As I prepare to release my second self-published book, I can’t help reflecting on the journey of discovering the indie publishing world for the first time. Though Wanderling is the sixth book I have written, it is the first I have self-published, and the process of getting it out to readers has been a rewarding one.
Self publishing used to be regarded as vain and unnecessary. But for many writers, including myself, it’s simply a chance to get your ideas out to the world. I don’t pretend I’m the next NY Times bestseller. I have a day job and I intend to keep it. Writing for me is a pleasant hobby, one that brings me joy and endless hours of torment. I am a writer because I am compelled to write.
And when I’ve written a book, I like to have it published in some way. On a fanfiction forum, through a small publishing house, or most recently through Amazon as a self-publisher. The journey has been a long one, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Here are my lessons-learned along the way:
The toughest part is the research
That’s right, folks. I was startled when I finally got to the publishing part of the process because it was so fantastically easy. The toughest part came first: researching and deciding which e-book distributors to use for my book. In the end I decided to begin with Amazon simply because most of my friends who wanted to read my book already knew how to download e-books on Amazon. I also decided to use KDP Select to jump start my release, a tough and controversial decision for an author to make. In fact, many writers are leery of KDP Select for a myriad of reasons. The pros and cons are endless.
Should you do e-book format only, or paperback as well? If so, will you use a site like SmashWords that will publish your book through multiple distributors for you, or should you format your e-book and publish it directly through each distributor to save money?
The options go on and on. Luckily, I did ALL the research possible. One of the most surprising things I discovered was…
You already own your copyright
The minute you have an idea and write it on paper (or on Google Docs in my case) it’s your intellectual property, and thus no one is legally allowed to pass it off as theirs.
However, there are reasons you may choose to register your copyright to make everything official. This makes it easier to sue in the case of copyright violation in the future, if someone does try to steal your work.
I chose to register my copyright through the library of congress. It’s only around $30, so I figured why not? Not everyone chooses this, and that’s cool. I don’t think anyone’s lining up to steal my writing because in my experience the online writing community is very respectful about not stealing each other’s intellectual property. This isn’t the wild west. But I am a cautious person, so I decided to register my copyright.
ISBN numbers are available everywhere (but they’re also a scam)
Unfortunately, for many distributors you must have a unique ISBN for every format of your book– one for print version, one for each type of e-book file. That means quite a handful of ISBNs for just one book if you release through multiple channels. There are many, many distributors, including Amazon, that will offer you discounted or even free ISBNs. This may seem tempting for the cost-conscious author like myself, but it may not be a good idea for you.
There are many reasons to purchase your own ISBN, the main one being: if you get a free or discounted ISBN from a third party, you arent the publisher. If a store wants to order the book, they contact the publisher. That needs to be you if you’re serious about publishing and controlling distribution for your book.
I don’t consider myself a super-serious self publisher, more of a hobbyist, but I like to keep my options open, so I decided to purchase my own ISBN number from Bowker, the official provider of ISBN numbers.
Also, their pricing system is so messed up. I had to buy a bundle of 100 ISBNs to justify the expense. Impulsive, I know, but I’ll never need to buy more I suppose…
The publishing part is the easiest
Once you’ve registered your copyright (or not), lined up your ISBN, and selected a distributor, it’s pretty smooth sailing when it comes to preparing your book for print or e-format. Amazon, for instance, has extensive formatting guidelines and instructions that walk you through the entire process of creating an e-book. Every distributor wants people to self-publish through them, so they usually have step-by-step instructions and support to help you through the process.
I actually found formatting my book for print and e-book cathartic. I enjoy the detailed task of creating a functional table of contents and ensuring the margins are correct, etc. It’s a nice break from the stress of editing, which is a whole other monster that I don’t have time to tackle in this post.
Comment if you have additional takeaways from your own self-publishing experience, or if you have questions!