Self/Independent Publishing of Your Novel – Print and Ebook
This article aims to give you the information required to successfully Self/Independently publish your novel as an ebook and a printed book through digital publishing. In our next article, we will focus exclusively on marketing and getting your novel into the marketplace.
Barbara Krasnoff, a tech editor and author of speculative fiction active in the field since 1989 says, ‘Producing and selling your novel without a publishing house behind you means you have the freedom to create your book the way you want to and the responsibility to make sure it’s done as professionally as possible.
‘Everything falls on your shoulders. You are accountable for the success of the publishing process. By taking on the kind of freedom and flexibility of self-publishing, you’re also taking on the accountability.
‘The process of publishing your own book can be both very simple and very complex. The actual mechanics of publishing an ebook, or even a print book, has become relatively easy, especially if you give yourself to the Amazon ecosystem.
‘However, doing it well – and gaining a following of readers who will enjoy and buy your books – is not as easy. It takes trial and error, patience, and work. But if you’re a serious writer, and you want people to read your books, it’s certainly worth it.’
What Is Independent/Self-Publishing?
Joanna Penn, a strong advocate for independent/self-publishing who has sold over 500,000 books, says, ‘The term self-publishing implies doing everything yourself and doing it more as a hobby. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this and it’s wonderful to create books in the world for the love of creation. I self-publish photo-books for my own pleasure, I helped my 9-year-old niece self-publish her first book and I helped my Dad self-publish for his 65th birthday.
‘But I use the term independent author, or indie author, for what I do. I work with top freelance professionals to create a quality product and this is a business for me, not just a hobby. I make a multiple six-figure income as an author/entrepreneur and being an indie is a positive choice, not a last resort.’
Perhaps before embarking on this process, the question to ask yourself is: Do I want to make this a business or is writing just a hobby for me?
Print on Demand
Print on Demand (POD) is a printing technology and business process in which book copies are not printed until the company receives an order, allowing prints of single or small quantities.To publish a book, you no longer need a print run of hundreds or thousands of copies to make publishing cost effective.
There’s no inventory to store, or anticipated demand being measured where you might end up with the cost of having a lot of unsold books.
Print on Demand books are available on a number of online platforms such as Amazon and Booktopia.
A reader simply places an order and the book is printed one at a time and sent to the customer.
There are no upfront printing costs with Print on Demand. But you might want to use a professional printing company to print a number of books that you can sell yourself as well as give to friends and reviewers.
According to Reedsy, an online author service, ‘If you’re looking for the simplest solution, publish your book with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), an author platform that lets you upload your book and list it for free. Readers can then buy the ebook or have a print version created for them at the click of a mouse. No need to understand how the sausage is made: Amazon has simplified the process.’
Finally, the great thing about Print on Demand is that your novel never goes out of print.
Here is a link to Reedsy where they evaluate various print on demand services:
Digital Publishing – Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) v ‘Going Wide’
Now this is where the publishing process can get a little complicated. The first decision you have to make is – what is the best digital platform to publish your novel?
You can publish your novel exclusively on Amazon or choose to ‘go wide’ and distribute your book via multiple platforms, such as Kobo, Apple Books, etc.
1. Going Wide. If you decide to ‘go wide’, you can either do this directly yourself or use an aggregator such as Smashwords who will distribute your novel from one dashboard to many distribution platforms on your behalf. You can still sell your book on Amazon, but you can’t use Amazon’s KDP marketing program, the benefits of which we’ll look at later.
2. Amazon’s KDP Select. KDP Select is a free 90-day program to Kindle eBook. It gives you the opportunity to reach more readers through Amazon and Kindle promotions. You opt-in for 90 days of exclusivity, which is automatically rolled into the next 90 days unless you specifically opt out.
However, it has an exclusive ebook program meaning that you cannot publish your book to other sites like Google Play, Kobo, Apple Books, or to library digital eco-systems, or even sell direct from your own site. Readers have to be within the Amazon eco-system to read your book.
Pros and Cons of Both Approaches
Here’s what Amazon says about why you should opt for KDP Select:
- Earn Higher Royalties. Earn your share of the KDP Select Global Fund when customers read your books from Kindle Unlimited (KU) and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. It is like Netflix for readers. You earn 70 percent royalty for sales to customers around the world.
- Maximize Your Book’s Potential. Choose between two great promotional tools: Kindle Countdown Deals, time-bound promotional discounting for your book while earning royalties, or Free Book Promotion where readers worldwide can get your book free for a limited time.
- Reach a New Audience through Kindle Unlimited where readers pay a subscription to read any novel in the subscription period. This way authors who enrol in the KDP program can reach readers in the US, UK, German, Italy, Spain, France, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and India and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL in the US, UK Germany, France and Japan.
