Following on from last week’s post on publishing eBooks, this week we continue with the spotlight on the more traditional printed book. Here we have a list of five of the most popular self-publishing services that offer indie authors a route to publication in paperback (and in some cases hardback too).
One - KDP
KDP – Top of the list in terms of popularity, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing allows you to sell both your eBook and paperback to Amazon, if you select their Expanded distribution then it opens your book up to other distributers and makes it available to buy in many other locations (although, many bookstores tend to purchase books from other locations to KDP’s higher margins for them). KDP is free to use and offers royalties of up to 70%, they offer their own free ISBN for books, but you should really consider buying your own (if you want to be taken seriously within by the publishing industry).
Two - Ingram Spark
Ingram Spark – The second most popular self-publishing service that we design for, they offer more in the way of printed options for authors, along with paperback they offer hardback (dustjacket) and hardback case laminate. From a production aspect their books always great once printed and tend to have a higher quality feel to them (in comparison to some other self-publishing services). Ingram is the largest book distribution company and one of the largest self-publishing services within the US, so you should give them a look, they do have a small set up fee and you will need your own ISBN, but their quality and distribution make them a great choice.
Three - Lulu
Lulu – Another big name within the self-publishing world, they offer a great many services to help the indie author along with self-help guides that are worth looking at (even if you don’t print with them). They don’t offer the range of trim sizes that both KDP and Ingram offer, but they cover the most popular sizes (which is great for the majority of authors). Their service is free to use and their distribution is global, distributing through Amazon, B&N, Lulu and retailers through the Ingram Spark channels.
Four - Blurb
Blurb – Offering self-publication in traditional printed trade books, eBooks, magazines and even photo books, Blurb offers printed options for paperback, dustjacket and case laminate. Their distribution is through their own Blurb bookstore along with selling your book on Amazon and in over 39,000 stores using Ingram Spark’s distribution channels too.
Five - BookBaby
Bookbaby – Along with eBook publication BookBaby publishes printed books too, they also offer lots in the way of advice and resources for authors. Their publication services for print currently break down into two print on demand options, the first is $299 and makes your book available through Amazon, Powell’s Books, Books-A-Million, B&N, Ingram Spark’s distribution channels along with many other distributors giving your book lots of options to be purchased. Their other option (currently $99) places the focus more on their own bookstore, it still comes with great control and their royalties are at 50% of your retail price.
There are of course many other services out there, but we wanted to bring a list of the top five publishing companies we use and design for when creating a book for an author, it has to be said that the most popular service used by authors has always been KDP (formerly Createspace) and then Ingram Spark, both of these companies are ones that you should consider, but do take a look at the others, they still of great options for the indie author which will make your book available to as many readers as possible.
It has never been easier than it is today when it comes to self-publishing your book, and this is especially the case when it comes to eBooks, they’re still a highly popular way to reach an audience and in most cases more flexible when it comes to promotions (and this can really help in raising awareness along with promoting your other titles).
The good thing is that there are plenty of places (other than the key players) where you can self-publish your eBook, this gives you more choice and flexibility, which can only be a good thing. Here we have some eBook publishers that you may or may not know about.
No surprises that KDP are on this list, being Amazon’s publishing wing they offer a free to use service which gives authors up to 70% royalties on their book sales, their service is easy to use, popular and of course works seamlessly with Kindle and Amazon.
One of the other most popular print on demand publishers used by indie authors, they have great distribution (Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Barnes & Noble) and compatible for pretty much every eReader available, their prices start from $25 per title.
Nook (if you don’t already know) is the eBook service and device from Barnes & Noble, their service is currently free to use and works beautifully with their Nook eReaders and on any device that has the free Nook app
This service is from Apple and makes your eBook available through their iBooks Store, if you have a Mac then you can simply download the iBooks Author app where you can edit and prepare your book for their platform.
Google Play – Books Partner Center
Google’s eBook publishing service allows your book to be available on Android devices and from Google books, their website allows you to upload your work and set which countries you want to sell to (currently from a list of just over 50), you can of course set your own prices too.
