I’ve been asked a few times lately by friends how to self-publish a book. Last week I was asked in-depth questions by Dale Mayer. After I answered them, she asked more questions. I thought I could answer them in this blog. This way I can give the link to the next person who asks me about self-publishing. Plus, it gives me a blog topic. Bonus!
Here’s from Dale’s first email: “My question to you is how did you start? Do I need to have an account with Amazon first? Do I write these, format them in a special way (And I know you didn’t format yours but do you have information on it) and just upload it?”
Probably most people think Amazon first, but they should think Smashwords first. Smashwords sells your book on their site, and they put it through their meat grinder (for formatting) and send it to other retailers: Barnes&Noble, Sony, Kobo, Amazon, Apple, Deisel. You have to choose Smashwords Premium Distribution when you’e uploading your book to qualify. You can opt in all of them or just some. I opted out of Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Smashwords gets 10% of your royalties of each book sold. Since Kindle and Barnes&Noble sell the most ebooks, I prefer to take a little extra time and put my books up myself. Apple and Sony need an ISBN, so I accepted the Smashwords free ISBN. Smashwords does sell ISBNs that you can put in your name for only $9.95. Or you might want to buy the ISBNs from Bowker. You can read more about Bowker here. You can read about Smashwords’ options here.
Mark Coker, the CEO and founder of Smashwords, has a free Smashwords Syle Guide that will tell you how to format. Lori Devoti wrote a more concise post on the How To Write Shop last November, titled How To Format an Ebook in Microsoft Word. I don’t do it exactly the same as she does, but as she says, “there is no one way to format an ebook.” I’ll just clarify one thing. She mentions Show-hide in her post. If you have Word 7, the easiest way to activate Show-Hide is to go to the tool bar, look for the show/hide symbol, which is highlighted in the upper right corner below, then click on it.
Barnes&Noble uses the same formatting as Smashwords if you choose the Word option. I do a Find on my Word doc file for Smashwords, then Replace All with Barnes&Noble. Easy. Lori Devoti and Zoe Winters (as mentioned in Zoe’s entertaining and informative e-book, Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author) prefer the ePub choice. Mine looks great to me in Word and I haven’t had any complaints, so I’ll keep using Word. Lori’s directions for Kindle are solid. She says to save the file as HTML filtered. In Word 7 it’s Web Page, Filtered. (Note: Lori read this in draft form and said: “When I format for Kindle I take the extra step and convert the html into a PRC file which can be directly loaded onto a Kindle. This then includes a cover in the front and Table Of Contents.)
You should still get the Smashwords Style Guide and at least glance through it. It has copyright language that you need to post in the beginning of the books you post on Smashwords. Some writers use the same information for Kindle and Barnes&Noble. Other writers use their own language.
For uploading your book on Amazon, go to https://dtp.amazon.com/ and register. For B&N, I went to Pubit.com. Smashwords is Smashwords.com. On Smashwords and Barnes&Noble, you can copy your cover on the first page. To do this, right click on the cover image, click on “copy image,” then go to the first page of your manuscript, make a page break at the top to have the first page blank, then right click on the empty page and click on “paste.”
Kindle needs an embedded code. (See what Lori said about PRC codes earlier.) If you really want a cover to show on someone’s Kindle when they open your book, you can Google directions. I decided to skip it. Many other writers skip this, too.
When you put up your books, you’ll be asked if you want DRM. That means they can’t share your books. Readers hate DRM-protected books. Most writers I know say No, including me, but you can Google this and make up your own mind.
On to Dale’s other questions. She’s publishing non-fiction and will be using graphs and more formats than we normally use in fiction. She wanted to know if the Kindle web-filtered document will work for her books. My answer is that I don’t know. I’m technically challenged and need directions spelled out as if I were a fourth grader. Though even most fourth graders probably catch on faster than I do. I’m sure you can Google and find the answers. Natasha Fondren at ebookartisandesign.com formats mss. for Kindle, epub (B&N), Smashwords and other formats by request. She’s very reasonably priced. Lori Devoti also does this for a very reasonable price. You can contact Lori here.
Dale wants to know what percentage we get from sales. Right now, if your book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99 at Kindle, you get 70% royalties. Barnes&Noble is 65%. For books priced above or below or above those amounts you get 35% royalties at Kindle, 40% at B&N Nook. I’m staying out of Google eReader for now. A friend uploaded her books in it, but she doesn’t know what her royalties are or much of anything yet. This guide to publishing a successful ebook says the same thing.
None of the digital retailers I mentioned charges for uploading your book. In digital publishing, as any publishing, the Nr. 1 rule is (or should be): Money flows to the author, not away from her.
Smashwords pays 85% royalties on the books that they sell. But for the other retailers they distribute books to, the percentage is complex and it keeps changing. This is from Smashword’s Channel Manager Page:
“Apple and Diesel: Have always been 60% of the list price.
Kobo: Now 60% list for prices between $.99 and $12.99. Previously, we paid 46.75% list for Kobo sales. For prices over $12.99, your royalty is 38%. The 60% royalty applies only to US and Canadian dollar-denominated sales. Elsewhere, the 38% rate applies.
Sony and Barnes & Noble: 60% of your list price. Previously, we paid 42.5% of your suggested list price.”
Here are the rest of Dale’s questions:
How do you get paid? By direct deposit into your checking account or by check.
And when? From paranormal romance writer Zoe Winters, who sold over 4000 books in December : “Amazon and B&N pay monthly on a 60 day delay from the end of the month you earned it. Smashwords pays quarterly.”
So if my understanding is correct – I can format once, change the copyright information and put up the same book on Amazon Kindle, Smashwords and B& N? Yes.
You can thank Dale Mayer for these questions and answers. Dale is one of the last four remaining finalists in Kensington and Romantic Times‘ Writing With the Stars competition. The new round starts today. One way to thank her would be to go there, read the entries, then vote for your favorite. (Subliminal message: Vote for Dale, vote for Dale, vote for Dale…)
I’m tacking on one last topic that another friend just asked me about. Covers. You can make your own cover. Many people do. You can Google and find a ton of links on how to do this. Or if you have a friend or relative who’s good at graphics, you can ask them to do it. But I’m so technically challenged, it wasn’t an option for me. My cover artist, Laura Morrigan, does a fabulous job. I love my covers. They suit the books, they stand out, they look professional, I get many compliments on them, and her charges are reasonable. You can see my covers on my website. You can contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have any questions? I’ll be happy to answer them.