Over the last three years, I’ve been deeply involved with the Tasmanian Indie Author Group. It’s a diverse group of talented writers with a wide range of skills and experience as independent authors. I can say this: We love what we do, and we do it with passion.
As self-published authors, we receive a lot of questions from writers either new to self-publishing, or undecided which publishing path to take. The questions we receive tend to be consistent. So, with the assistance of the Tasmanian Indie Author group, the Self-Publishing FAQ was created. This blog post covers all aspects of self-publishing.
I’ve finished drafting my novel. Now what?
Do I need an editor?
Yes. Yes. And… yes.
Every author, no matter how good they think they are with spelling and grammar needs an editor. You overlook a lot.
Before you send any draft to an editor, listen to your book (MS Word even gives you the option to do this). You’ll catch a lot by doing this.
Only once you are proud of what you have put into words, when you think it’s the best it can be, should you then send to an editor.
Where can I find an editor?
Check out the Acknowledgments section of books in your genre. Most authors will thank their editors. Google them. See if they are taking new clients.
Facebook groups are also a great source. Find one you are comfortable in and ask the authors within those groups who they recommend.
What type of editor do I need?
There are four main types of editors. Some editors encompass all of the roles, although most don’t.
Jane Friedman has a great blog post that explains the difference:
Developmental Editor “Just get it down on paper, and then we’ll see what to do with it.” —Max Perkins A developmental editor will help you answer the big questions: What is this book about? Who is it for? Why am I the right person to write it? What’s the best way to structure my argument? What do I need to make sure is included? What needs to be left out? If you don’t know the answers to those questions, or think you don’t need to, you need a developmental editor.
Substantive Editor A substantive editor will be editing your complete draft from a 30,000-foot, global perspective. Like a developmental editor, they’re going to be focused on the big-picture stuff like genre, theme, character/point of view, structure, pacing, and depth of research. If you want feedback, course correction, and encouragement as you write, you want a developmental editor; if you want to chart your own course and then be shown where and how to improve later, you want a substantive editor.
Copy editors are laser-focused on the finer points of your manuscript, such as word choice, syntax, factual accuracy, repetition, inconsistencies, grammar, style, spelling, and repetition. (You’re welcome.)
Proofreaders are the final gatekeepers between your book and the rest of the world. They’re the fresh pair of eyes you need when neither you nor your other editors can see the typos anymore
For self-publishing on a budget, you are best to have one editor perform the developmental/substantive work, and a second do the copy editing/proofreading.
Should I hire a cover designer?
What you want to accomplish is a professionally published book. Can you create a cover yourself to look as polished as a traditionally published one? If the answer is no, then hire a cover designer. This is recommended for 99% of self-published authors, unless you have graphic design experience.
To find a good cover designer, look at books in your genre. The author will usually list the cover designer on their copyright page or in their acknowledgements.
What is the difference between self-publishing, small press, hybrid, and traditionally publishing?
Self-publishing – publishing the book yourself, from start to finish (including formatting and uploading the book).
Small press/hybrid publishing – paying someone to publish your book for you.
Traditional publishing – working under a contract, where they handle most of the publishing role.
What are the benefits to self-publishing over publishing through a small press or traditional publisher?
Writers must consider the timeline when publishing, and how comfortable they are to release control of their draft (aka their baby) to someone else.
We’ve heard all kinds of stories from authors who have gone the traditional or small press/hybrid route:
– submitting their book to a traditional publisher and never hearing back. – submitting to a traditional publisher and being told they need to change major elements of their storyline for the publisher to even consider publishing the book. – taking years to publish the book after submitting it to a traditional publisher. – paying thousands – yes, thousands – of dollars for a small press to publish their book and then being ghosted. – being locked into a contract for three to five years, with no rights to the book for that duration (small press and traditional). – taking a year (or more) to get their first royalty check after publication. – not hearing much from the publisher once the book is published.
Benefits to self-publishing include:
- There are no gate keepers, such as literary agents or publishers. You are in complete control of every step of the publishing journey with self-publishing.
- Complete control of the publishing process. Authors can choose to work with cover designers, copywriters etc… to bring their vision to ‘print’. Or they can do these tasks themselves (although an editor is still recommended).
