Indie Publisher! A Process

Self-publishing is quite the endeavor! There are so many subtleties you’d never except to encounter when first starting out. I remember thinking something like, Okay, I can do this. I write a book, upload that bad boy onto Amazon, and hope it gets noticed! It can’t be that hard to get it in stores, too.

Was I ever wrong! haha  While those are things that could totally happen, there’s a lot more behind-the-scenes work that goes into writing and publishing a book. It is not impossible! If I can figure this stuff out, I’m confident anyone can, but let me help you out a bit. I’ll give you a rundown of what all I’ve done thus far. If you have questions, feel free to ask away!

First, I wrote my manuscript (Jan-April 2014).  February 28th, 2014 I finally felt confident enough to start a blog and admit to the world that I was a writer *gasp* who wanted to be an author. *double gasp* On a side note: one day in February my daughter said to me, “I told my teacher, Mrs. _______, that you are writing a book.”  My reaction wasn’t pretty. Don’t fret. I did not immediately stop the car and demand my daughter walk the rest of the way to school.  Instead, in a slight panic, I said, “You what? Why?!?! Don’t tell anyone!” I’m ridiculous, I know. The idea that people might find out I was following through on this deep need in me was incredibly personal. Who am I kidding? It’s still personal, but I’m not so worried about hiding it any more. I’ve always wanted to be authentic where ever I go and with whomever I find myself. If seriously being a writer, an author, is part of who I am then I cannot hide it, or I risk not being my true self in whole. Later, I did apologize to my daughter for freaking out, just so you know.

After I finished writing, having edited multiple times throughout, I entrusted my manuscript to a few very special friends. I had a whole list I would have accosted, but I know everyone’s time is precious, so I couldn’t bring myself to beg too many people to contribute to my time-sucking activity: feedback and proof-reading my story. Now I have learned of this magic source of feed-backers called “beta readers” which may be asked to review my books in the future. I couldn’t have moved forward, though, without the help of these friends who seriously took to the task of editing my book. They spent hours upon hours scouring the pages for errors and weak spots.

During the time they held my precious book in their hands, I also went through it again and again, looking for ways to shore up the story, to correct typos, etc. I asked a few more people to just read it and give me feed back. The response was positive. Some people asked some very good questions about content. I tried to take everyone’s comments, concerns, and questions into account as I wrote and rewrote. Of the five paper copies I sent out for help with editing, I received two of them back. They were full of great insights and amusing side notes.

I also spent this time working on my blog. I delved into figuring out Twitter and Instagram while perusing Goodreads. Slowly, I keep learning how these social media platforms can help promote my work, but mostly, it has only reinforced what I already knew about marketing. It is all about making connections with people, giving something of emotional value instead of just monetary value.

I struggle with making these connections in person and online. I value you as a person and the time you take to spend with me. I want to be remembered, but I also struggle with the idea that I’m not worth notice and want to hide myself in the corner. How on earth do I balance this? I don’t think I’ve figured that out yet, but I hope you know, being a real and true friend is my goal. I want to make connections that are more than just selling books or reading books.

I checked out independent editors, but thankfully didn’t have to look far and wide. Through a writer friend, I happened to come across and editor who let me try a snippet of her service for free: Susan Hughes. She is kind, professional, and supportive. After reviewing her work and reading a couple of reviews by authors who had used her service, I was confident she was the editor for me, so I engaged her services. Sadly, my time slot for editing got pushed out to December 2014 because she was so bogged down by work (good sign) and family commitments (real person). It was worth the wait, BTW!

Okay, so that is a very basic rundown of how the writing part went. Now, let’s move on to the publishing stuffola . . .

I spent some time during the above process reading articles about publishing, picking up on all the different options along the way, but I didn’t seriously dive into all that until much later. Maybe that was a mistake. But, it is what it is and I’m learning as I go. Next time will go more smoothly, I think.

I decided, after reading a bajillion articles on different publishing options, I’d start with Amazon‘s company, Createspace, and just go from there. Their website and information were easy enough to follow and didn’t leave my head spinning. They offer lots of free options but promote their paid services if doing it yourself becomes too cumbersome. I’m a do-it-yourself sort of gal, so I dived in head first with my Word documents and PDFs. I highly recommend that you use their templates for book size interior design.

They say 6×9 is standard, but I think that’s bigger than a paperback should be, so I‘d opt for 5.5×8 or 5.25×8 (this is the one I opted). Yes, that means more pages, but it also means your book looks more like a standard paperback. Besides, 6×9 is more of a hardback standard size. It took me a while to figure out how to adjust the header/footer like they do in their template, but I finally learned the secret in MS Word and that is a huge life-saver when it comes to formatting professionally. The first page of every chapter should not have a header on it. Your copyright page, contents, acknowledgments, dedication pages, etc, should also have NO header. Often, you should not have a footer either, unless it is lowercase roman numerals in some instances. Their templates automatically take into account gutters (the space between pages where the book is bound). I found this feature very helpful in formatting the book for publication.

