The Blogger’s Guide to Self-Publishing Basics

book lying on grass surrounded by leaves

I did quite a bit of research on this topic for my book that came out last week, and I’ve seen several bloggers mention that they’re also contemplating doing books at some point, so I thought I would share some of the self-publishing basics that I’ve learned.  I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve managed to get past the initial deer in the headlights phase.

Where to publish

There are multiple ways to publish a book, and you can stick to one or do a mix of several.  Amazon is the biggest fish in the sea with their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program.  They allow you to publish an ebook and/or paperback with no upfront costs to you.  I’ll come back to them soon.

You can also publish directly through other book publishing platforms.  Apple’s iBooks is one option, and they have an iBook Author app that can help.  If you use Apple’s Pages word processing software, in your file menu there’s a “publish to Apple Books” option built right in  Apple’s market share is fairly small, so you probably won’t want that to be your only option.  Rakuten’s Kobo has a larger share of the ebook market than Apple, and their Writing Life platform can be used to prepare a manuscript to publish with Kobo.  Kobo ebooks can be read on Kobo ereaders or using the Kobo app.  You can set your ebook price, and it looks like typically royalties would be 70%

You can also publish through a distributor like Smashwords.  They will help you put together your book, and then distribute it to various booksellers including iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and a few other platforms like OverDrive that sells to public libraries.  You don’t pay an upfront fee to publish your book, but they will take a cut of sales.  Your royalty on sales would depend on where the sale was made.  Your royalties are going to end up being lower than if you dealt with each of the different selling platforms directly, but that’s the price you pay for the convenience of having Smashwords do all the work.  There are a variety of similar distributors out there, but Smashwords is the only one I’ve looked into.

Ebooks on Amazon

While you have the option of publishing your book through several platforms, simplicity can be nice, especially when you’re starting out.  Amazon has a program called KDP Select, in which you agree to publish your ebook exclusively through Amazon.  They obviously would prefer if you did this, and there are two key draws.  You have to be enrolled in KDP Select for your book to be available through Kindle Unlimited, where people pay a monthly fee and can read as many books as they want.  The royalties you would get from Kindle Unlimited would depend on how much your book was read.  The other drawing point for KDP Select is that you get higher royalties on book sales (typically 70%).

There is a Kindle Create app that will help you format your book from a Word document.  You can design your book cover using Amazon’s online Cover Creator tool, or you can make your own using a site like Canva (which is what I did).  There’s also the option of paying a designer to come up with something fancier.  KDP ebooks are formatted to be read by either Kindle ereaders or the Kindle Reader app, which can be downloaded onto your desktop/laptop or mobile device.

Paperbacks on Amazon

Amazon gives you guidance on how to format your manuscript for a paperback, and they have Microsoft Word templates that you can use.  I decided to do it without using a template, and it wasn’t particularly difficult, although I use Apple Pages rather than Microsoft Word, so it took a bit of extra time to figure out how to do some of the steps.

Amazon will print paperbacks of your book on demand, i.e. when someone orders one.  They let you know how much it will cost to print the book so your book can be priced accordingly.  Because the books are printed on-demand, you don’t have to pay money upfront for them to have a supply available.  You can choose the extended distribution option to make your paperback available through retailers other than Amazon, but you get a much lower royalty for books sold that way.

Paperbacks need to have an ISBN (international standard book number); this is optional for ebooks.  KDP will give you a free ISBN, and the publisher associated with that ISBN will be listed as “independently published”.  You can also purchase your own ISBN, and this allows you to designate your own publisher name.  I haven’t been able to figure out why this would be worth paying for, but in Canada we can get free ISBNs through the government, so I was officially published by Mental Health @ Home Books.  It’s kind of fun, but not so fun that I’d be willing to cough up money for it.

The actual volume of information that KDP makes available can be a bit daunting at first.  A good place to start is their KDP Jumpstart learning series to help you get familiar with all the different aspects of self-publishing.  It takes you through everything step by step, and I found it quite helpful.

Promotion

Publishing a book also means promoting your book.  Obviously your blog is a good place to do this, as well as social media.  There are a number of bloggers out there publishing books, so watch what they’re doing and get ideas from them.  Marketing is definitely not my forte, so it’s something I’m fumbling along with and trying to figure out as best I can.

To help potential readers get to know a bit more about you, you can create an author page on Amazon or whatever platform you publish on.  Goodreads is another good place to create an author page.  There are a variety of other book sites like AUTHORSdb and iAuthor that you can sign up with to help put your book out there to the world.  Booklife from Publisher’s Weekly has some good resources.

You can also check out Writers With Mental Illness (also on Twitter), which aims to support writers with mental illness and neurodiversity.

