Updated: Jun 3, 2020
If you are ready to go down the Indie road, then this post is for you. However, there are some things that you MUST decide on before you're ready to put your book out on the market. My goal is to keep you from making too many mistakes and to help you publish with ease.
You got a drink? Got a snack? Well alright then, let’s go.
1: FINISH THE DAMN BOOK. Pretty self-explanatory.
2: Edit, edit, edit, revise, PAY FOR PROFESSIONAL EDITING. Edit some more.
3: Get your book in front of BETA READERS. If you used a professional editor, ask them if they have a group of readers willing to be your beta readers. You don’t want to use ONLY people you know. A few family or friends, maybe. Once your book comes back from the beta readers, you may need to make some changes based on their feedback.
The book is done. The editing is done. Now what?
4: Buy Joel Friedlander's/The Book Designer BOOK FORMATTING TEMPLATES. There are others out there, but I only use these. You must have your manuscript formatted before you upload it on any resale platform. You can pay someone to do this, but these are insanely inexpensive for unlimited formatting in all sizes. They take all the guesswork out of formatting and they are easy to do. If you have questions, the support people at The Book Designer will answer any questions and help you through any issues. It makes uploading to Amazon, Draft2Digital, Kobo and Ingram Spark super easy.
5: BOOK COVERS. I hired a graphic designer, had just gotten started on the process and then we had to part ways. After that, I decided to do it myself. However, before I did so I spent a lot of time at Derek Murphy’s site creativINDIE. He has been doing book covers a long time and has a treasure trove of information as to how to do them right.
But, and a big but here, I have the software. I use Affinity and Book Creative. If you don’t have software and don’t want to drop the money, I would suggest you buy a pre-made cover. there are tons of sites that have these. Here are a few: The Book Cover Designer, The Cover Collection, Ebook Indiecovers. Between purchasing the photos and software, you can drop a pretty penny.
As for photos, do not assume because it is on Flcker that it is okay to use. If you find a photo on Flcker (or any other website) and you want to use it, make sure the copyright allows you to do so. You need to contact the owner of the photo before you use it. You can use a standard photo release and email it to them. I did this with two of my book photos. For the other two books I bought my photos from Shutterstock.
Now FONTS are something a lot of people don’t take into consideration when preparing their book for distribution or setting up their branding and platform. Your desktop software will come with fonts, but if you are going to make your own covers, you will want to find that font that conveys the feel of your book. Even if you pay someone else to do your covers, you may consider using the same font across your websites and on business cards, as well. I suggest using Creative Market.
I have purchased several. I pay for the extended use so that I can use the fonts across both my websites. I had to buy a separate license for each. The cost is invaluable, because those fonts are part of my branding. They are recognizable from my book covers to my websites and business cards.
A note on BRANDING - if you are going to go the Indie route, then you need to think about branding yourself. YES, as an author you are a business. With all the other fantastic authors out there, you need to stand out. Here is a great post by Ashli Avalon, on branding.
I started my branding when I started my blog and my author website. My blog, Whiskey and Writing, was born out of my love of whiskey and writing. I keep my author website separate from my blog because my blog is a totally different beast. It is geared toward helping others, with a few things thrown in for my benefit.
My author site Victoria M. Patton, is all about me, my books and my writings. However, the branding is the same across both, same colors, same fonts, same pictures and same header. That way, when you see them, you know they are mine. When you see my book covers, you know they are from the same author and same series. My business card colors mimic my website colors. My book covers mimic my website colors, which happens to be some of the more popular colors to use in book covers. See how that all works together?
7: Copyright. You own the written word the minute it hits the paper. If you register your work with the Copyright office, then you can seek damages in court much easier for the use of your work without permission. It is super cheap and easy.
8: ISBN – Should you or shouldn’t you—some buy some don’t. Amazon will provide you with one of their free ASIN numbers. If you are only going to use Amazon, this will more than likely suit your purposes. If you are going to use other platforms, such as iTunes, you will need an ISBN. Even if you are just going to use Amazon, I suggest you purchase your own.
Let me explain why. When you publish your book and you allow another publishing platform, such as Amazon to attach their internal number to your book, then they are listed as the publisher. Now that doesn’t mean they own any of your copyrighted material, it just shows they are the publisher. For most that wouldn’t bother them. For me, however, I plan on having my book series in print for a long time. I don’t like the thought of someone else listed as my publisher. I want it all under my name, my brand. (See branding again) Read this article by Joel Friedlander, he explains it well.
I know the cost is expensive. I just bought a big ass block of them, so I know. You need a different ISBN for each format you publish, EBook and Print,(hardcover and paperback). Also, the trim size you decide on cannot be changed. If you start out your book as a 6x9 and print it through Createspace, (or any other print on demand) and then you change it to a different size, you must attach a new ISBN even though the book itself didn’t change. You can purchase them at Bowker.
My suggestion is to really think about where you are going with your writing. If you are just going to write and slap an Ebook on Amazon and do nothing else, then don’t buy one; take advantage of Amazon’s free ASIN.
9: This goes right into another area of being your own PUBLISHER/IMPRINT. I need to give you some information so that when it comes time to upload your manuscript onto Amazon or KOBO or any other platform, you will have made a decision as to what to do concerning this topic.
You will be asked who the publisher is of your book. The response Amazon or any other platform is looking for is either your name, your pen name, or a publishing company. Now obviously if you are self-publishing there is no “publishing company”. If you leave it blank the platform you are using will automatically input their name.
If you have incorporated your author name and are functioning as an LLC, you would list that in this spot. I am not an LLC yet (I’ll explain later) but I am Doing Business As both my Pen name and my own imprint, Dark Force Press. I created Dark Force Press solely for the purpose of listing my books under that publisher and to make receiving royalty payments easier.
I am Doing Business As both entities. In my state, Oklahoma, it is extremely easy and cheap to set up a DBA. I went a step further and received a Tax ID and opened a bank account under my Imprint name. I created a website, that just lists all my books and links to where you can order them. It all stays under me. You don’t have to do this. For me, it was a no-brainer. Helen Sedwick has a great article about setting up an imprint and why authors should.
As for the LLC, I chose to do a DBA because I don’t make enough money from writing, yet, to warrant the change in my tax status. I carry liability insurance through the Hartford (via USAA) to the tune of 4 million in coverage, and it costs me less than $300 a year. I can then write that off as a yearly expense. When I begin making money at this, I plan on setting up an LLC. Again Helen Sedwick has a great article on The Book Designer concerning LLCs and Insurance
BONUS: You know how the major publishing houses and all their authors have the Library of Congress Control Number in the front of their books? Do you want one in your book? Well, the benefit of creating a press or imprint is you can get your Indie-published book into the Library of Congress through their PCN program. You must meet certain eligibility requirements, and they are spelled out on their website. Here is a great article by Judith Briles that will help you step by step with this.
There are a lot of things you need to decide on BEFORE you self-publish. A lot of authors make the mistake of jumping in without doing any homework. Take the time to set up your platform/brand correctly. Get these things in order. By figuring out these steps prior to placing your book on the market, you will be setting yourself up for a much easier go and a much more profitable life as a writer.
I am working on the second part of this post that will explain uploading your books on re-seller platforms and the steps needed to do that. I hope to have it out very soon.
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I write crime fiction horror, thriller, and paranormal novels. My time in the Coast Guard and my degree in Forensic Chemistry helps me create fantastic stories.
If I'm not writing, I am binge watching Netflix and probably drinking whiskey.