A great service which allows you to sell your eBook through a variety of other platforms along with their own Smashwords store, they currently distribute through Apple Books, B&N, Kobo and Scribd, offering 80% commission from sales through their own store and 60% commission from sales in the others.
They currently sell their books through Lulu, Amazon, B&N and even Ingram, free to set up and they have some great training videos and downloads to help with the process
Blurb offers more in the way of self-formatting your eBook (if you are using Adobe InDesign or the BookWright Software to create the original manuscript that is), they distribute books through their own store (which is pretty big) along with Apple Books and Amzon.
Fairly straightforward to use with some great tools for getting your eBook ready, once uploaded and for sale your book will be available to the millions of Kobo device users around the globe.
BookBaby offers everything that an author could need to get their eBook ready for publication, they have distribution through Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, Scribd along with some smaller outlets too.
The book cover design is the face of your advertising and packaging for your work, as we all know, people do judge books (and pretty much everything else) initially by first impression, this is why advertising is such a massive industry and why you should take it seriously too.
So, having a professional book cover is important if you want your work to be taken seriously, we all know that reviews help with this too, but you need to sell books before you’ll even get these (genuine reviews that is, and we all know that the first handful are friends and family).
If you are taking your life as a professional writer seriously then you’ll understand that your journey is one similar to starting (and running) a small business, again, this is if you are looking to sell copies of your work (and why wouldn’t you be) reaching a larger audience than those who dabble in self-publishing for fun.
Along with a great book cover design you will need to have a platform to promote your book, the advertising to show to your viewer that you have a professional book and that really is worth their time and money.
Social media for authors is very easy to get started with, creating new accounts will be free and you can be up and running within minutes. Some authors do use their own personal social media accounts as their author platforms, but we would advise you to set up separate pages and keep them apart from each other.
You may also set up your own website, these too are very easy to start, maintain and use, the fees are normally very reasonable and you’ll not need any previous experience to create (the majority of self-build website platforms have great tutorials if you do get stuck).
With your online presence you will need to take the same approach used with your book cover, having some form of branding that shows the viewer that they’re in the right place regardless of your sales page, social media or author’s website will confirm that you are a professional author.
Consistency throughout your online presence is important, if you look at some of your own favorite authors and their social media pages, website, advertising and book covers you’ll see that they show continuity, you know that when you go from their website to their Facebook page that you’re still in the right place.
Having continuity with your branding displays a level of professionalism which will help to associate you with the big players within the publishing industry, if you are self-publishing, you’ll understand that competition is high, you need to give your book every chance you can, so maintaining your brand is important.
The same goes for the posts that you make, every author will share videos, memes, links and offers, but when it comes to self-promotion these social media posts should look professional, before you post anything, go to another successful author’s page and see what they post (you may find that a lot of these posts come from their publishing houses, but the standard will normally be consistent, well designed and professional).
The main thing to remember is that even with a great book and a great cover design you still need to work at self-promotion, keep the standards high, consistent and professional, you can still compete with the best of them!
Successfully promoting your new book can be a full time job in itself, and with over one thousand books published every day you’re up against some stiff competition if you want to achieve sales.
But there are lots of things that you can do to self-promote and many great services out there which will help you in bringing your book to a larger audience, here we have brought together some services that you may (or may not) know.
1- New Free Kindle Books
The service hosts a site which promotes free books on Kindle, you can pay to promote your book and prices start from as little as $5, they do also have a free to list option, their average monthly visits to the site are currently up to 12K visits.
2- Digital Book Today
Founded in 2009 this service helps authors to promote their books through both paid and free options, they maintain a top 100 free books on Kindle and require that to enter your book it needs to have more than 18 reviews and be four stars and above.
3- eBook Stage
eBook Stage is a free (and daily) email which tells its readers about free and discounted eBooks (and audio books), promotional packages are available to authors and prices currently start from $10.
4- Indie Book Lounge
This a large catalogue of books from independent authors and currently is free to list your own book upon, however, you can pay/sponsor for advertising and these fees start from $4 up to $20
5- Book Rebel
With larger monthly visits to their website they offer daily emails recommending books to their subscribers (these are based on genre preferences etc.), you can pay to partner with their service to promote your book, the fees start from around $20.
