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The ShortbreadStories Self-Publishing Checklist

/by Rachel Marsh/

You may have noticed that ShortbreadStories is running a self-publishing competition, in which you could win a bespoke self-publishing package worth over £3000. Many of you will be entering this competition, but only one of you can win; which leads to the question, ‘If you don’t win the Self-Publish or Perish competition, will you still self-publish your novel?’

Over the next couple of months, ShortbreadStories will run a series of posts about self-publishing your manuscript. Clare Skelton of BirdwingWords has already given us a piece on the importance of hiring an editor when self-publishing, and we’ve still got several more posts to come. RedLava Designs will walk us through book design and layout; Digital My Way will talk about creating an informative and eye-catching website; Kirby Ink will discuss creating the perfect book cover, and August Pictures will dive into the world of book trailers.

While each of these companies has their own focus and specialty, one thing they all agree upon is the importance of hiring a professional when necessary. While you may have talents that extend beyond writing your manuscript, no one person can do all the jobs needed to create a stylish and professional book. It would take an exceptional individual, someone who is not only a talented writer, but a person skilled in editing, P.R, web-design, layout, illustration and video.

Unfortunately, it is this need for (and cost of) professional input, which keeps many people from self-publishing. However, there are some things you can do yourself when self-publishing, and so, here is our vital ShortbreadStories Guide To Self Publishing Checklist:

ISBN:

An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is the unique identifier that is used to register your book. The ISBN is the number listed on the back of the book (13 digits long if assigned after January 1, 2007, and 10 digits long if assigned before 2007) and is often found under the barcode. In the UK and Ireland, you must purchase the ISBN from Nielsen BookData in lots of ten for £118.68, with the price decreasing the more numbers purchased. In the United States, ISBNs are acquired from R. R. Bowker.

Even if you plan on selling your book through your own website (in order to avoid paying Amazon their 30% fee), or maybe not even selling it at all, it is still best to acquire an ISBN for several reasons.

  • In order to list your book with Amazon, or any other distributor, you will need an ISBN. 
     
  • With an ISBN, booksellers and libraries will know your book exists through the Nielson database; therefore these entities may request copies of your manuscript without you having to market to each one of them. 
     
  • You may initially decide that you’re self-publishing a book in order to give it away as presents to friends and family, but if you change your mind and wish to later upload it to Amazon or another distributor, you will need to have an ISBN. Therefore you may as well acquire one from the start. 
     
  • Some distribution outlets, like local bookstores, will sell your book without an ISBN, but many prefer for all their books to have this number as it is through the ISBN that they track their stock. 

Note: Additionally, you do not need to have a barcode on your book, especially if you only plan on epublishing; however, if you decide to sell any printed copies, a barcode is helpful. There are several sites online that will turn your ISBN (or any set of numbers) into a barcode. Have a look at this particular Barcode Generator.

Domain Name and Website Hosting:

In today’s publishing world you need a website, and there several elements of that website you’ll need to think about: domain name, web design and web hosting.

The first place to start is to purchase a domain name. The domain name is the address of your website. For example the ShortbreadStories domain name is www.shortbreadstories.com. If you’re looking to acquire a domain name, the Net Mechanic has an excellent post on purchasing one.

 The next questions to arise are:

  • Where are you going to host your site? 
  • Do you want to build the site yourself, or hire a professional? 
  • Would you prefer to use one of the many free services that exist for hosting or web design? 
  •  Is your preferred domain name available? Do you have a second choice? 
  • Do you want to pay to host the site on an external server (Heart Internet is an excellent company for purchasing domain names and space on servers), or do you want to pay for a bundle in which you buy the domain name, server space and website template all in one? 

One way many authors start their online profile is through blogging, and they use online sites such as WordPress.com, Blogger.com or Tumblr.com. These services provide a free malleable website template and domain name. They make it very easy to set up a site and start blogging, plus they host your website for free.

However, if you use one of these sites to create your blog, you will have their name attached to your domain name (example: shortbreadstories.wordpress.com). Additionally, the free design templates they offer are limited when it comes to plug-ins and other additions; therefore if you want something more bespoke, you should look into paying for server space to host your site, and possibly building your site from scratch – or even hiring a professional.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of ‘hosting’, all websites are ‘hosted’ on servers. You have to rent server space for your website to sit on. If you’re building your site yourself, you’ll need to find server space to rent. (Unless you plan on going hard core and buying your own server. But if you were going to do that, you wouldn’t be reading this post.) Alternatively, some organisaitons such as WordPress.org will sell you a domain name, website template and server space for a single price. (Note that WordPress.com is different to WordPress.org.)

In a few weeks, Martin Young from Digital My Way will be providing ShortbreadStories with a post on the importance of a professional website when self-publishing, so he’ll be able to give us more information on web design for the author.

Distribution:

Amazon has become the preferred method of distribution, but there are other ways to get both your ebook and paper book out to the public, including iBooks, Kobo and your own website. Due to the ease of putting your book on Amazon, it has become the self-published author’s distributor of choice; however, it’s important to note that more people are now reading ebooks on tablets and smart phones than they are on Kindle. Yet, Apple does not make it easy to place your work on their platforms.

Gizmodo has an excellent article on choosing a platform for your ebook, and for more information on publishing with Apple check out Apple’s website.