Then I tackled creating the final cover using their cover creator template. The nice thing is you can enter your page count in Createspace’s cover template creator and it generates a spine width that is appropriate for your specific book. The final format of the cover is required to be a PDF. If you are like me and the PaintShop program you designed the cover doesn’t have the option to convert to pdf built in, you’ll want to have the free version of OpenOffice which will give you a nice PDF. There are a couple of options to pay attention to within OO when saving as a PDF. There is some size ppi/dpi size requirements involved in this and I’m still working out the bugs on how to make everything translate well, but my cover turned out very nice.

Createspace also has several options available for ISBNs that might suit your needs. My recommendation, if you plan to offer several formats of your book, is to go to Bowker.com (US) directly, and purchase a bulk set of ten, at the least. It will save you a lot of money in the long run, and I wish I’d understood that before!

I set up and uploaded an ebook version to Kindle Direct Publishing, but I used the special compile feature on Scrivener to format it for .mobi format.

Next, I made an account through nookpress.com and uploaded the e-book to their site. Nookpress doesn’t actually do paper/hardback copies for anything other than specialty items, like if you want just a special copy at home. There are no ISBNS associated with the service. Uploading directly to nookpress may have been unnecessary, though, because Smashwords e-books can be made available through Barnes & Noble.

I’d heard a lot about Smashwords, so I went and set up an account there as well. They have an entirely different way of formatting your ebooks, but they offer a free tutorial that walks you step-by-step through the process of getting the formatting just right in order to be accepted into their premium services such as the iStore and Barnes & Noble online. They also offer several formats for customer download: .html; .pdf; .epub; etc.

Oh! I didn’t realize through Createspace, if I bought my own ISBN at their $99 option, which I did, that I wouldn’t be able to list my book through their expanded distribution to libraries and educators, so that stinks. After doing some digging online, I found that if I opt out of their “expanded distribution” altogether and go through Ingram instead, it opens up those options: library, educators, book stores.

Now, I’ve got The Beauty Thief set up through IngramSpark’s service. Keep in mind, IngramSpark does charge you some start-up fees, so depending on how serious you are about where and how you want to offer your books, you may not want to spend the extra. I vacillated on this one before I took the plunge. I really would like libraries and book stores to pick up my book. Because bookstores get higher profits through Ingram and the option to return, they are more likely to buy books from Ingram. I’m excited to see how the final hard back version of the book turns out, including a spiffy dust jacket!

I’ve heard of, but have no idea about, Lulu or Kobo. I’ve probably heard of a few more, and I just can’t think of them right now. There are so many options available out there! You should do your research, ask questions, and really think about what you want to get out of publishing you book. Don’t waste time doing extra stuff if it doesn’t fit within the expanse of your ideal.

I’m still learning as I go. This time, the process has been tough, but it will continue to get easier the more I learn . . . the more I DO!  If you have advice, do share! If any of this has sparked a question, please feel free to ask. There is a teacher living inside this girl who loves to share information and help people. Don’t hesitate to contact me!


22 thoughts on “Indie Publisher! A Process

  1. Yes, Rachael. This post is a wealth of knowledge and I will be referring back to it when my time comes to publish (fingers crossed). Its a funny thing how we as writers don’t want the world to know we are because of the fear of failure, etc. All we can do now is own it. Thanks for sharing this part of your journey. My question for you is about your beta readers and how you went about finding and choosing yours. I recently listened to a podcast all about it and have been re-energized with the thought, and as you say, the magic of these people 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Job! I’m glad the post will be of some use! This time I asked friends and family. I then asked teens I know to read it. There are a lot of people I don’t know who would be willing beta readers. Will you be blogging about betareaders and choosing them any time soon? Anything on the podcast stand out to you?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Who are these people you don’t know that would be willing beta readers? And yes, I think I will blog (not necessarily about betareaders) sometime soon. I see and appreciate what you are doing here, my tactful friend. Thanks for giving me the push I need. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh. I think I’ve been found out! 🙂 I’m ready to read more J.A.Merkel BlogPosts. Tis true. Heavens…I haven’t made a list of people, but through various blogs I’ve just come across a lot of talk of beta readers and people who beta read. Wait. That’s the same thing. See, I’m such a nincompoop, and I don’t have a list. I just know they are out there. I can help, though, if you are looking for some! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Found out indeed! I just broke my 4 month streak of no posts tonight. Don’t know how I let it go so long. And you’ve been more than helpful with the new beta readers – thank you, thank you!