- Higher returns. When a book is traditionally published, authors need to sell enough books to ‘pay off’ the advance the publisher has provided. When a book is published through a small publisher, the author may not see the royalties for a year.Add in, literary Agents take a commission from traditionally published author’s royalties, in addition to the traditional publishers’ and small publishers’ commissions. eBooks are more profitable than paperbacks, which are more profitable than hardbacks. With self-publishing, an eBook delivers about 70% in royalties. With a paperback, it’s anywhere from 40-60%. In traditional and small press publishing, royalties can be as low as 5% on paperback and 20% on eBooks sales. Unfortunately, printing costs in Australia are outrageous compared to the rest of the world. (A paperback will cost anywhere from $4- $7 in the US to print a trade paperback, whereas it’s closer to $8-$13 in Australia). Example: An Australian author will receive a $2.50 royalty on a $3.99 eBook, and approx. $7 on a $24.99 paperback – if they do Print-on-Demand through a printer and distributor such as IngramSpark. If an author sells to a bookshop, providing books directly to the bookshop, they must also factor in shipping. Example: Take that $24.99 paperback. With direct distribution to a bookshop, that royalty goes down to $1-$2. That’s where the Tasmanian Indie Author group comes in. We work with Fullers in Hobart, by providing a list of new releases from our self-published community. If the book is something Fullers are interested in, they will order directly through IngramSpark. It’s a win-win for all concerned.
- Readers. With a professional-looking book, including a professionally designed cover and well-written blurb on the back cover, readers cannot tell the difference between self-published and traditionally published books. The quality of printing available to self-published authors is now equal to the traditionally published books.
Am I better off paying someone else to do the design, formatting and uploading to the different online platforms? (aka using a small press hybrid publisher.)
This can be answered by asking yourself the following questions:
> Is this a hobby for you?
> Are you publishing this book for your friends and family?
> How many books are you planning to publish?
> How comfortable are you with technology?
If you only plan on publishing one book for your friends and family, self-publishing can be done inexpensively for your needs. However, if you don’t wish to invest too much time or money, you could find a reputable hybrid publisher to assist.*
If you are wanting to publish multiple books, investing the time to learn about self-publishing, as well as the right tools and resources, is worth your time.
If you aren’t afraid to learn new things, there is a plethora of information out there that can help you on your self-publishing journey, as can the Tasmanian Indie Author Group.
*We encourage you NOT to publish through a small press, as we hear more horror stories than success stories. But, like everything, there are gems out there. If you ask the Tasmanian Indie Author group on Facebook, you should be to find a reputable company, as well as advice of which small press publishers to stay clear of. But this post is not about small press publishers. 😉
What is IngramSpark? Should I publish there? Should I publish my eBook through Ingram/Lightning Source?
IngramSpark is a print-on-demand (POD) distribution service. Books (paperback and hardback) are only printed as they are ordered by a customer. Which means the author does not need to stock a large number of books themselves. IngramSpark also handle eBooks, but we recommend that you go directly to the seller platforms (Amazon, Kobo, Apple etc) to upload your eBook files, rather than using IngramSpark. Going direct to these platforms means you have access to all of their promotional opportunities, which you will not do if going through an aggregate.
IngramSpark handle the distribution of your paperbacks and hardbacks, making them available worldwide to book buyers. Amazon does offer its own paperback POD service, but those books will only be available to Amazon’s customers. If you use IngramSpark to distribute your paperbacks they will still appear for sale on Amazon, but they will also be accessible to bookshops and libraries for ordering. With your own ISBN, any book shop or library can find your book on IngramSpark and buy copies.
Is it better to self-publish paperbacks or just eBooks?
With the arrival of eBooks talk of the demise of paperbacks began. But although there is much debate over the sales figures (traditional publishers are often not forthcoming with accurate figures) there is really nothing to suggest a decline in reader appetite for paperbacks. They are still in high demand and show no sign of not continuing to be so. EBooks are an easy way to get your book out there, and a good way to dip your toes into the self-publishing world, but it is highly recommended to offer paperback versions of all your books. Each purchase option for a reader is another stream of income for the author.