Another site with larger viewing figures, they provide an eBook newsletter giving info on the latest deals, you can pay for advertising (both eBook and print), their prices start from $70 and work their way up.
7- Book Doggy
Book Doggy promotes free and discounted books from most of the major online bookstores, it gives details on the author with links to your book and even Facebook page, prices start from $18 for free books and $20 for discounted ones.
8- Book Bongo
This is a book promotion service which starts off with a completely free package, from there prices start from $9.99 and currently go up to $149. Your book doesn’t have to be either free or discounted to promote here either
9- Red Feather Romance
With a mailing list which (currently) is over 100,000 they offer a service to promote your Romance book to their readers, packages start from $80.
10- Book Bub
Book Bub is a very popular and great way to promote your book, they have several million on their email list and their monthly site visits are currently over seven million, promotional packages start from $55+
Becoming a professional author is a dream of many who sit pen in hand (or more likely, fingers poised over their keyboards), you may have a great story to tell and have always longed to get it out to the public, but for whatever reason haven’t made that leap.
So, if not now, when?
There are lots of reasons why people don’t follow through on their dreams, it can be lack of time, fear of failure, lack of resources, lack of confidence (again, fear), too many distractions and lack of motivation. But if this is important to you (and I assume it is), why would you waste time in not moving forward with your goal?
For many, the primary reason for not working towards your goal is fear, fear of failure has stopped many people and robbed the world of some amazing books, services, ideas and businesses. This fear ensures that you give weight to the many reasons why you shouldn’t proceed, not having time, not having the resources, that you need to learn something else before making a start etc.
Fear WILL hold you back and if you don’t recognize this you WILL let it.
When you think about writing a book and then publishing it, many will worry about rejection, this could be from a publisher, reader or even a critic, you can think that you’re simply not good enough and that once your book is completed you’ll be called out as a fraud. This ‘Impostor’ syndrome is held by countless authors, many of which are highly successful and regarded as great writers, it is far more common to think like this than you may realize, knowing that pretty much everyone else feels the same should help you to realize that you’re not alone.
If you are thinking of writing a book, the best way to do so is to simply stop thinking about it and start doing it. If you’re waiting for the perfect time to start, understand one thing…. It doesn’t exist.
Having said this, some planning will help, those excuses as to why you ‘can’t’ write your book right now should be addressed. So look at them individually:
I don’t have the time right now
if you haven’t the time to write, look at where you spend each hour of your average day, then look at your average week, how much time do you spend on Facebook/social media, how much time do you give to watching TV? Could you cut back by just one hour per week on staring at your phone or TV? When you review an average week, you will normally find a small chunk of time that you can use to write, if it’s just an hour per week, that’s great, your book may take a little longer to write but no one said it was a race.
I don’t have the resources
You can start with a pencil and a sheet of paper, just go to your local dollar store, you can technically write a book on a tablet and Google’s Chromebooks start from $150. The point is, you don’t need a top of the range MacBook Pro to write a book.
There are too many distractions
If you are writing from home (and you don’t have kids), turn off your internet, TV and phone, only for the period that you’re writing, the less temptation the better. Or if you live with others, can you get out and write in a café for an hour? This is how J.K. Rowling wrote her first book, and it worked out very well for her. If you do have kids then the only time you may have will be when they’ve gone to bed or are at school, remember, you’re not trying to write the entire book in one day, even if you can just spare 30 mins per week, it’s better than not writing at all.
I haven’t written for awhile and can’t seem to get back into it
Just open up Word on your laptop or grab a notepad and pen, and now just write. Write anything, it really doesn’t matter, free-writing is great in helping you to blow the cobwebs away and begin to slowly get your creative flow back. You don’t have to keep what you write (unless you’re really happy with it), the focus here is in just getting some words down.
Regardless of what’s holding you back right now, there is always a way to achieve your creative goals, so finally, what’s stopping you?
