February 15, 2014
When I started writing, I tried to get my novel published by conventional publishing houses, just like the rest of you. I mailed my manuscript to hundreds of publishers and agents, to the tune of hundreds of dollars in printing and shipping costs. I got a few nibbles, and even one proposal. Traditional publishing houses, however, have not kept up with the times, and it is incredibly slow to work with them. It took me four years being courted by a publisher, sending manuscripts, making revisions, and ignoring other offers, before my novel was finally rejected. Four years.
The fact is, unless you are already an established author, it is impossible to get published by big publishing houses. Self publishing does not carry the stigma it once did, and many self publishers are becoming millionairess without help from publishing houses. It takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it.
I researched every option. I’ll share some of my sales reports in a moment, but in short, Amazon.com is the primary place people go to buy books, and the best place to find success. Amazon acquired a company called CreateSpace, which allows you to self-publish a paperback version of your novel right to Amazon. I have had much more success with CreateSpace than any other service, and I’ll share with you how to get your novel up and running on Amazon with CreateSpace.
Part 1 – My Analytics
I published my first novel on December 1, 2012, using BookBaby (for eBooks) and CreateSpace. Here is a recap of how it has sold to date.
- Total revenue to date: $1,700.15
- Paperback sales: $801.56
- Store: Amazon.com: 147 book sold, averaging $6.75 per sale
- eBook sales: $786.49
- Store: Amazon Kindle: 95 books sold, $6.12 per sale
- Store: Barnes & Noble Nook: 17 books sold, $5.00 per sale
- Store: iBookstore (Apple IPad/iPhone Book Store): 19 books sold, averaging $6 a sale
- Hardcover sales: $112.10
- Store: Lulu.com: 22 books sold, averaging $5 per book
- Paperback sales: $801.56
We’re often told that today is the day of the eBook, and that print publishing is dead. That’s not quite true. As you can see from my sales figures, people preferred my paperback version slightly more than my eBook version, even though the paperback version is around $8 more expensive. There is still just something special about holding the book in your hand.
Things I’d do differently
BookBaby allows you to publish an eBook to dozens of different online stores at once. You pay extra for each store. I chose to publish to them all, and I regret it because, as you can see, the only stores that sold my novel were Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and the iTunes store.
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a company owned by Amazon.com. If you publish your eBook novel with them directly, they will promote it for you for free on Amazon.com, but only if you give them exclusivity for a certain number of months (90 days). I chose to cast a wide net and publish to many stores all at once. This caused me to forego KDP’s free novel promotion, which I regret a lot today.
If I had to do it all over, I would publish the eBook version of my novel with KDP only, and take advantage of their free promotion. Once the promotion ended, I would use BookBaby to get my novel up on Barnes & Noble and iTunes.
I will write a guide to getting your eBook published with KDP after this one. Publishing the paperback version is, in my view, much easier, and once you publish the paperback with CreateSpace, it takes just a few clicks to publish the eBook with KDP. So, this guide will walk through publishing paperback first, and then I’ll walk you through getting it as an eBook on the Kindle store. Finally, I’ll go over hardcover options, and offer a guide to publishing eBooks to other online stores using BookBaby.
Part 2 – CreateSpace (Paperback)
Once your account is created, go to the Member Dashboard. Once there, click on the big blue button that says “Add New Title”.
On the next page you’ll have the option to write your novel’s title, and to select what kind of book you want to publish. Choose “paperback”, and then click the “Get Started” button next to the guided step-by-step process.
On the next page, add your author name, and the date you published it, or want to publish it. Add a subtitle if you like, type “1” in the edition, and click “Save & Continue”.
The next page is where you will insert your ISBN, and it can be confusing. The easiest solution is to choose “Free CreateSpace Assigned ISBN”. This costs you nothing, and you get a unique ISBN for your book. The only drawback to this is that your book’s page on Amazon.com will say “Published by CreateSpace“. This is the option I used.
The next option (which is expensive, and I do not recommend it), “Custom ISBN”, will list you as the publisher. To use this option, you must by a unique ISBN from a company called Bowker. You can find them at myidentifiers.com, and a single ISBN costs $125. Once you purchase the ISBN, enter your myidentifiers.com login credentials in this space at createspace.com, and then choose your ISBN when CreateSpace retrieves a list of the ISBNs you own. The drawback to this is that you can use the ISBN only once, and only with CreateSpace. This option costs you $10, on top of the $125 you have to spend on an ISBN with Bowker.
The third option is identical to the previous one, except you can use the ISBN anywhere in the world (if, say, you decide to sell your book on BookBaby, for example). The drawback is this option costs $99, on top of the $125 spent with Bowker.
The final option allows you to use an ISBN that you already have, purchased from someplace else.
For the sake of simplicity, I recommend that you just use the first option, and get a free ISBN from CreateSpace.
On the next page you can choose your book interior. Choose between black-and-white or color. Bear in mind that if you choose color, the printing costs of your book skyrocket, making it much less affordable, and potentially cutting back on your profits. I chose black and white. (Note that you can still have a color cover–this selection only applies to the book’s interior).
Next, choose paper type–white or cream. I find that cream paper is used in most novels, and, in my opinion, is easier on the eyes (white paper gives black text too much contrast, and can be straining on the eyes. Also, it reminds me of reading a textbook). I chose cream, at no extra cost.