Should I publish my paperback through Amazon?
Yes. Paperbacks sell well on Amazon. As mentioned in the information on IngramSpark, you can either go through Amazon directly for your paperbacks or use a printer/distributor such as IngramSpark. At the time of writing this, there seem to be no differences in print quality between the two.
Should I accept Amazon exclusivity? (Publishing via Kindle Unlimited)?
This is a question that will become easier to answer once you understand your genre. Some genres are far more successful in Kindle Unlimited than others.
Kindle Unlimited (KU) is an eBook subscription service for readers, which pays authors by the page-read. But Amazon have strict rules about exclusivity.
Kindle Unlimited means you cannot offer your book elsewhere but Amazon, which may cut off a large portion of your readership. It also means you are relying on a sole marketplace for your author income. Keeping all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. This is a strategy that comes with its own risks.
You commit to a 90-day period of exclusivity when you put your book in Kindle Unlimited, which means your eBook cannot be sold anywhere else, which includes your own website. The book can be removed after 90 days or you can continue on in Kindle Unlimited.
Should I publish my eBook direct through the digital platforms or should I use an aggregate, like Draft2Digital?
Using an aggregate can make the whole self-publishing process for eBooks simpler at the outset. It means you only have to upload your eBooks to one site.
Draft2Digital is a recognised and respected aggregate who can distribute your books to all major retailers, Amazon included. But as mentioned in the section for IngramSpark (who offer similar services to D2D) using an aggregate will hinder your promotional opportunities. All the major retailers such as Kobo, Google, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon want authors to use them directly. So, many of their marketing/promotion opportunities are only offered to those authors who hold direct accounts.
You may wish to start out by using a service such as D2D to distribute to all retailers, but it is recommended that you eventually go direct to platforms such as Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Google, and Amazon.
However, please note that does not mean abandoning D2D altogether! Apple has a strong eBook market, but their author dashboard is difficult to navigate. Many authors use D2D to manage their Apple sales.
Also, D2D offer access to a huge range of other retailers that are not accessible directly for most authors, such as large European retailers such as Tolino and Vivlio. D2D also offer access to the worldwide library platform, Overdrive, and Draft2Digital has recently merged with Smashwords.
How much does it cost to self-publish a book (not including advertising)?
|Editing||Anywhere from $500 – $5000, depending on type of editing and experience of the editor. The average is around 2 cents (AUD) per word.|
|Copy Writing – Back cover and blurbs||You can hire someone to write the copy for you or do it yourself. Bryan Cohen (U.S.) at Best Page Forward, or Jessie Cunniffe (Australian) at Book Blurb Magic are great places to start.|
|Professional photographs, BISAC codes, keywords. If the resulting photograph is of high quality and looks professional, a friend can take it with their phone. Otherwise, spend the money to have a professional photograph done for marketing purposes. BISAC codes are what retailers and booksellers use to determine in which category to place your book on their website, or where to shelve it in their bookstore. This takes time to research and determine, but you need this for when submitting to IngramSparks. Keywords are used to find your book. They’re used when uploading to the distribution outlets as well as marketing.||$0 – $200|
|Interior formatting||$0 – $400 for professional help or software (Vellum is $AUD 380, Atticus is $AUD 220)|
|ISBNs and barcodes. ISBNs and barcodes can be purchased through Thorpe-Bowker at https://www.myidentifiers.com.au. ISBN: ISBNs are the global standard for identifying books. They simplify book distribution, inventory tracking, and purchase, and improve the chances that a book will be found and sold. An ISBN identifies one specific version of a book; each version of a book, print or digital, requires its own ISBN. Each edition also requires it’s own ISBN. Barcode: Barcodes are used on physical books, allowing them to be machine read, and facilitating automated sales and inventory tracking – a requirement for most large retailers. When you get your barcodes from Thorpe-Bowker, the only official Australian ISBN Agency, you can be sure they meet the latest book publishing industry requirements.||It costs $AUD88 for 10 ISBNs and $45 per barcode. You can buy ISBNs individually.|
|Cover art||$0-$500 per cover.|
How do I get a retail bookstore to buy my indie published book? Do they have any in-house criteria?