            Liked by 1 person

            1. 😀 haha! Yay! Posts by J.A.! (sometimes I think of you as J.A. like ja for yes. 🙂 Yes, man! I loved your Clover Lovers dot Com! haha 🙂 SO happy to help wherever I can! E.Rawls and I are Problem Solver Super Heroes…we haven’t quite decided on our call to action yet, though.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Haha thank you. I really enjoyed your post as well. Keep up the good work Rachael the superhero! The call to action comes when we least expect it 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  2. this is a wonderful article, with some very useful information. I’m going to save it for future reference. I’m still in the barely-told-anyone-I’m-writing stage at the moment, but I hope to finish one of my novels and get to published next year at the latest. I’ve already had a couple of early versions made up through Lulu and Blurb’s print on demand services and almost tore my hair out with the formatting – it was so hard and confusing. (I got them done for free through Nanowrimo.) I’m hoping it will get easier with practice. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Check out Createspace, for sure. It is not all point and click, but I found their templates took a lot of the headache out of formatting. If you are using MS Word, there is a trick to making new headers for each chapter so that you can have a blank first chapter page, but once you’ve learned it, then it’s no problem, just a little time-consuming. I actually just tweeked the margins from the ones I made through createspace’s templates for ingram. Now I’m waiting for the proof copies, but the digital version looked clean (I missed some widows&orphans in two chapters, but I’m not yet ready to pay the extra $25 fee to correct it. Watch out for those! They hide!). And yes, easier with practice! TRUE! You got this! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I went through the same thing: I was all shy about being a writer and kept it to myself, but when my book was finally published my mom started telling the whole world about it! She even told people at church while I was standing right there listening–Oh my face was blushing, I was so nervous! 🙂

    I’m curious, why did you purchase ISBNs instead of taking the free one Createspace gives? I’m trying to figure out what will be best for my next novel, as I’d like to have it in paperback, hardback and ebook formats. Does this mean I have to purchase ISBNs for it, instead of taking the free ones offered?
    Also, is it true that you can use the same ISBN at both Createspace and IngramSpark?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh silly authors who like to live big in their imaginations and hide in the real world. haha 🙂

      If you want hardback, paperback, and ebook formats then you do need to buy your own ISBNS. If you use Createspace’s free one then you have to limit your work to their publication which would cut out the hardback option and ability to list with other retailers. On the plus side, I think if you take the free one then you get to be in all their expanded distribution . . . ? I’ll have to go back and read that now. I can’t quite remember how that’s worded.

      From everything I read, if you buy an ISBN for paperback (even the $99 opt on CS), you can use the same ISBN for POD through IngramSpark, too. I’m not sure how about other PODs. You do have to opt out of all “expanded distribution” through Amazon, though. If you make your books through IngramSpark and not through createspace, your books will still be listed on Amazon, but they will also be available elsewhere. You would have to charge more for paperback and/or receive less royalties. Oh, the ever complicated web they weave! I feel more trapped the more I think about it. hahaha

      I’ll try to find the article I came across that was the most helpful to me with the publishing opts and info and either post it here or forward you the link. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It really is a complicated web! X)
        Thank you for the article link! That helped clear a few things up for me. I’d heard about that plan using CS only for Amazon and then Ingram for everything else; I think I’d like to do that. One more thing about ISBNs: How many do you recommend buying? And will I need to buy barcodes too?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. If you are in US, bowker.com is the direct seller of ISBNs. You may need to buy barcodes, too, but since I didn’t buy the bulk ones like I should have, I’m not quite sure on that part. It wasn’t clear to me either. I do know that the one I bought through Ingramspark is barcoded w/o purchasing it separately. I think it will take some more digging to get a clear answer on that, though!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. This is an amazing article. It’s like a complete guide to writing, and editing and publishing all in one. As someone who is considering self publishing there were lots of great tips! Wishing you all the very best. Looking forward to hearing how the publishing journey goes 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Georgina! If you do decide to self publish and questions come up along they way, it’s entirely possible I’ve already experienced the issue, so please feel to stop by and ask. I will be keeping updates about my publishing journey here on the blogola. I appreciate your kind words. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree that the 6×9 books look weird. They are just an odd size. I made mine 5.25×8 and I like that much more. I would like it more if they had even smaller sizes, but I guess I can’t really complain since most of my sales are eBooks anyways.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Charlotte! They do look weird. It loses that professional edge when you put a paperback in non-industry standard size. That is of course, just my opinion, but as a reader myself, it just looks weird and makes me think “the author was going on the cheap” which is never a good sign! 🙂 I also went for 5.25×8 for the paper back. My hardback will be 6×9, but that is pretty common from what I’ve witnessed in bookstores. 5.5×8 is also acceptable for harback, I think. 🙂 I have a feeling most of mine will be eBooks, too! We will have to wait and see! Thank you!

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  6. Great post, Rachael! You’ve got lots of useful info here for other writers who plan to self-publish. And thank you so very much for the kind shout-out and the link to my website. It was a true blessing to work with you, and I look forward to the day when your movie deals start rolling in. Congratulations to you on a job well done on every level!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Susan! You continue to encourage me at every turn and I can’t begin to express how much I appreciate it! I just received the shipment of my first ten copies of The Beauty Thief. The look fantastic! I hope I don’t brag when I say they look and feel very professional on every page. I’m so happy with how the Createspace POD paperbacks turned out!

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