The process of creating something such as a book, art, design or photography is a very personal process for any artist or creative, the transition from vision to execution to result can be a long path and certainly one where motivation and belief will play major roles.
For many creatives the journey can feel lonely, your stamina to keep going can fail over time and passion turns to routine, suddenly what you’re working on feels harder to complete and you find yourself full of doubt, next a creative block kicks in and you stare at a blank page wondering what to do.
Sometimes when a block or lack of passion hits you it’s because you’ve forgotten some of the basic reasons why you started in your chosen field. You have to go back to basics and remember why you started in the first place.
Trying to force your way through a lack of passion or creative block is the worst way to get past it, if you’re working on a project and don’t seem to be getting anywhere, stop, walk away from it and commit to looking at it again the following morning, recharging your batteries with a good night’s sleep works so many times.
But you should also consider going back to the basics of your craft, if you’re into photography for example, instead of trying to make your next shoot something big, try something more minimalist. I know of a photographer who spent several hours on a beach just photographing rock pools within section no longer than one hundred yards, if forced him to look very differently at his current location and find the art in what was in front of him.
The same goes for writing, instead of trying to complete a chapter in a week, commit to writing just one page, but make the promise to yourself that this one page will be as perfect as you can make it, enjoy the process and believe in it.
If this still seems like too much for where you are right now, go even more basic, just free write, it doesn’t matter what it is, just write whatever comes to mind and do NOT judge it, it is what it is.
Another way to bring passion and motivation back to your craft is to seek inspiration from others, look at the celebrated greats, look at what they have created and study it, this could be from books, art galleries, blogs and YouTube videos, you have so much inspiration at your finger tips (via cellphones, laptops, tablets etc.) there is so much information that can help you if you just look.
YouTube is a great source of inspiration for individuals, if you simply look for motivational or inspirational videos and just watch a couple of them, you’ll find some of your passion coming back to you, they can act like the your very own motivational coach prepping you for the day, if you don’t believe me, just give it a try.
The main thing to remember is that you started doing what you do because you believe in it, you do have a passion for your craft (otherwise you would have never started), you just need to reconnect. If you’re struggling at this moment just stop, relax and make sure you sleep on it, go back to basics, revisit those who inspired you and believe.
You’ve got this
Your book is complete... but is it?
Now that you have finished your first draft, you’ll want to go back and edit what you’ve written, and at first this can seem like an overwhelming and very daunting task. This is where procrastination can set it, ‘I’ll do it next week…….’ many will say, and the book sits in a file on your laptop, its launch date creeping further and further away.
But it shouldn’t be this way, fine tuning your manuscript is vital if you want to succeed, many authors will use the services of a professional editor (we even know authors who use multiple editors in order to polish their book prior to launch), the main thing is that your manuscript should be edited once you have stopped writing.
As mentioned, many authors will use an editor, and some will do it themselves, it is of course recommended that you get a fresh set of eyes to look at your book in a constructive manner (this is where an editor would really help), but you can edit yourself, you need to be objective and to some degree separate yourself from the obvious personal connection to the book, but if you really want to do it yourself, here are some tips to try and make it a little easier.
Break it down in to smaller pieces
If you intend to sit down and edit the book in one continuous go you may well struggle, break the process down into reviewing/editing one chapter at a time, you will need to pay attention to the overall outline of the narrative, plot & structure, but focusing in on one section of the book makes it a great deal easier to see where changes should be made.
Check your editing
Once you have made any edits make sure you go back and review them properly, in most cases this is worth leaving until the following day, you should give it some time and then re-read what you have just edited, you’ll find that with the element of time your edits will either stand up or you’ll see where you should tweak further.
Scrutinize your content
The process of editing isn’t just about checking for spelling and grammar errors, editing your book is about checking the overall story and ensuring that it makes sense too, so you should ask some questions of the book while working on the edit.
The first and obvious one is… does it make sense or do the plot and subplots go off at crazy tangents that add nothing to the overall narrative of the book?
Are your characters believable? Will your readers be able to connect with them on a real level? Great books have characters who have depth to them, the readers can connect and relate, will they do the same with yours?
