Which Button Do I Push?
Before you run off and upload your masterpiece to a distribution channel, you need to get an ISBN number and barcode for your print version. While ebooks don’t require ISBN numbers, I have always attached one to both the kIndle and other ebook versions. Some platforms allow you to purchase these through them. However, I found that going directly to Bowker ended up being cheaper as they have bulk sales. They don’t expire! So plan for the future and buy a bunch. Barcode placement is very specific so check those guidelines carefully.
Indie authors have a lot of choice when it comes to choosing a distribution platform. Lightning Source, Lulu, Bookbaby, iUniverse, Sparkpress, the list goes on. So how do you decide?
One of the first things I considered was whether a platform looked like a boutique publisher or a do-it-yourself platform.
Some companies allow authors to publish their books but charge them fees. These are boutique publishers. They do much of the work I have been writing about these last few weeks for you – editing, cover design, formatting. They claim you keep control of the project. Some even claim that they won’t publish just anything that crosses their oath, that they vet your manuscript to ensure it is sellable before taking it on. They charge money up front, and then also take 30-50% of any royalty, keeping in mind that all production and distribution costs come off the top.
Other options are true do-it-yourself platforms. You do all the work. They provide tools to help you. They keep a portion off the top of your sales for print and distribution costs and you keep the rest. This is the route I chose.
Amazon truly makes it easy for indie authors to get their work out there. Their Createspace platform for print and KDP for Kindle books are loaded with tools to assist us on the front end, and track our sales and royalties on the back end.
In Createspace, you set up your book by uploading your interior file and your cover. If you don’t have a cover, you can use their cover design tool. (I can’t attest to how that works as I had the wonderful covers by Evan to work with.) You can review the interior and adjust and reload your files as needed. Once you are happy and submit your book, it goes through their review process. This takes about 24 hours. They alert you to any major formatting issues with both the interior and the cover.
Once it passes, you can check the whole thing on their digital preview tool and also order an inexpensive proof copy. I highly recommend doing this as many times as you need to! I went through no less than four proof copies each time I published. Not only did I reread the book and check for any glaring editorial errors, but I checked formatting in each page and made many small adjustments.
You may be thinking that after the editing process there couldn’t be any more editorial errors. I am here to tell you that there will be. A misspelled word here, double spacing there. It happens. We are human after all.
You may find, as I did, that a change in interior formatting requires a change in cover formatting. (Poor Evan, resized the cover on this last book three or four times for me!) Changes in page count I really even page color (!) effect the size of the spine. Who knew?!
After the entire print upload process is complete, you can simply press a button to upload to Kindle, or you can go directly to KDP and upload your own formatted version for it. Kindle books require a different file format than print or other ebook types. KDP has many review tools as well.
Createspace then allows you to choose your distribution channels – Amazon US, Amazon international, other online retailers, and library distribution.
Once you are live on Amazon, you need to go to their Author Central and set up your author page. You can link it to your blog, upload a bio and photo, and it even allows people to follow you on Amazon. If you publish in both print and Kindle, you will also want to make sure that you have all your formats linked so a potential reader can access all of them through the same product page.
I also use Smashwords for all other ebook retailers, including Nook, Kobo, Sony, and iBooks. Their process is similar in set up, but they don’t have the many review tools for checking formatting prior to publishing.
Once you are live in Smashwords, it takes about a week to be reviewed for their premium catalog and to show up on all the other websites.
Regardless of the platforms you choose, be sure to read all the fine print. There are some pricing rules and formatting requirements that you will need to be aware of. You can also choose various promotional programs that come with their own sets of rules.
The entire ebook publishing process has become much simpler than it was a few years ago when I published my first book. Back then you had to use third party software to process your Kindle (mobi) format and ePub formats to upload to these same platforms. It is so much easier now that they will accept Word documents directly. Still, be careful. Some require the new .docx format, while others still want the old .doc format. Even though these are both Word document formats, they behave differently with some formatting tasks.
Don’t forget to file for copyright with the Library of Congress!