OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
The rise and rise of self-publishing has meant an influx of writers into the market, and many established authors with back-lists are also joining the fun.
There is a LOT of information out there on how to publish your book, but I still get emails every day asking me how to do it.
[Please note: this post is updated over time so the information is current]
I also get emails from people who have paid $20,000+, have been utterly ripped off and are devastated with the results. This happened to me once, although with a lesser financial impact, and I am passionate about making sure authors don't fall into these traps.
With big name publishers like Penguin/Random House and Simon & Schuster signing up with Author Solutions to further exploit this kind of vanity publishing, you guys need to know there is a better and cheaper way.
I have a whole page on Publishing options here, but I thought a round-up post was called for. There are options below for publishing ebooks and print books, with DIY options and easy, paid services, so there's something for everyone.
Before you publish
If you have existing contracts for your books, and /or have been published in the past, check you have the rights before you publish. If you're a new author, you have the rights and you can do what you like. You can publish in any or all of the following ways. There are no rules and you can sell globally! [woohoo!]
How to publish an ebook – the DIY option
Scrivener is only $45 and the compile function is just one part of the amazing writing software, which many authors (including me) swear by. I also recommend (and use) the brilliant Learn Scrivener Fast video training program which includes formatting videos.
(2) Publish on the ebook stores
For the best royalty rates, you want to go direct to the retailers if you can and the process is easy. There's plenty of help on each of these sites.
Publish on Barnes & Noble NookPress (which opened up to UK and some European countries in March 2014)
You can also publish to all these stores and more through Smashwords (free with % royalty per book sales) or BookBaby (costs upfront but 100% royalty paid to author, or paid option with % royalty) or Draft2Digital (free with % royalty). Here's a useful post on Bookbaby vs Smashwords so you can evaluate the services.
How to publish an ebook – the paid services option
I know that some people don't want to mess around with ebook files. I used to feel like that too, but seriously, if you're publishing a lot, then try Scrivener. It will save you loads of money.
But if you definitely want help, there are lots of services that can do this, so you should shop around, check reviews and testimonials and ask other authors what they think.
Here are some options:
- Createspace conversion to Kindle file (for Amazon only)
- Bookbaby formatting
- Smashwords list of formatters
- Ebook Launch formatting
- Ebook Architects – for more complicated books
- Bibliocrunch author concierge services – or post a job to get someone to help you
How to publish a print book
Most independent authors make more profit from ebooks, so you should only consider print if you really want it for personal reasons, or if you have a live platform to sell it (e.g. speakers). Then you should consider print-on-demand as the best option as you don't have to pay upfront printing/storage or shipping costs.
If you're going to produce a print book, then also consider interior book design. You can get a Book Construction Blueprint and reasonably priced Word templates to DIY for Print on Demand services through Book Design Templates.
Only do a print run if you have the distribution sorted out – too many authors lose money this way (I certainly did!)
If you want a DIY option, and the best financial deal, then LightningSource is probably the best bet. However, you need print ready files for your cover and interior and you have to know what you're doing.
If you want an easier DIY option, with wizards and extra help, then go with CreateSpace.com, Amazon's own self-publishing company. They also have an option to make the ebook as well. If you have your own print-ready files, it is free to publish. Here's a comparison post between Createspace and LightningSource.
If you want to do print properly, soak up everything you can from TheBookDesigner.com – one of the very best blogs for self-publishers.
In terms of premium services, there are more companies offering these every day, some of them at astronomical prices, so please be very careful.
Check out Amazon's Createspace Premium prices here. Then compare what they offer to anything else you check out, since you know if you go with Createspace that you will be able to sell on Amazon.
If you like the look of a company, then check Preditors and Editors publishing guide for red flags, because a professional online site may still mean a rip-off.
Please note that Author Solutions, which is the service Random/Penguin & Simon & Schuster have chosen is marked: Not recommended. A company that owns or operates vanity imprints AuthorHouse, DellArte, iUniverse, Trafford Publishing, West Bow, and Xlibris. Here's an article about their dishonest marketing tactics on Writer Beware,
What happens next?
Read this post for starters: Help! My book isn't selling. 10 questions to answer honestly if you aren't making enough sales.
Want to join a community of active self-publishers who help each other out with information and advice? Check out the Alliance of Independent Authors. (I'm an active member and advisor). There's also a great blog: How to successfully self-publish
Do you have any questions about publishing your book?
Please do leave questions or comments below. This is a community of LOTS of authors, new and experienced, so together we can likely answer everything! I'd also love people to recommend any services they have actually used and thought were good. (No posts from companies though – only authors!)