I’m constantly experimenting with keywords and tags. They are a must need for any author trying to sell books online. Tags can help readers find your books. Amazon has what I feel is the most advanced system for tag/keyword use.
Since I released Of Sun & Moon, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about self-publishing. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the things that I’ve learned with you here as well as some of the answers to the most asked questions.
What software do you use?
I use Microsoft Word to write. I put the entire book in a single file. It’s more difficult to edit that way, but I think that it makes formatting the files for publication easier. It also allows me to go back quickly and re-read a section if I need to. Word files are also very easy to convert for submission to the distribution centers.
Where do you get your covers?
I design my own covers. I have a background in graphic design. The companies that self-publish will want either a .jpg or .pdf format of your cover and will be very specific about the size needed. Less is better on an ebook cover because they often appear very small on computer screens.
Who do you use for publishing/distribution?
I publish with Kindle Direct Publishing (an Amazon company) for the kindle version, Smashwords for the other ebook formats, and Createspace (another Amazon company) for the paperback. I looked into hardback, but couldn’t find a way to self-publish it and still make it affordable. I do pay extra for the upgraded distribution channel at Createspace and found that it is worth it. If you do the upgrade, your paperback flows into Ingram which feeds Barnes & Noble and is where many libraries and other bookstores buy their books. I’ve had a good experience with all three companies.
How do I go about Copyright and ISBN?
Getting your copyright is much easier than you think. You can do it online through the copyright office. There is a fee of $35. When I applied for the first one, I have to admit that I was a bit paranoid. I had read all this stuff about people being harassed because the copyright application is public information and the author’s address and phone number are listed. So, before I filled out the application, I picked up a prepaid cell phone at Walmart and opened a post office box in a nearby town – placing those two items as the contact info on my application. Now in hindsight, I don’t think I would have had to do all that, but better safe than sorry.
You will also need an ISBN. Some stores, such as Apple iBooks, require an ISBN to carry your books. You must have an ISBN for each format. For example, the ebook version cannot use the same ISBN as the paperback version. The three companies listed above all offer a free ISBN as part of their service. ISBN’s come in 10 or 13 characters; either is acceptable, but the newer method is 13 characters.
Why don’t you sell books yourself? Why don’t you sell books at book signings?
That is a conscious decision that I made from the start. My goal was the experience. I do this because I enjoy it, not because I want to roll in dough or become the next JK Rowling (although that would be totally cool). If I have to establish a business, apply for a vendor’s license, and submit quarterly sales tax it is no longer fun.
Do you make a bunch of money in royalties? Do you have to pay a lot to self-publish?
Kindle Direct Publishing, Createspace, and Smashwords do not charge an upfront fee. They take their share from each book that is sold. I did purchase the extra distribution channel at Createspace ($39), Copyright fee ($35), and I chose to purchase a proof copy of the paperback ($19.51 which could have been less, but I’m impatient and had to get the express shipping). That’s it in up-front costs.
I was able to recoup that with royalties, but no, I’m not getting rich from this hobby. I did some extra facebook advertising, book giveaways, and direct mail to hype book 2; so, until I receive my Apple and Nook quarterly sales totals in October, I’m showing in the red. Don’t worry, I’ve still spent far, far less than my husband with his hobby – antique tractor pulls.
As far as writing, what’s your best advice?
I read an article once that said the mark of an inexperienced author is when the author puts in a “he said”, or similar, for every piece of dialogue. Seasoned authors don’t do this. They trust that when the dialog is between two people, the reader is intelligent enough to follow the conversation without this. Omitting these extra words, especially during emotionally charged dialog, allows for better flow and intensity. Here’s an example of with and without. See if you notice the difference…
“Did I do something?” Keira asked.
“There are just too many secrets,” William said.
Keira responded, “My secrets? I’ve never even been to your house.”
“What are you always training for? You’re getting stronger and faster, that’s not due to piano lessons. I’ve never even seen a piano in your house. And what’s with the whole Cinderella routine every night at midnight?” William asked.
“That’s nothing,” said Keira.
“Oh yeah, and why did you tell the police that Colby was with us after the Halloween party?” William asked.
She shook her head and said, “I thought you were over that.”
WITHOUT (the better way)
Did I do something?”
“There are just too many secrets.”
“My secrets? I’ve never even been to your house.”
“What are you always training for? You’re getting stronger and faster, that’s not due to piano lessons. I’ve never even seen a piano in your house. And what’s with the whole Cinderella routine every night at midnight?”
“Oh yeah, and why did you tell the police that Colby was with us after the Halloween party.”
She shook her head. “I thought you were over that.”
Did you try to go the traditional publishing route?
Nope. I love my day job, so I never intended for this to be a replacement. I just don’t have the time to shop my manuscript around to an agent who (if I can find one who will accept it) will then shop it around to the publishing houses. Things may change one day, but for now, I still consider this a hobby.
Any other advice?
Before publishing a paperback, pull your favorite paperbacks from your bookshelf. Take note of their size, are they printed on white or cream paper, look at how the page numbers are formatted, and see how they adjusted the first page of each chapter. To make your’s look professional, you need to mirror the professionals.
Also Edit, Edit, Edit – I have no bigger pet peeve than a poorly edited self-published book. It makes the rest of us look bad. Spelling and grammatical errors are unprofessional.