So, the manuscript is finished. The beta readers, editor, and cover designer have been selected. Feedback has landed, final editing decisions and corrections have been made. NOW what?
The options for self-publishing are growing, however, the most popular entry level platform remains Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which has replaced Amazon’s original CreateSpace platform. I have used CreateSpace and KDP digital numerous times for clients, but Enigma was my first experience with KDP paperback. It is essentially the same platform and is quite user friendly. After creating a user account, KDP asks a series of questions about your book:
- Title/subtitle/series: (I frankly hate the craze for subtitles, but succumbing to pressure from advisors I’ve added one.)
- Book Description: This, believe it or not, is one of the most difficult things to do. You need a compelling, yet brief description that will lure readers in, one that will elicit curiosity and interest. Think elevator speech.
- Keywords & Categories: These are important because they will reach out to potential readers who browse for books to read.
- Copyright: I would recommend registering the copyright of your work directly at copyright.gov. It is fairly simple and costs $55. It requires an upload of your work and can be done ahead of the final draft as long as your changes won’t be too drastic. Of course, some people simply attach the ol’ © to their book and call it good. Theoretically the fact that you’ve written the content means you have the right to allow or not allow anyone to copy your work. BUT, without having registered that copyright, you wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in court. After going through the blood, sweat, and tears of writing this thing, you may as well protect it.
- ISBN (International Standards Book Number): The ISBN establishes and identifies one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition. KDP purchases ISBNs by the truckload and is happy to provide a free ISBN. However, there are drawbacks to the freebie. You may find your book restricted to only Amazon platforms, no Barnes & Noble, no libraries, no independent bookstores. ISBNs are assigned by Bowker and cost $125 for single ISBN. Bowker offers an assortment of packages that may include several ISBNs, barcodes, and UPC codes.
- Print Options: Black & White, Black & Cream, Color. Anecdotally I’ve heard that cream colored papers don’t age as well as black and white. Color interiors are beastly expensive.
- Trim Size: How do you want your book to feel in the hands? What size will look good for the number of finished pages you will have (which will be different from the number of pages of your 8.5×11 draft)? There are a bunch of options to choose from.
- Matte or Glossy Cover: Some folks think glossy covers look cheesey. I have found the matte covers produced via Amazon have a waxy feel that I find unpleasant.
- Manuscript Upload: KDP accepts both doc.x or PDF files. But before you upload, someone has to turn that 8.5×11 manuscript into a book. This is the interior design process. It is not rocket science, but if you are not 100% competent with MS Word Styles and MS Word Headers & Footers, you will run into problems. KDP offers interior design for an added fee. (I’ve never seen one of their interior designs so I have no comment.) There are also a plethora of independent and freelance designers available. Nothing screams amateur faster than a poorly designed book. (Hint: I do this kind of stuff and love it.)
- Cover Upload: Here again, KDP offers a cover design service for an added cost. KDP also offers a DIY Cover Creator tool to help you design your own cover. It works, and you can import your own photos or images into some of the templates; however, your design choices are restricted to KDPs colors, predetermined font packages, and although you can resize elements, you can’t move them around. Cover design is even more critical to your book than the interior design because a poorly designed cover won’t be noticed or will be avoided by potentially buyers.
Once you’ve got your finished manuscript and cover uploaded, you can preview the book. The digital previewer lets you examine page-by-page, two pages at a time, or multiple pages. Errors, like text extending too far into the margins, will be flagged. This is a good time to double and triple check your pagination, which is part of the book design process. It’s very easy to make an embarrassing mistake with pagination. If the digital preview passes muster, then it’s time to order a proof. In about five days you will have your baby in your hands. Best to review it or hand it over to your proofreader to catch those damnable little mistakes that slip past your jaded eyeballs. You can upload as many corrected versions of the manuscript as you need, as long as you don’t hit “publish.” The same is true of the Cover file. If there are issues with the cover, get them fixed early rather than after ordering a pile of books.
Next up is are Paperback Rights, Pricing, and Marketing—which the experts like to say should be ongoing throughout the writing and publishing process. I sort of disagree with that. I don’t like getting the cart before the horse.
And, I forgot to mention that somewhere along the line, you’re going to need some reader blurbs. And you’ll need to figure out how to handle reviews, because a book listed on Amazon without reviews is doomed to a quick death. Who will you ask to review your book? Will you provide reviewers with a free book or a PDF copy to read online? When will you reach out to your potential reviews (before or after the book goes live on Amazon)? This is another aspect of publishing that feels like selling your soul.