Check the structure of your sentences for length, if they are too long (or too short) it can make the reading of your book disjointed or cumbersome, it’s always good to review a couple of best sellers within your genre to obtain an idea of how the big publishing houses prepare their books prior to working on yours.
Look for overused words and phrases within your manuscript, it can be easy (especially when writing a book over a long period of time) to use the same phrase over and over again, this should become obvious when you’re editing and something you should look to adjust within the edit itself.
Get someone else to read your book
Having another person read your book in an objective and unbiased manner is incredibly helpful for the editing process, even if you ask them to read the edited chapters as you complete them (so you don’t swamp your reviewer). The other person’s perspective on your work will help to find elements you may have missed that need adjusting.
Writing a blurb for a book of fiction is something that can take you days or even weeks to fine tune, it will become a selling point for your book and as such it’s vital to get right, but there is a fine line between what you should add and what you should leave out.
You also need to consider the length of the text, how much should you write? It’s tempting to try to say as much as you possibly can, but this can lead to a blurb which is close to 400 words and ends up never being read by those browsing for their next paperback.
So, here are our top tips on what you should consider when writing a blurb for your book (fiction):
One – Research
Before you start to write anything, look at the best sellers within your own genre and see how they’ve laid out their back pages, you’ll tend to find that they are concise, not over-bearing and designed to hook the reader. By looking at these best sellers you’ll get an idea of what your reader will expect to see along with a formula for what works.
Two – Genre & Details
The cover should make it clear what the genre is, but so too should your blurb, you need to reference the theme and genre of the book so that your readers know if it’s right for them. Try not to compare your book to others and never outright say how amazing it is either, for many readers ‘bragging’ is a huge turn-off.
Three – The Protagonist
Introduce your protagonist and give the reader an idea of who they are and what’s happening to them, of course don’t give any spoilers away but you should write so that the reader wants to know more about them and their story.
Four – The Hook
Every blurb for fiction needs a hook, this should describe an element within the book which draws in the reader and makes them want to find out more, you should try to avoid clichés and of course never give anything away. The hook can describe the challenge for the protagonist, their goals, conflicts etc. but it needs to add drama, this will become what is essentially a ‘sales-pitch’ for your book, so take your time with it.
Five – Size matters
You’ll normally over-write with your first attempt at a blurb (and this is fine), you need to spell out what the story is and hook your reader in to wanting to know more, but as we mentioned earlier, it shouldn’t be 400+ words. A good size for a blurb should be around 250 – 300 words in total.
Also think about whether you want to add a short bio and author profile image, if you do, you’ll need to consider the amount of room you’ll have for every element upon the back page, the image and bio will reduce the amount of room you have for your blurb, you can also consider having this within the pages of the book too, the ‘About the Author’ section normally appears towards the end of the book itself.
Six – Quotes
Many authors soft-launch their books at first, this enables them to get copies out to friends, family and reviewers, after a couple of months they’re able to collect reviews that they can then quote upon the back page of the book.
Depending upon how much other copy you have on the back page, you should be able to add a couple of quotes, these are a great way to show to your reader why your book is worth purchasing.
Seven – Bio and Profile image
If you do decide to have a short bio upon the back page (and not within the book itself), keep it short and relevant, you are not writing a resume. Your readers will want to know a little about who you are, if you have published before, if you have a website/social media, a rough idea as to where you’re based (obviously do not put your address here) and some of your relevant interests. It should give your readers a small insight into the author but not your life story.
With the profile image, keep it professional and do NOT use a selfie taken from a cellphone, the image should be taken in portrait and needs to be 300dpi in resolution.
Your book cover design will become the face of your work and as such will always play a very important role, it gives the viewer an immediate idea as to the contents and whether or not they’re going to look any further.
So, understanding this purpose (more than it just looking pretty) is important to you as an author, if you want your book to be taken seriously and ultimately sell, then you need to understand that its advertising, presentation and design will need to be both professional and able to compete within the market.