Finally, choose a trim size. Standard paperback trim size is 6″ x 9″, and this is the size I chose for my book, The Tale of Cloran Hastings. Whatever size you choose, CreateSpace gives you a link to a Microsoft Word template that you can use to ensure that your novel will fit the trim. I highly recommend that you download this template, and then transfer your novel into this Word document. It is a time-consuming, arduous process, I know, but it will ensure that the book you give CreateSpace is printed exactly as you intended.
You can download the free 6″ x 9″ template using this link.
Note on formatting: I opened up many fantasy novels I respected to see how other authors have formatted their books in the past. I paid special attention to how they styled the Table of Contents, Foreword, Acknowledgements, and publishing/legal pages. I then duplicated the style I liked best and rephrased the wording to fit my novel. I suggest doing the same when formatting your book in Word.
You want to make sure that your file is readable, but uses as few paper pages as possible to reduce the print cost (which will allow you to make more money). I wrote a guide on formatting a Word document for this purpose, which you can read here. Had I done this before I published, I would have made about $5 more per sale, which would have doubled my profits.
One more note: Please use standard fonts for your novel. If you do choose to use unusual, fancy fonts, you must embed them into your Word document, even if you export it as a PDF for uploading. In Word, simply go to Options > Save, and click the “embed fonts” check box.
Finally, click the link that helps you estimate your book’s printing cost. My book costs $13.10 to manufacture. I decided that I wanted around $5-6.00 in profit from every book, so this helped me settle on my price of $19.99. It may also help to see what other books in your book’s genre are selling for today on Amazon.com.
I have found that readers often complain about the price. They don’t realize that they are paying, say, $20 for hours and hours of enjoyment, which they can enjoy time and time again, which is the same price they pay for two hours of entertainment when going to the movies. Or for a value meal at McDonalds. So bear that in mind when pricing your novel. Still, it’s also likely that you’ll get only a few purchases initially until you market it, so squeezing a good profit out of initial sales is important. One mistake many authors make is to price their novels too low, which barely gives them profit at all for the few copies they sell. It’s a tricky decision to make.
Note that Amazon reserves the right to reduce the cost of your book if they feel it will help sales. This price reduction cuts into your profits. For example, Amazon.com now sells my book for $16.29, despite the fact that I asked them to sell it for $19.99. You may want to take that into account when figuring the price of your book.
Finally, upload the .doc Word file containing your book. If you used the Word template CreateSpace provided, this will ensure that CreateSpace prints your book exactly as you formatted it, unless you use unique fonts. If you used unique fonts when formatting your novel, or if your book has black-and-white illustrations, then you should upload it as a .pdf file, which you can generate in Word itself (just choose “Save As” from within Word and select “PDF”). I used the very common font Adobe Garamond for the text in my book, which allowed me to simply upload the .doc file.
Here is where you can upload or design your cover. You can use CreateSpace‘s free book cover designer, which I have found very useful. Or, you can upload a cover you designed yourself, or that you had someone else design.
If you don’t know how to create book covers, use one of their free templates. I chose a template that allows me to upload an image for the cover, and then add text and photos to the back. This made the cover creation process very simple.
Choose between “matte” or “glossy” finish. This is simply a style preference. Matte is rough and non-reflective, glossy is smooth and reflective. My novel’s cover is glossy, but most paperbacks these days are printed in matte.
Click “save” when done.
In this section, CreateSpace will ask you to review a digital “proof” of your novel, to spot any mistakes. Clicking on the “review proof” button opens up the digital proof tool, which fills the screen. You can flip through your book page by page to see exactly how it will look when printed.
I found many errors when I proofed my book, and I found this tool to be very helpful. You can always re-upload your book’s source file to overwrite the old one if you want to fix mistakes.
Once done, the wizard will take you to the Distribute section, where you will specify how your book is sold. On the Channels page, select the channels where you want your novel available for purchase. I chose all that were available to me at the time.
Continue on to the pricing page. The calculator on this page will help you understand how much you will earn in royalties. Type in your desired price in the first field. The tool will show you how much you will earn, based on the manufacturing costs of your book. Once you have your desired price figured out, click the check boxes that offer suggested GBP and EUR prices based on your US price.
Next up is the Description section. Here you will write a description about your book, and fill out details about you, the author. For an example of how these will appear on Amazon.com, see the following links:
Once all these steps are complete, you can now publish your book on Amazon.com. They will review your book to make sure it has no errors. If approved, they will send it to Amazon.com, and people can purchase your book. It takes 3-5 business days after completing these steps before your book will appear.
It’s possible to go the entire way without paying a dime to publish your novel. However, CreateSpace offers professional services that can help you, if you wish:
- Basic copyediting up to 10,000 words, $160. Click to learn more
- Comprehensive copyediting: $210. Click to learn more
- Comprehensive copyediting plus: $280. Click to learn more
- Editorial evaluation: $199. Click to learn more.
- Editing package: $300. Click to learn more
- Editing package plus: $470. Click to learn more
I’m not sure how much you want to invest, but I think many books can benefit from one of the editing packages. Remember that it has taken me over a year to earn what I have earned, so it is unlikely you will earn your money back very quickly if you choose one of these packages. But I think many books would benefit from it.
Next up, my guide to publishing an eBook to Kindle (coming soon).