Firstly thank you so much for watching me speak this evening…hopefully you will find it useful.
Here are the common questions I intend to answer (if they haven’t already been answered by other panellists) and any relevant resource links/shows I’ve done on the podcast that are relevant. I got this list of questions for the hugely useful site, answerthepublic.com
How does self publishing work?
Either use an assisted self-publishing company like Matador or manage all of the work yourself. The best analogy is that you are hiring a project manager to build your book’s house as opposed to managing all the contractors yourself.
The pros of using a reputable assisted publishing company is that you need to do much less work in terms of finding editors, cover designers, formatters or formatting service. You are paying them to manage the project for you, and you don’t have to find all the contractors you use as well.
The cons are they are often more expensive than managing the project yourself and you often have less control and choice over the contractors used.
In terms of broadly the minimum of how to self-publish a book, there are the following stages:
- Write the first draft of the book – easiest using software like Scrivener
- Edit the book, first yourself, then using one or more editors. I’ve interviewed two editors on my podcast and you might find these interesting:Non-Fiction Editing with Denise Cowle and Fiction Editing with Louise Harnby. Note that you may well want to ensure you book an editor several months before you need them.
- Get a cover made. You can commission a designer to do this directly, or go through a service such as 99Designs.co.uk where several designers compete for your book design. Be careful to ensure the designers create images where you have the rights to use them. Some cheaper unscrupulous designers will steal images off the internet that you could get sued for.
- Get the book formatted for the stores you intend to be listed on. For eBooks this is in .mobi format (for Amazon KDP) and .epub format (for everywhere else – e.g iBooks, Kobo etc). For print this is a PDF format. Note there are several PDF formats available and the Word “Save as PDF” option isn’t appropriate for all of them. You can create most of these using software yourself (e.g Scrivener or Reedsy’s Book Editor) or you can hire someone to create these for you. I’ve done several shows on this, notably Creating a CreateSpace Paperback-Ready Word Document from Scrivener , Inside an ePub and First Impressions of the new Reedsy Book Editor
- Write Book Description and research keywords and categories. You may also want to purchase ISBNs at this point as well.
- Upload your book to the relevant stores. In all cases this is free – the companies take a cut from each sale you make. You can either do these via the stores portals directly or use an aggregator service. I’ve also done plenty of shows on this: How to Self-Publish an eBook , The World outside Amazon , How to Use Draft2Digital with Dan Wood , Smashwords with Mark Coker , Discovering Streetlib with Giacomo D’Angelo and PublishDrive with Kinga Jentetics
- Market your book….(though you might have wanted to start this six months before…)
I have a free e-mail series on this (after you which you are signed up to my fortnightly show e-mails) which you can sign up for here:
Can self publishing be profitable?
Well the answer of course is “it depends”. I’ve done a few shows on this both from how much “typical” costs are: How Much Does Self-Publishing Cost with Emmanuel Nataf and from how many books you need to sell using those figures: Author Income : How Many Books Do You Need to Sell to Make Money?.
Here is the brief version from Reedsy- for a self-published 60000 word book, editing typically costs $2500 (approx £1900) for editing and $450-$700 (approx £350-£530) for cover design. Now it’s important to release Reedsy are providing publisher quality services so their averages may be higher than what some people might tell you. But as a “ball park” figure they are reasonable.
I used these figures and worked out how many eBooks you need to sell for several price points and payment levels for the author.
For the US eBook market I get the following totals:
|eBook Cost ($)||$0.99||$2.99||$3.99||$4.99||$5.99||$9.99|
|US Delivery Cost||$0.30||$0.30||$0.30||$0.30||$0.30||$0.30|
|Sales to Breakeven (40k)||9726||1880||1352||1055||866||504|
|Sales to Breakeven (60k)||11977||2315||1665||1300||1066||620|
|Sales to Breakeven (80k)||14228||2750||1978||1544||1266||737|
|Sales to Minimum Wage Level (40k book length)||19063||6403||5551||5073||4767||4182|
|Sales to Minimum Wage Level (60k book length)||19843||7183||6331||5853||5547||4962|
|Sales to Minimum Wage Level (80k book length)||20623||7963||7111||6633||6327||5742|
|Sales to Average Wage Level (40k book length)||57483||13827||10891||9242||8186||6171|
|Sales to Average Wage Level (60k book length)||58263||14607||11671||10022||8966||6951|
|Sales to Average Wage Level (80k book length)||59043||15387||12451||10802||9746||7731|
Now this obviously doesn’t include any income from non-US or non-Amazon stores, nor any from Print or Audio books.
Can you self-publish print books and get them into book stores?
It’s fairly straightforward to create a print book and have it available for purchase on the Amazon stores, using Amazon’s Print-on-Demand services (CreateSpace, though gradually this is being merged into Amazon’s KDP eBook platform).
Print-On-Demand takes a PDF you upload and every time someone orders it online, that copy is printed and is sent out to the Customer. So no stock is ever held anywhere in the process. You get paid typically 40% of the price of the book minus the cost of printing the book (which depends on number of pages and whether it is colour or black and white).
This usually means you actually get considerably less than 40% of the book as revenue.
For book store distribution things become a lot harder. While it is possible to use CreateSpace for this, it isn’t recommended. You are much better to use a service such as Ingram Spark, which gives access to the greater discounts a book store expects. Ingram also makes the book available to be ordered by book stores.
Typically a book store is looking for between 50-55% of the price of the book for their cut. Out of the rest of the book you need to take the cost of printing the book, so the margins on books in book stores are considerably lower than on Amazon. You are also competing with book publishers who use cheaper print-runs rather than Print-On-Demand services.
Even if you have your book available for order, no book stores will stock it unless you make an effort to convince them to buy copies. This is again where the large book publishers have an advantage. It is possible for self-publishers to do this (in some places like Airport book stores you can pay to have books stocked) but it’s not at all easy.
I’ve done an interview on this topic here: How to Sell Your Books Through Bookshops with Debbie Young
How do you market books?
Authors, whether traditionally published, assisted self-published or self-published need to learn how to market their books. You can do this via hiring a Book Publicist (e.g Book Publicists with Ben Cameron), hiring a Social Media Agency ( Hiring a Social Media Marketing Agency with Tyler Anderson) or by doing all the work yourself. Some assisted publishing companies do provide marketing support as well.
Social Media Marketing can be a relatively cheap form of marketing to use, but requires much more time or money than many authors think it will require.
As books are relatively low value products, things like Facebook advertising directly to Amazon pages isn’t generally effective any more. What many authors do though is use it to tell books in a series – e.g promote book one in the series and make money from purchases on the later books in the series.
Many authors use e-mail services like BookBub to promote their books (EBook Discovery Services with John Doppler) – these can be effective in getting sales for your books. Similarly giveaway services for e-mail signups like Instafreebie are currently doing well
Personally I’ve had way more success in using Social Media Marketing in terms of making connections with people rather than as a selling platform in itself. But by raising your profile it will help with making it easier to sell books via other means.
I’ve done loads of shows on marketing, but here is a selection:
You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am on Twitter and Instagram at @stonehampress and @beginsppodcast.