Most serious authors get this, knowing that their competition is vast and full of big name publishing houses (as well as indie authors) leads them to adopt a professional approach to the launch of their publication. There are close to 2,000 books published every day in the US alone, so without a focused plan you may find it challenging to get people to see your new book.
But the basics of having a great cover to begin with is a must, when faced with masses of competition you can’t cut corners and expect to gain a huge audience. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend thousands upon a book cover design, and some authors do create their own, but unless you have the talent to create something that you’d expect to see in your local Barnes & Noble store, it’s best to get a professional to create one for you.
So, what should you look for with a professional book cover?
Well first you need to think about what it is you want for the cover, what do other books within your genre look like? Who are the big name authors within your genre and how do theirs look? Once you know what your competition looks like you should have a better idea as to how you should approach your own book.
This is important as it will help you find a design team which can match your expectations, every design service will have examples of previous book covers upon their website, this will show quite clearly if they would be a good match for you and your book.
Sometimes you may find a designer that you like but don’t see examples close to your own ideas upon the website, it’s always worth just getting in touch and asking if they have ever done something similar and if so, if they could send some examples. We have completed hundreds of covers over the years and only have a small portion of them upon our own website (it can make websites too cumbersome for use, especially for mobile devices).
Also ask to see examples of previous covers as they appear on Amazon or other online book stores, you should find out if they’ve created for the main publishers such as KDP, Ingram Spark, Lulu, Smashwords, Nook, B&N etc.
Along with the cover you should look at revisions offered within the service, drafts offered and any promotional designs which may or may not come with the service, promotional designs such as banners, 3Ds, posters, GIFs and so on are also very useful in the ongoing promotion of your book.
So, how much should you pay?
This will vary from service to service, some charging prices up to $1500 (depending upon the complexity and designs offered), but on average most covers and advertising comes in at around the $600 mark, you can spend less, but again, it does depend upon what your book needs and how much promotional designs you may need.
But regardless of how much you spend upon a book cover, the most important thing to remember is to give your book the best chance possible, making it look professional and taking a proactive approach to advertising and promotion will give you the best chance of making sales.
Now that you have your book cover completed, the formatting done and all edits finalized, your book should be looking great and ready to publish, but have you thought about your brand as an indie author?
You may be thinking ‘well, that’s for the big sellers who have a large publishing house behind them, right?’
Not really, it is true that most big name authors will normally have a large advertising budget to spend, and they will have a ‘brand/style/image’ which is consistent across every platform they’re represented upon, but this is not something that’s exclusive to those within the best sellers lists.
In advertising your book, image is everything, having a consistent image/brand across every touch point your potential reader will see is important.
As an indie author your competition will be those best sellers, if you present an image of something which looks home-made or amateur, then the viewers will make the same assumption about the contents of your book and your proficiency as an author.
So, making sure that your cover and the content you post online through social media, blogs or your own website looks professional and consistent is crucial.
Here are our five tips on things you can do right now to help with your brand/image as an author.
Understand that in order to be successful and achieve the results that you may not currently have, you will need to do something different to what you are currently doing. Look, if you want change, YOU need to change yourself and your process first.
Look at your current social media pages, are they personal or set up separately for you as an author? Most PR agencies and publishers will tell you to separate the two, keep your personal pages away from your author profile, this will enable you to present a consistent image as an author to your readers.
Again, look at your on-line touch points, blog, website, social media, do they look like they belong to the same person? Or do you have different images, colors, profile photos etc.? Your social media, blog and website should all show a consistent image, one that lets the viewer know that they are on your page.
Post regularly, be consistent with your standards and be visual, most social media is focused upon the visual (just look at how big Instagram is), so don’t just post huge chunks of text (as no one’s going to read it). Use professional images, banners and photographs that will grab the attention of your viewer.
Don’t cut corners, you can get great banners, profile icons and advertising made to represent your brand very reasonably, look at what the most successful authors are doing on their websites and social media pages, look to them for inspiration.
With a small amount of effort, you can project a unified image across all of your touch points on-line, it all goes towards presenting a professional image of you as an author and that your books are something the public should take seriously.
Book cover designers.