Finished manuscript in hand, it’s tempting to dive right in and self-publish: but with a wealth of complex information out there, you may find yourself buried in self-doubt, only to sneak back to traditional agents and publishers, tail between your legs. So how how do you self-publish your novel? Here’s our simple, handy guide for the overwhelmed.
Traditional publishing still — rightly — has a major place in the literary landscape, but it’s not for everyone.
You have options: and self-publishing contains a lot more options than simply uploading something to Kindle (even though… how is that done, anyway?).
So, here’s a simple guide to self-publishing your novel:
Firstly, the big one. Kindle is what most people think when they hear ‘self-publishing’: it’s relatively simple to do, with a step-by-step process that walks you through uploading your manuscript, choosing a cover, entering your details and setting up royalties and payments: by far, the most complex thing is making sure your manuscript is formatted correctly. But, if you have a Kindle, you can load the file on your device or use their Preview feature to make your last checks.
Kindle also has programs like the Kindle Lending Library and KDP Select which are excellent for enlarging readership and earning a few extra bucks, however they do require your book to be exclusive to Amazon, and not available anywhere else online or offline. Also, they offer a print-on-demand service, so your ebook can have a physical edition. With the largest market share (65% in 2016), Amazon is good for beginners and authors who want a wide reach.
Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, etc
If the thought of your book being tied to Amazon leaves you feeling a bit icky, you may want to cast a wider net and investigate other e-publishing platforms. In 2016, Apple’s iBooks enjoyed 12% of market share, with Barnes & Noble at 8%, Kobo with 4% and Google Play Books with 2% — that’s still a wide readership, and if you don’t mind not participating in KDP Select and the Lending Library, you can publish your book on all these platforms and Kindle as well for maximum reach.
Barnes & Noble, along with their bricks and mortar stores, run Nook Press, a digital e-publishing platform that acts as a companion for their e-reader the Nook (a setup much like Amazon’s). Kobo have both an e-reader and digital publishing platform, but no physical stores. Apple and Google distribute their publications mainly through mobile devices such as phones and tablets.
Many authors love the diversification and extra security that comes with publishing on multiple platforms, but others find it a bit of a hassle to publish the same book more than once. It’s completely up to you.
Sell from your own site
If you distill the process, all you need to self-publish is a digital product and a payment processor, and both are cheap and readily available services you can install on your own website.
Format your manuscript the way you want it to look, and save it as a PDF, ePub or Mobi (several word processors can now export these formats). Next, upload your file to your site so it’s available for download. Then, head to PayPal, Stripe or your payment processor of choice, and find out how to install a payment button on your site.
All you’ll need to do from there is set the amount you wish to charge, install the Buy button code, and ensure the customer knows where and how to download your book afterwards: you can include a link in the thank you page, or manually email each customer on receipt of transaction.
It really is that simple: if you have a website and a little technical knowledge, there’s no need for a middleman.
Sell physical copies
While a little more labour-intensive, if you’re planning a limited run, image-heavy or unusually formatted book, it might actually be easier to invest in having physical copies made up and marking them up for a profit to sell at niche events and festivals.
Poetry, art and local interest books do well with this method: local printing companies will work with you to produce a cost-effective solution, which you can then offer to enthusiasts who appreciate a physical copy instead of a digital download. There are cons to this method: heaving around stock, initial investment… but done right, this centuries-old method will let you produce something very special.
There are as many ways to self-publish as there are authors, so don’t limit yourself and be sure to investigate each one thoroughly before making a commitment.
And don’t think you’re all on your own: sites like Reedsy help you get in touch with editors, graphic designers, formatters and publishers who can help bring your book to life.