Traditional publishing has been inundated with submissions for years, and way back when, your only recourse was to make your manuscript stand out. You had to find that one idea, that one story that was different from anything else to get published.
Not to fear! Self-publishing has made it possible for authors who have a story to tell to get their work published. It’s not that self-published books are bad. Far from it! I’ve read many books that were self- published and have won awards.
How does one go about doing this self-publishing thing?
An author must wear many hats when they self-publish their book. First, make sure your manuscript is ready. Has it been critiqued? Given to a beta reader? Edited? All those things are a must before you even think about submitting it. If you want your work to stand out among the others, make it the best it can be. Sure, there are some who just want to put their book out there and say they’ve published a book. But if it’s riddled with errors, no one will buy it.
You’ll want to make sure that your manuscript is formatted correctly. If you have the budget, you can send your ms. to a formatter. They will take care of the following steps for you, or if you’re handy with the computer, you can do it yourself. If not, KDP and other self-publishing venues have templates for most trim sizes. Be aware that you’ll have to adjust them if you have more than ten chapters, but they have instructions for you to do that.
If your book will be a trim size of 6 x 9 (or whatever size you choose), you will need to format your ms. to that size. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to go through the ms. again, to make sure you don’t have any “widows or orphans” (single words or lines on a page by themselves, or at the beginning of a page or end of a paragraph).
Also, justify both right and left margins to get rid of the “ragged” look of the right edge, giving the page a cleaner look. That seems to be the industry standard.
Once all that is done, you’ll have a better idea of your page count for the next step. You have to have an allowance for the binding of the book. In your margin settings, set your inside margins to what is specified with the publisher (it’s a different setting with different page counts, so that is why you need a fairly exact number for that), then mirror the margins, so that the left and right pages will have the correct inside margins once the book is bound.
Do you have a cover for it? Most self-publishing sites have a cover generator that you can play with to make your cover for free. Templates can help to make your vision a reality. You can upload a photo you have (make sure it’s high quality) to their templates, pick your font, and then it will go through a cover review to make sure it follows their rules.
If you’ve got some kind of budget for your cover, hiring someone with Photoshop or computer skills can make your cover a one-of-a-kind creation that will stand out. There are several groups on Facebook that are dedicated just to covers, and you can also find some on Fiverr.
If you’re willing to learn, there are tutorials on YouTube that can show you how to create your own cover. You’ll save some money and you’ll have created something that you can be proud of.
At this point you’ll want to upload your manuscript to the publisher. There are quite a few out there to choose from, but make sure you are not sending your baby to a vanity press. What’s a vanity press? A vanity press is a self-publishing company that will publish your manuscript for a fee, usually into the thousands of dollars. What do you get for that money? Not much. They will design a cover for you that anyone could have put together. It’s usually three colors, and it probably won’t catch the essence of your work. Not to mention if you haven’t edited your work, they won’t, either.
Get It Out There
There are so many reputable ways to get your book out there now, but you’ll need to do your homework and check them all out. Create Space has merged with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which seems to be the more popular company. IngramSpark will do it for a set-up fee, and they have a wider distribution that just Amazon, including bookstores.
Once you have uploaded your ms. to the publisher, they will have to review it for errors. That usually takes about 24 hours for the review. If you haven’t done your cover, now is a good time to work on it.
You’ll be notified by email when your ms. has finished the review process. If you don’t have any errors, hurray! You did everything right! If you have errors, look at the notes and go through the online reviewer to fix them. Once that’s done, off to the reviewer again. This is the time consuming process.
While it’s being reviewed, you can pick which markets you want your book distributed in. U.S.? Absolutely. UK? Why not? After you pick where it’s distributed, you can set your price. KDP will give you a minimum price you must be at or above to sell your book for, and you can pick which royalties you prefer. You can always go back and change your price and royalties later if you wish.
You get the email and you’ve finally passed the review stage. Now what? Is it ready to go? Maybe not quite. I would recommend ordering a proof copy if your book will be in print. That way you can make sure the cover colors are how they should be (I had a book that printed darker than what the computer was showing me, and had to have the cover re-done—thanks, KL Cooper!). Reviewing a physical copy is also a good way to spot any other errors that may have been skimmed over on the online reviewer.
You get your actual print copy of your book and things look good. You can now start to hyperventilate as you hit “Publish.” It will feel good and stress you out at the same time. In roughly 3-5 days, your book will be listed on Amazon. Order your author copies to sell or give away, and crack open the champagne. You’re a published author now!
Margena Adams Holmes was born in Bellflower, CA sometime in the 1960s. She has always had a love for both reading and writing, writing her first song/poem in 1st grade. Margena is a big supporter of indie authors and will read anything that draws her into the story. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.