Hey friends! So, as I work on getting my next book properly formatted and then uploaded so it can be, drum roll please, published (gasp!) I figured it was the perfect time to talk specifically about publishing. I get asked questions occasionally on what to do or what’s the difference between small press and self-publishing, but I realized I never did a basic post on the more… technical aspects of self-publishing, shall we say? There are so many people out there who say they have the perfect guide to publish your book, if you pay them. Seriously, even a quick search on Amazon for “how to publish” will get you thousands of results and that can be really overwhelming. Especially when you are sinking money into these resources. I am in no way the end-all-be-all expert when it comes to publishing, but I hope that by sharing what I’ve done and what worked for me, that at least gives people who are interested a starting point, or, if nothing else, gives all my favorite booknerds an inside look into what indie authors go through in order to get their books into your lovely, lovely hands.
So! You’ve written a book, gotten it edited, have a beautiful cover, and want to get it into the hands of readers. Firstly, congratulations! That’s an amazing accomplishment in and of itself. But where do you start in order to make that dream a reality? Well, first decide if you want to publish under your own publishing name, or if you are comfortable with being listed as a self-published book. Any option is fine, but personally, I like publishing under my own company name—StarfishInk. So, what I did, was I registered my publishing name as a Sole Proprietorship so that I own the name and company I'm publishing under, but it’s not an LLC so there weren’t extra legal hoops to jump through. This was the first step to making my books into a real business as I plan on releasing a lot of books in different series. But, if you only want to publish the one book, you may not want to do that, which is fine! This is not a requirement to publishing by any means, but just a layer you can add on depending on how you want your books data to be listed on places like Amazon.
That being said, there are two big places to turn to in terms of printers for indie authors: IngramSpark, and Amazon. These aren’t the only ones, but I have used both to format, print, and publish my books. You don’t have to use either Amazon or Ingram to create the interior of your books, though. If you are skilled, you can do that yourself as there are several formatting services that can help you take your word doc and turn it into something publishable. Indesign programs can do this, as can Vellum and several others. I, however, do not have that kind of skill and so I use the creation services that Amazon has and use my own images for the chapter headers or scene breaks. Both Ingram and Amazon have pretty intuitive systems, but I do like Amazon’s better, but you may want to do both if you are planning on having your ebooks and paperbacks distributed wide (which means you don’t use Kindle Unlimited). Amazon is one of the only ebook providers to use the mobi file formats, most other ebook readers use epub. Both services will create these file types for you though, so you don’t have to worry about that, but, in case you couldn’t tell by now, IngramSpark and Amazon do not play well together. They are competitors, after all. So, for example, I use Ingram for Resistor’s hardcover as Amazon doesn’t have that capability (yet), but Amazon doesn’t like losing that sale, so they claim my book is not in stock, or not available for pre-order when it absolutely is. It’s petty, and, unfortunately, there’s not much indies can do to fight that. So, it becomes a question on where you want your book listed, and what process you find easiest to use, and then going with that. But the good thing with both of these services is they are Print on Demand (POD) so you never have to worry about setting a number of books you want printed for sale. As people buy them, they are printed to fulfill that demand. Of course, that doesn’t limit you from ordering author copies for yourself, but you can do that at any time after your book is available, as many times as you want, so you don’t have to worry about ordering too few if you run out of signed copies to sell on your website, for instance.
But the one thing you absolutely need to have? An ISBN number. You can either buy these from Bowker, or places like Amazon and IngramSpark will offer you an ISBN when you are setting up your book’s data in their respective systems. Personally, I like buying the ISBNs from Bowker as then I can use those numbers no matter where I publish. If you use Amazon’s ISBN, and then went to IngramSpark to put your paperback there and take advantage of their distribution channels, there could be complications with using the ISBN Amazon gave you. I like buying a lot of ISBN numbers from Bowker all at once, as each format of your book will get its own number, even if it’s the same book. So, for example, “Resistor” has a different ISBN number for its paperback, its hardcover, and its ebook. Buying big bundles from Bowker made sense for my purposes, but that can be pricey, so do what makes you feel comfortable financially, and you can always buy more if you want to.
A word of caution about Bowker: once you begin assigning ISBNs to your books, Bowker will ask you to fill out your book’s information. Things like price and release date etc. Some of these things you have to fill out, others are optional, like uploading your book cover into Bowker. Do not upload your book cover until you have done a cover reveal. Here’s why: Bowker shares your book information with search engines like Google. Which can be great because it makes finding your book easier for readers, but if you haven’t done your title or cover reveal yet, Bowker may spoil that for you, and getting them to take your cover down afterwards is a real pain… My advice? Only put in the bare minimum of what is required. You can always go back in and modify some of the information later, or fill out that optional information after your book releases, but your cover reveal is a big deal and it’s no fun when it accidentally gets spoiled.
There’s a lot more that goes into publishing, obviously, but it can get pretty nuanced, and these were the questions I was asked specifically recently, so if you have other questions, please let me know! This won’t be the last of my blog posts about publishing and just how and where to start with that process. But I don’t know what you do or don’t know, so don’t hesitate to ask! I’m still learning new things about the best (and easiest) way to get my books out there as, fortunately or unfortunately, this is a business that changes frequently and you can only learn by doing sometimes. Which means, yes, you will make mistakes. I’ve made lots of them! But with each book you publish, the more you learn and the easier it gets, I promise. But I hope this was at least a little helpful, or interesting, or maybe even gave you a new appreciation for all the things you didn’t realize indie authors have to consider when bringing a book to life.