As noted, Amazon makes it very easy to upload ebooks on to Kindle. They have an online tutorial, a help section, and a guide that will walk you through the process step-by-step. However, do remember that Amazon will take a commission of your sales — 30% of your sales if you are in the US or the UK.

While this may seem quite large to the new author, this percentage is no different than the commission some traditional bookstores will request. However, if you are selling in several other countries, they will take 70% of your sales.  Because of this 70% commission (which they cheekily market as a 30% ‘royalty’), many self-publishers outside the US and the UK, opt to distribute with an agency other than Amazon. For more information on selling with Kindle click here, or click here for information on self-publishing with Amazon.

One option is to sell through your own website. While you may not reach as large of an audience as with Amazon, you will keep all your profits. If you do chose to sell through your own website, it is suggested that you link through a PayPal account as most people feel more comfortable giving their details to PayPal than to a ‘random’ website. However, be warned, selling through your own website requires a more sophisticated site, and may cost you more in design costs.

Pricing:

Of course before you can distribute your book in any way, you will need to decide on a price. This is a bit of a tricky question. Prior to the current proliferation of self-published books, most books were sold at a standard price based on paperback or hardback. But now, you can get an ebook for as little as 99p or for the same price as a hardback. So, how do you decide on the price of your book?

You may want to figure out your pricing based on this equation:

How much have you spent in total on the manuscript? = x
What percentage will you need to take out for taxes? = t
What percentage will your distributor take? = d
How many will you realistically sell?* = s
What is a realistic price in comparison with other books on the market? = p

(x-d)-t/s = price per book to break even
OR
[(x-d)-t]*p = number you have to sell to break even

To determine how many books you will realistically sell, consider the following questions:

  • Are you trying to break even, or reach a mass audience?  
  • Do you already have a core readership (from blogging or local evens), who will buy your book anyway?  
  • What about future books? If you set a price for the first book, will your audience be willing to pay more for your future publications? 

For a further debate on pricing for self-published books check out The Bliss Quest.

Traditional Printing:

So you’re ready to publish in ebook form, yet you might want to consider printing a small amount as a traditional book. This will be beneficial if you decide to promote yourself through local readings, as it’s difficult to sign copies on a Kindle or an iPad. There are several companies which will print books on demand, keeping your cost low. This way you can print a few at a time to give to friends and family, or keep on hand to give away for marketing, but you don’t have to worry about storage. However, do not go over board and buy 200 books, because you are unlikely to sell them. However, traditional printing is not straight forward, and you’ll have to consider such aspects as weight of paper, colour on the cover, and an increase in cost.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our ShortbreadStories Guide to Self-publishing, however if it still seems a bit too much like hard work, then don’t forget there’s still our ShortbreadStories Self Publish Or Perish competition!

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6 thoughts on “The ShortbreadStories Self-Publishing Checklist

  1. What a very useful and interesting guide, there is much there to ponder about and I’ll certainly keep this on hand to refer to. I have made some tiny little baby steps into the world of self publishing but one day I may feel that I want to go further and this will be of great help – thanks – Diane

    • Hi Diane. This was a difficult topic for me, as it wasn’t until I started writing the post that I realised how much there was to cover. This piece only touched on the basics, and there’s so much more about the ‘nitty gritty’ of self-publishing that could be discussed. But I’m very happy you found it useful.

  2. Mark on said:

    Great info, Rachel. Thanks! Amazing how fast the publishing world has changed. Before it was just focusing on your story, and the cover letter to a publisher. So much more to consider now.

    Just some quick feedback on the website section:

    -If you use a blogging platform like Blogger or WordPress, you are allowed to use your own domain name for the URL, so you wouldn’t need to have .blogspot or .wordpress show up in the URL.

    -For new writers self-publishing a book, I would highly recommend using Blogger or WordPress to start out. They are free, instant, user-friendly, easily customized, and will give you pretty much all of the tools needed for a basic blog/website. Hiring a website developer is costly and really only necessary if you want a dynamic site like Shortbread with member logins, forums, rating systems, and so on. Money much better spent on editing and marketing your book.

    • Hi Mark. I think you’re right in that a platform like WordPress or Blogger is definately the way to start, especially if you’re looking to self-promote as opposed to selling books through your own site. However, there are limitations with these platforms, and often authors find that as they start getting a following they want a little more out of their website. This is when they often go for something more customised. Yet, both myself and ShortbreadStories uses WordPress.com for our blogs. (Obviously) So, I’m a big fan.

      Additionally, you’re correct in stating that you can redirect your WordPress.com or Blogger domain to your own URL. I don’t know about Blogger, but for WordPress charges you to do this. For more information on that here’s a link: http://en.support.wordpress.com/domain-mapping/

      However, I’m sure the savy webmaster can find a way to redirect from their own URL to the WordPress site through framing, but you’ll still have to pay for your domain name. (Which should never be too expensive.) The only way (that I’m aware of) to keep it all absolutely free is to have .wordpress.com attached to the end of the domain name.

  3. Pingback: Posts over at ShortbreadStories | Rachel Marsh

  4. Michal Arrisola on said:

    These days, self publishing is a bit easy if you have lots and lots of inspiration. Tools and software for self publishing are widely available. ;:,*;

    Regards
    http://www.healthmedicinelab.com“>

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