Kate Hanney is a Cornerstones’ author who has gone on to self-publish three titles for Young Adults. Her books have been published through the co-operative she set-up with another children’s writer, Wendy Storer.
In my previous post, I spoke about my excitement as my publishing partner, Wendy Storer, and I launched Applecore Books, and began to get our middle-grade and Young Adult novels ‘out there’.
Well, it’s fair to say that excitement is still as real as ever. We now have five e-books and three paperbacks published under the Applecore logo, with more ebooks following and paperback versions of them all coming soon.
But what I thought I’d concentrate on in this post, is the practical side of self-publishing; that is, the actual process of transforming a MS into a book, both electronically and in print, and some of the options you might like to consider. The more I’ve redrafted this post, however, the more I’ve come to realise that this could actually form the basis of a whole book in itself! But in a nutshell, here are a few pertinent thoughts based on my personal experiences so far.
Uploading a MS to be sold as an ebook on Amazon, is generally very straightforward. It can usually be completed by uploading a word document, and the file will be converted automatically. An important decision the author must decide at this point, is whether to enrol their book in the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) ‘Select’ scheme. If an author does enrol, they commit to the scheme for a period of three months at a time. During that time, the book must be available exclusively on Amazon, but in return, authors get the opportunity to earn higher royalties in some territories, the option of offering their book free for any five days within those three months, and the potential to earn through the Amazon Prime scheme whereby every time a member borrows the book, the author receives a royalty payment.
Now, I’m not totally sure what to advise here. Yes, Select has the huge cogs of Amazon turning behind it, but of course it limits accessibility somewhat. So when Wendy and I first uploaded, we ran a little experiment; signing some of our titles up with KDP Select, and not others. As well as being on Amazon, the other titles were also available to buy from platforms like Kobo and Smashwords, and it was really interesting to see how sales were affected by the different approaches. For us, it seemed Amazon Select did work better, and we now have all our e-titles signed up with them. It’s important to point out however, that other authors have strongly advised against this and prefer having maximum coverage on as many platforms as possible.
As well as being very easy to do, the real beauty of uploading to Amazon in my opinion, is the reassurance that you can change almost anything about the upload as and when you decide. Price, blurb, cover images and even internal text can be revised whenever you feel the necessity. Which is great if you spot that one typo that slipped through the proofreading net, or if you feel the blurb could do with jazzing up a little. A word of warning though – the one thing that can’t be changed after you’ve clicked ‘save and publish’ is the management of digital rights. This is something Amazon applies to the file to ensure it can’t be shared electronically, so it’s well worth taking your time with the upload and thinking it through carefully.
As far as producing the print versions is concerned, if you are wanting to use Print on Demand (POD) - whereby the printers only print the books as they receive orders from retailers, and if you are looking to publish only one or two titles - then it would probably be advisable to take a look at some of the websites that offer POD set up and distribution services. The one I used when I first self-published Safe, four years ago is www.feedaread.com. They will hold your hand through the process and provide help with formatting and covers, and they will also provide you with your book’s ISBN. The cost for set-up and distribution is currently £88.00, and in return for their services, they will take a percentage of any royalties.
However, if you are feeling a little more innovative, and you have several titles to publish as paperbacks, you could go down the route Wendy and I have taken, and set up as an independent publisher.
For our POD services, we have registered with Lightning Source UK. And I would like to publicly say they most definitely live up to their name. I can’t quite believe the speed with which they are dealing with the production of our titles, or the fantastic service they are providing.
The process of uploading files for print in this way is considerably more complex than that of ebooks however, and it’s possibly not for the faint hearted. The interior text has to be formatted accurately by the author/publisher, with the correct settings for page size, margins, gutter etc. It has to be uploaded as a PDF, so you need a PDF writer, and it’s fair to say I’ve learned a lot about embedding fonts recently ...
The requirements for the cover image file are more than I could have managed on my own, armed with just my laptop and Microsoft Office. More advanced software and someone who knows what they are doing are an absolute must.
You will also need to purchase your own ISBN numbers. We did this by registering Applecore with Neilsens. As far as I can ascertain, the minimum number that can be bought is a block of 10, and the prefix is specific to the publisher so they can’t be transferred. I’m still getting to grips with Neilsen’s services and Lightning Source’s distribution channels ... and several other things ... but my queries have always been answered quickly and in detail, and the staff there couldn’t have been more helpful.
So breaking through into the world of publishing has definitely entailed scaling a very steep learning curve, but as Applecore proves, it is certainly doable. Initially it takes some time, lots or research and some trial and error, but when my copies of Watermelon and Someone Different dropped through the letterbox, it was all most definitely worthwhile.
In my next post I would like to return to the subject of marketing: twitter, Facebook, offering freebies, blogs ... it’s an extensive list. So what, exactly, will work?