Note: you can still sell your book on Amazon and ‘go wide’, you just don’t have the advantages of the KDP marketing options and you don’t benefit from Kindle Unlimited. But if you do choose KDP Select, readers on other platforms won’t be able to buy and see your work.
Finally, while digital copies of the book must only be sold through Amazon,
- A 10% sample of the book can be made available outside of the Kindle Store
- Print (or any other non-digital) versions can be distributed elsewhere
- Copies of the book can be emailed to potential reviewers
The Benefits of ‘Going Wide’
Joanna Penn says, ‘The definition of independence includes “free from outside control; not subject to another’s authority; not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence.”
‘If all you have are ebooks in KU (Amazon), you are not independent because you are not in control, you are subject to another’s authority, and you depend on Amazon for your livelihood.
‘You have no control over how much you’re paid, and Amazon can change the rules at any time. They have done this several times already, and they will continue to do so, because it’s their business and they can do what they like. There’s no warning. It just happens. So, there’s a level of anxiety within the KU author community about possible changes and people monitor Facebook groups and forums all the time. There is no peace of mind.
‘Change is inevitable, so I choose to spread my bets amongst the retailers as well as selling directly from my own site.
‘Some genres sell very well in KU and some authors make great incomes by publishing only within KU, but it doesn’t work for every author and every book, even within a popular genre.
‘Discoverability is easier because anecdotal evidence suggests that the Amazon algorithms favour books in KU and that Amazon ads are more effective for KU page reads.
‘You can still publish on Amazon KDP and not enter KDP Select, as I do.’
PublishDrive is an ebook/audio/print-on-demand aggregator company. They do not act as the publisher of your book, but can help with the distribution. They say, ‘If you’re interested in building a long-term, sustainable career as a self-published author, discoverability is key! If you remain exclusive to Amazon, you’re closing yourself off from so many sales channels and avenues for discoverability.
‘If your goal is to become a New York Times or USA Today bestselling author, or you’re hoping to turn your book into a movie or TV show, going wide is likely the best choice.
‘And don’t forget that there are plenty of reading subscription services besides KU – including Scribd and Kobo Plus – where readers can binge on your books while you earn. Did you know PublishDrive distributes to popular reading subscription services, including Scrib and Kobo Plus?’
Pricing: Recommended pricing is between $4.99 and $9.99.
Assisted and Hybrid Publishing (Self-Publishing) – Guide by Jane Friedman
Jane has twenty years of experience in the publishing industry, expertise in business strategy for authors and publishers and is also an author and award-winning blogger. She offers the following advice.
‘This is where you pay to publish and enter into an agreement or contract with a publishing service or a hybrid publisher. Once upon a time, this was called “vanity” publishing, but I don’t like that term. Costs vary widely (low four figures to well into the five figures). There is a risk of paying too much money for basic services or purchasing services you don’t need.’
Who they are:
- Companies that require you to pay to publish or raise funds to do so (typically thousands of dollars). Hybrid publishers have the same business model as assisted services; the author pays to publish.
- Examples of hybrid publishers: SheWrites, InkShares; examples of assisted service: Gatekeeper Press, Matador
How the money works
- Authors fund book publication in exchange for assistance; cost varies.
- Hybrid publishers pay royalties; other services may pay royalties or up to 100 percent of net sales. Authors receive a better cut than a traditional publishing contract, but usually make less than DIY self-pub.
- Regardless of promises made, books will rarely be stocked in physical retail outlets.
- Each service has its own distinctive costs and business model; secure a clear contract with all fees explained. Such services stay in business because of author-paid fees, not book sales.
How they sell
- Most don’t sell at all. The selling is up to the author. Some offer paid marketing packages, assist with the book launch, or offer paid promotional opportunities. They can get books distributed, but it’s rare that books are pitched to retailers.
Value for the author
- Get a published book without having to figure out the service landscape or find professionals to help. Ideal for authors with more money than time, but not a sustainable business model for career authors.
- Some companies are run by former traditional publishing professionals and offer high-quality results (with the potential for bookstore placement, but this is rare).
What to watch for
- Some services call themselves “hybrid” because it sounds fashionable and savvy.
- Avoid companies that take advantage of author inexperience and use high-pressure sales tactics, such as AuthorSolutions imprints (AuthorHouse, iUniverse, WestBow, Archway, and others).
More from Jane Friedman on Hybrid Publishers:
- Jane Friedman on Hybrid Publishers
- Jane Friedman’s set of criteria for evaluating hybrid publishers.’
- The Independent Book Publishers Association also offers a set of criteria for evaluating hybrid publishers.’
Once you have produced your novel and put it on whatever publishing platform you choose, you will then need to attend to:
Marketing – Getting your book into the marketplace