I finally succeeded in finishing my very first book! Writing it took me a year – working on it off and on. I’ve just finished publishing to two distributors (Amazon and Smashwords) and now am entering the marketing phase of my book writing/publishing empire plan!
Independent publishers (Indies in current lingo) are growing more numerous and more sophisticated very rapidly. Every blogger I know either has one or books out there for sale, is writing a book or plans to write one soon! I thought it prudent to hop on the wagon while it was still going slow enough for me to join.
I agonized over many of the my obstacles so I thought it might be helpful to some of you to hear about the things with which I struggled, and how I got through them.
Like any other author, I’m hoping my book takes off in sales and benefits those who read it!
There are many reasons for writing and publishing your own book, only one of which is to receive income. Perhaps it is just something you enjoy. Perhaps you are trying to spread a useful idea. Perhaps you want to build a credible reputation in your niche. Whatever the reason, it is very likely that you may decide to join the Indie publishers to publish and distribute your book.
Struggle #1 – Finding someone on whom to lean.
If you are like me, a job is always easier if you have someone else on whom to bounce ideas and options.
My first conversation was with one of the staff writers I used to have writing for my Aging Bodies site. She was also an editor, so I Skyped with her (she lives in Mexico) to see what services she provides as an editor. During the conversation she threw in quite a few tidbits that actually helped me out.
- There are multiple kinds of edits (those who help with book structure, argument or character; copy editors and proofreaders).
- There are certain genres that allow books to be higher priced (non-fiction can generally bring more than fiction – assuming you have a good niche).
- There are certain topics that are usually good sellers (how to make a million – fast; how to look and feel younger – without effort or cost).
- She charges a lot for editing.
Writing your book can require solitude, but publishing and marketing may require more people to help. I hadn’t a clue how to go about getting my book out there for sale. I leaned on many people. Here are a few ideas:
- Find other authors who have already published an eBook
- Join an author club.
- Hang out in blogger forums and attend conferences where Indie authors are speaking.
I belong to a financial/lifestyle blogger network called Yakezie and have attended a couple of blogger conferences. Through these, I have gotten to know many bloggers and most of these bloggers are writing books. By participating in the network forum, by attending the financial bloggers conference and attending sessions and panels related to book writing, publishing and marketing, and by corresponding with individual authors, I picked up a lot of information and support.
That support may come in handy to help you figure out your story line, to give your draft a general edit or to proof read for spelling/grammar errors. You may also be able to help each other by providing online reviews of each others efforts.
If you have an opportunity to review someone else’s book, jump in and do it. They might be more inclined to return the favor when your book is ready!
Struggle #2 Editing.
Because I did quite a bit of research on the liklihood of making money with my book, I went in understanding that most authors make a pittance, if anything. In fact, Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords and author of The Secrets to eBook Publishing Success states the case quite directly:
“Now, a reality check: Just as most new businesses fail; most authors will fail to become commercial successes because most books don’t sell well.”
Later, he cautions that many books never sell a copy!
This understanding is important because it helped me realize that it was vital to keep my expenses to a minimum.
Editing can be very expensive, with no guarantees that everything will be caught or improved. I know it is beneficial to have others edit, so I used several folks as early reviewers of my first draft. Some caught copy or proof errors, others made suggestions on content, style and flow.
If the book should happen to take off, then perhaps I will go back in with a second edition and pay a big time editing fee to catch remaining issues!
Struggle # 3 ISBNs.
For months, I waffled back and forth on whether or not to buy ISBNs for the book – and yes, that is a plural. ISBNs are sold in each country by one official entity. In the USA it is Bowker. The guys selling ISBNs want a different one for each format of each book. They suggest that you need a different one for the Kindle (.mobi) format than the Nook (epub) yet another for the paperback, another for the hardback and so on and so forth.
ISBN’s don’t come cheap. As of this writing 1 ISBN costs $125. Since you need one for Kindle and one for Nook and one for PDF, etc, just buying one wouldn’t have cut it. They also sell 10 for $295.
So, I’d be in the hole almost $300 before even getting published. Then if I changed the cover or created a second edition I’d have to get all new ISBNs for those as well.
Getting your own ISBN allows you to be listed in the ISBN catalog – from which book sellers place orders.
The alternative to buying your own ISBNs is to let the distributor you are using (I’m using Amazon for Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords for everything else) assign either their own number or a unique ISBN (which I’m sure they get a lot cheaper than I could) with them listed as publisher in the ISBN catalog.
