free at Smashwords, then try to get Amazon to match the price. There are no price restrictions at iTunes, Kobo, and Google, so you’re all set there. Otherwise, sell only to Amazon through their Select program, make it free for 5 days during the 90-day contract period, then switch out of the Select program after the 90 days are up.
  • Conclusion: Perhaps the best approach is a mixed one: sell directly to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Google while at the same time use an aggregator like Smashwords to distribute your eBook elsewhere, such as to Overdrive (a retailer that you’re not allowed to sell directly to).
  • Note: eBooks can be read on a computer by downloading free software offered by the companies that make the devices. To read ePub files on a computer, download Adobe Digital Editions.

Publishing a Paperback

  • Sign up with a P.O.D. (Print on Demand) distributor/printer to get your paperback listed at online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others
    • Lightning Source (owned by Ingram, the largest book distributor)
    • Createspace (owned by Amazon)
    • Lulu
    • Note: I personally use Lightning Source because they allow bookstores to return books (if you choose this option), which is the only way a bookstore would ever carry a book. However, many indie authors use Amazon’s Createspace.
    • When a customer orders a paperback book at an online retailer, the P.O.D. company prints a single copy and ships it directly to the customer, eliminating the middleman and the need to carry inventory. They also act as the publisher’s (your) printer, printing as few or as many books as you need at the lowest wholesale cost based on the volume of books that you’re purchasing.
  • Send out advance review copies (A.R.C.s, copies of your book) to major review publications and websites 3 – 4 months prior to the publication date (see list).
    • If you don’t send them out 3 months prior to the publication date, most major publications won’t consider it for review.
    • Create a one-page informational sheet (see example) for your book, listing all of the pertinent information, such as genre and B.I.S.A.C. code (click here for codes), ISBN, publication date, retail, page length, trim size, binding, distributors, publisher information, and website.
    • F.Y.I.: the U.S. Postal Service has a Media rate for mailing books that’s half as expensive as First Class or Priority Mail. This might be a good time to take advantage of the savings.
  • Once you have reviews, use the first page of the book for blurbs.

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