The criteria is dependent on the book shop. We recommend creating a media kit showcasing you (author) and your new release. Examples for media kits can be found with a quick Google search or on a platform like CANVA. Once you have a media kit, approach the book shop directly.
The only exception to this is with Fullers Bookshop in Hobart, Tasmania. The Tasmanian Indie Author group have a direct relationship with Fullers Bookshop. If you’d like to know more, please join the TIA mailing list. We send an email once a month to the mailing list, asking for information on new releases. This goes directly to the book buyer at Fullers, who then reviews and orders directly, either through IngramSpark or through the author.
How do I get my book into libraries?
All Tasmanian publishers are required to give a copy of each of their publications to Libraries Tasmania, and to the National Library of Australia. This is under legal deposit provisions of the Copyright Act (1968) and the Libraries Act 1984 (Tas).
In order to see your book appear on library shelves, you can approach your local library directly and ask them to stock your paperback, where they may provide you with the applicable department to contact. You may need to order copies of your books through your preferred POD service (such as IngramSpark) and provide the books directly to the library. Alternatively, the library may wish to order copies through a local bookshop.
For eBooks, Draft2Digital offers access to Overdrive which is a worldwide database for libraries. Your eBook can be available to libraries through this service, although the libraries still have to request the addition of your title. It will not automatically appear on their list.
Please note, in Australia, at time of writing, there are no royalties offered on library eBooks. For print copies, there is a one-time payment, with the price decided by the author and accepted by the library. However the Australian government has set up the ‘Australian Lending Rights Scheme’ which enables authors/artists to seek compensation on works held by public and educational lending libraries. As a self-published author, you can seek compensation as both an author and a publisher, as long as you have a registered business (ABN).
Traditional publishers will offer publicity assistance to their authors at launch. But once the book is launched, traditionally published authors manage their own marketing. These include writing newsletters and blog posts, managing their social media platforms etc… everything indie authors do.
There is a saying that indie authors spend 20% of the time writing, and 80% of the time marketing. While true, it can be made easier once you are established. But this post isn’t about marketing books. 😉
How do I overcome my aversion to self-promotion to be able to handle marketing and distribution?
Selling your book comes down to a couple of important things:
> For your Book: a good cover, a solid back cover/blurb and a solid number of reviews
> For you: Thinking of it as sharing your story rather than promoting your book.
Most authors tend to be introverts. Fortunately, there are good resources that can help with this.
For example: – Marketing can be done without showing your face. – The Tasmanian Indie Author group helps with the distribution by working with Fullers, providing them with a list of Tasmanian Indie Authors new releases each month. – You can advertise through Facebook and Amazon. There are plenty of online resources to help you learn how to do this – And for those willing to try their hand at meeting their readers face to face, the Tassie Indie Authors Book Fair is the perfect opportunity.
What is the most effective marketing strategies for self-published books?
> Know your ideal reader and where they hang out.
> Be engaged with your community.
> Be Consistent. Form a marketing strategy and stick to it. Give it time to be successful.
Just to note, marketing is a WHOLE other blog post, so we decided to keep the answer short and sweet.
Resources and Support
- Tasmanian Indie Author Group – a diverse group of talented writers with a wide range of skills and experience as independent authors.
- Mark Dawson – Everything self-publishing
- David Gaughran – Focuses on marketing advice for self-publishers, filled with valuable free resources for authors.
- Bryan Cohen – Amazon Ads and copywriting.
- Mixtus Media – Book Marketing Simplified. Podcast, YouTube, Website, Author Circle membership.
- ALLi – The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) is the premier membership association for self–publishing authors.
- Reedsy – Crafting beautiful books is at the heart of everything that Reedsy does. We’re changing the way books are published by giving authors and publishers access to talented professionals, powerful tools, and free educational content.
- Alessandra Torres & Inkers Con. All things publishing and marketing.
- Wide for the Win Facebook group. A very interactive group for authors NOT in KU.
- Nicholas Erik -Amazon ads and marketing strategies.
- Nicholas Erik -Amazon ads and marketing strategies.
If you have more resource and support suggestions, leave a comment below.