 

For my book I decided to go with Amazon and with KDP Select, in large part for the sake of simplicity.  My paperback will be available through extended distribution as well, only because I’m hoping my local library will pick it up as part of their local indie author program.  So far I’ve been happy with the Amazon experience, although the Kindle Create app didn’t do everything that I wanted it to do.

I hope these self-publishing basics have been helpful.  Are you thinking of publishing a book at some point?  Have you started researching options yet?

 

Mental Health @ Home Store: A Beginner's Guide to Self-Publishing

 

The Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing mini e-book contains all the knowledge and tricks that I’ve picked up from self-publishing two books.  It’s available on the Mental Health @ Home Store.

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40 thoughts on “The Blogger’s Guide to Self-Publishing Basics

  1. Meg says:

    Thanks for the great primer! A lot of this stuff has confused me over the years, even though you’d think I’d be good at it by now. (I’ve been self-publishing since 2013.) Before you published, there was CreateSpace, which Amazon simply streamlined by getting rid of. But they had cover templates you could choose from that were far superior to the Amazon Kindle cover creator, which I think is terrible by comparison.

    Book promotion is very, very difficult if not impossible, which is why I try to find an agent for each new novel before I self-publish it instead. (But looking at your sales, you must be a natural at it! Woo hoo!) One site I like for book promos is bargain booksy.

    • ashleyleia says:

      Promo is definitely made easier given that the people I’m already connected with on my blog and on Twitter are the target audience for my book.

      Cover Creator annoyed me. Even though I’d designed the front cover myself I had to use Cover Creator to add on the back cover, and it was so clunky to use.

      Thanks for the tip on bargain booksy!

  2. marandarussell says:

    One thing on Amazon I’ve found that really helps my sales is using Pay Per Click ads. You can set whatever budget you want (as low as $1 a day) and most of the time your whole budget won’t be reached anyhow, but I’ve been trying it two months now and have made more in sales than I spent on the ads by a wide margin.

    • marandarussell says:

      If you use Amazon ads to promote your book though, make sure you are realistic about how much you are willing to pay per click. For instance, on my $.99 ebooks I only am willing to pay $.5 or less per click because the royalty is pretty low. For my books that are 2.99 or paperback, I can spend a little more, but keep it low. My experience is that probably about half of the people who actually click end up buying the book. You get lots of free impressions too since you don’t have to pay for impressions, just customer clicks.

      • marandarussell says:

        Also be aware that you will probably have to pay for the first round of ads before you get the royalties flowing in lol. That is kind of why I’m broke right now. Since you only have one book though, I’m sure it wouldn’t have to be a big investment right away. Even my more expensive books which I set for up to $.15 per ad click, usually are $.10 or less per click on average. I’ve got ads running full time on 8 books and it cost about $20 altogether for ads for the month of January. If I actually win my disability hearing next week and start getting actual income, I will probably invest a little more, but not much. The results are pretty good so far for what I’ve been doing.

      • marandarussell says:

        If you do get into Amazon ads and have any questions, feel free to ask, I’ll help you if I can. One thing I have found is that it is much better to choose your own keywords than to go only with the ones Amazon comes up with. I think you can set up to 1,000 keywords per book, or something ridiculous like that lol, but I try to set 100-200, I just couldn’t think up 1,000 keywords that really fit for any single book.

  3. Alexis Rose says:

    I missed your book release day. So sorry! And Congratulations! 🎉
    I have used create space and KDP for all my books and have been pleased. Marketing gets tiring, but dont give up, it takes a while for books to get their legs. (Unless you have the money to promote) Remember every book sold is a celebration of your work. Im proud of you. I’ll be one of your readers for sure.

  4. Dee Kelly says:

    Great research! I’m now looking into how to create videos to promote my books. It was pretty intimidating at first but then suddenly it started feeling more doable. 😁

  5. DV says:

    Thanks for this info, very helpful. I am thinking of writing books in the future (in a totally different subject area from my current blog) and intend to start off with the Amazon self-publishing tutorials, but books will just part of larger plan that includes instructional material in lots of other formats eg blog posts, written tutorials, videos, and CD-ROM’s and I think it will be a while before I’ve got enough material on any given topic to generate a book so it’s low down on the list currently.

  6. NeverSilenceTheMadness says:

    Thank you for all that information. I have thought about publishing off and on throughout my life, but definitely felt a bit overwhelmed with the idea. Hopefully one day I will take the leap as you did.

    Sincerely,
    An introverted dreamer that doesn’t want her madness to be silenced 💋

  7. Beth says:

    Thank so much, this is really helpful. I’m writing a book at the moment so this is so great to know! Thank you and the best of luck with it! 🙂

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