I almost went with my own ISBNs but in the end, just couldn’t see that the benefit of it outweighed the cost – especially for my very first book.
Amazon doesn’t require an ISBN at all, they use their own unique identifier.
Barnes and Nobles doesn’t require an ISBN for their Nook books.
Smashwords assigns you one of their ISBNs so that your book can be sold via the retailers that do require one.
Maybe next time!
Struggle #4 – book cover.
No doubt the cover of your eBook is what must grab the customers eye. If your cover is bad, no one will ever look deeper into the content.
Most places I researched recommended that you hire a professional book cover designer. I was prepared to do this until I tried out Amazon’s beta software called Cover Creator. After playing around with it, I decided to give a go to designing my own cover using photoshop. I found a picture my son took, got his permission to use it commercially and used it to create my cover. Designing and uploading my own, instead of using Amazon’s Cover Creator, insures that I can use the same cover no matter where I sell the book.
Now, I may decide to change it later if I don’t sell a few copies, but for now, that is at least a $40 savings.
Struggle #5 – formatting.
Having written technical documentation most of my adult life, I used to consider myself pretty proficient with word processing software – not any more!
Most of the formatting I have ever done, be it in Word; Open Office or others, has been direct formatting. I hit enter to leave a space between paragraphs. I put in a manual page break when I wanted a new page. I insert headers or footers when needed and etc.
Having now gone through multiple full days reformatting my book for the two different converters (Kindle Direct Publishing – KDP – from Word-HTML to .mobi and Smashwords from WORD .doc files to epub and others), I know now to use style sheets to do my formatting. Style sheets let you define specific format characteristics (such as page break before, or a certain amount of white space after a line) and then assign that formatting to specific content. If you want more, check out the Open Office documentation on Styles.
Once you get formatted, you can upload your file to the converter program.
KDP has an online previewer that lets you look at how your .mobi file will look when viewed on various devices (different kinds of Kindles plus the ipad and iphone). Each device displays the same file somewhat differently. The straight Kindle defaulted my block paragraphs to indented ones and took the space after my lines away. Some of the devices showed colors, others didn’t.
Smashwords has a pretty good guide to helping you get formatted for their converter. Once you upload and convert, it will spit out any errors for you to fix before the book goes to a manual review.
If you are planning on writing a book, read the guidance on formatting BEFORE you start. If you just can’t bring yourself to do that, keep your formatting as simple as you can stand. If you are like me, you need some formatting just to keep on trucking as you go through the writing process.
Struggle # 6 marketing.
This is my current struggle. Although I have read and heard and researched a lot on how to market my book, I am just now beginning this lovely journey! Here are ideas I am trying out.
Find reviewers to post online reviews.
I’m asking some of my blogging buddies to review and post. If you want to join the fun shoot me an email ore leave a comment and I will send you a free review copy of the book I’m trying to market!
Have a virtual book tour.
I haven’t started this yet, but the idea is to get multiple sites to post interviews, book excerpts, or posts about the book around the same time. Here is some more information from The Book Marketing Maven.
If this sounds intimidating to you, I’m right there with you! We’ll see how it goes.
Hit your list.
If you have a newsletter list (I do), let the folks on it know that you are looking for reviewers or that you have this wonderful book for sale. Tell them how they will benefit from reading it.
Amazon and Smashwords both let authors post their picture, links and a bio. Here is my Amazon author bio (you have to have a book for sale to be able to post one) and the one I put on Smashwords which they call a profile.
I’m trying out a special domain name to hold information about any books, tools or other products I develop for sale. Of course, right now it is brand new and has the same problem any new site usually has – no traffic!
Posts and sidebars on all your sites.
If you own one or two blogs or other sites, you can also put your book out there on those sites.
I haven’t done this and may not, depending on what happens with the above. But, I know there are companies out there that will (for a fee) get my book out to multiple places.
Have you written a book and published it? What were your struggles?
My book: Choose Wealth! Be a Millionaire by Midlife describes how ordinary people, with ordinary jobs and talents can become millionaires! It shows you how to kick start your wealth journey using the inspirational and informational resources included in Choose Wealth! You can explore a new framework for wealth that will help you envision and pursue a full, rich life of your own choosing. I am an ordinary woman who had an ordinary job and who became a real multi-millionaire.