Someone once told me that there is a book inside all of us – but few get the chance to ever pluck that idea from their head and transfer it to print. I’m not sure if that’s true or not… but if you have a book you want to create and lack the know-how, then this post is for you.
I have self-published two comic books in the last year. My third book comes out on June 15th, 2015.
As a result, I have become a bit of an expert when it comes to self-publishing on your own – for cheap. I love self-publishing and wouldn’t change it for the world.
I use the Createspace platform. Createspace is a print-on-demand company run by Amazon. It is completely free to create, format, and publish your book – and when you do, it is automatically listed on Amazon.com. This post isn’t sponsored by anyone, I just wanted to share my knowledge and experience.
This is how I self-published my comic books (and you can too):
1. Get a working manuscript
It doesn’t have to be perfect, but before you even start down the road of self-publishing, you’re going to need a semi-complete manuscript.
What’s the title? Subtitle? Estimated page count? Genre?
2. Buy a barcode and ISBN
This is, like, the only thing you actually have to pay for when you self-publish.
Createspace offers you a free ISBN number that you are free to use. Personally, I don’t recommend it. It’s all very complicated, but if you use the Createspace ISBN, you have the possibility of losing certain rights to your book, Createspace is then listed as the book’s publisher, and, of course, you are not allowed to print your book through a different publisher.
ISBNs (or International Standard Book Number) are expensive. They can be legally purchased at myidentifiers.com (run by Bowker). They’re freakishly expensive because Bowker controls the market and can honestly charge as much as they want.
1 ISBN is $125
10 ISBNs are $295
They also sell in packs of 100 and 1000… but really, are you going to use that many?
I went ahead and purchased 10 ISBNs when I published my first comic book because I knew I was going to be writing another book. Also, if you change the page count and/or drastically change the interior content, you have to list it under a separate ISBN. So I would recommend just buying the pack of 10 ISBNs right off the bat.
Barcodes can also be purchased at myidentifiers.com. They cost $25 each… so not that bad. A barcode is the ISBN in a format that can be identified by scanners. While ISBNs are required for every book, having a barcode is completely optional.
That being said, I really recommend buying a barcode because:
- Barcodes make the book look more “legit” (which is important when you’re self-publishing)
- Bookstores won’t sell your book unless it has a barcode. So far I haven’t managed to convince a bookstore to stock my books, but honestly, I haven’t been trying too hard. I wanted to get three books out before I started on hard-core marketing.
- It’s $25. That’s not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things. Seriously. Just get a barcode.
Once you buy a barcode and ISBN, you can “link” them together. There is a nice walk-through on the Bowkers site – don’t even worry about it. It’s very self explanatory.
3. Set up an account on Createspace
Createspace is a print-on-demand company run by Amazon.com. Print on demand is a style of digital printing that prints books as they are ordered – meaning an exact number of books is printed and shipped to whoever ordered the books (and nothing more). This is different from “normal book printing” where, like, 1000 books are printed at one time and then sit in a warehouse until someone buys them.
I love print-on-demand. Mostly because the POD model allows me to not touch the stock.
When someone buys my books on Amazon, they are printed and shipped to them directly. I don’t have to do anything. Which is especially great because I live in Japan and the majority of people who buy my book do NOT live in Japan. Every month, Createspace transfers money to my account.
You’re not going to do everything for Createspace right now. Just set up an account.
You can enter in the beginning information (title, ISBN, subtitle, etc). And see what else you need ot add.
4. Design or buy a cover for your book
This isn’t final. Don’t worry. You don’t have to commit to anything yet. In fact, I’ve changed the covers for both my books several times, after noticing small mistakes (even after they are selling on Amazon).
I went ahead and designed the cover for all three of my books, mostly because I didn’t want to pay anyone to do it for me. And I’m kind of creative.
I mean, I did write comic books. So far I haven’t gotten any complaints on my book covers.
Createspace offers an affordable price package if you want someone to design it for you. I have friends who have also turned to fiverr or other freelancing sites, to get a cover design for cheap. I also have friends who have just bought a photo from a photography site and slapped some text over it – voila! Book cover.
Basically, you can do whatever floats your boat. But remember – people DO judge a book by its cover.
Createspace lets you download a PDF that represents the flattened out book cover (cover, spine, and back). The side of the spine depends on the page-count – so make sure you get that in the right ballpark.
Remember – you can change this cover any time.
5. Set up pre-orders (for print books) on Amazon Advantage
I have a special place in my heart for Amazon Advantage – right next to people who talk on their phone loudly in public, people who litter, and parents who live vicariously through their children. I do not like Amazon Advantage. My husband can vouch for that.
I called him half a dozen times to rant over how much I didn’t understand the Amazon Advantage system when setting up pre-orders for my first book.
Eventually I figured it out. And you will too. Just take a deep breath and remember that everyone I know who has tried to use it has had problems.
Amazon Advantage is run by Amazon (of course) and is in charge of print book pre-orders. You don’t have to have a manuscript to get preorders up and running, by the way. All you need is a title, some cover art, and the estimated publishing date. Once you submit the information, in 3-5 business days, your book will be up on Amazon!
Seeing it up on Amazon is a great feeling. And with each of my books, I was selling between 20 – 150 books via preorder – before the book even existed!
So it’s definitely worth it. It’s basically like having an extra couple months to sell the book.
6. Set up pre-orders for digital (kindle) books on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
Like Amazon Advantage, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is part of the Amazon empire. It is the section devoted to kindle (ebooks). There are lots of pros for using KDP that I won’t go into here – and it’s pretty easy to get your book up on there.
Personally, I’ve never done kindle pre-orders for my books – because part of my marketing strategy involves giving the books away for the first three days after publishing (but I will write about that later).
Setting up kindle pre-orders on KDP is pretty far back on my list of thing to do because you do have to upload a final manuscript. Which you might not have until the end of this list.
7. Set up an Author profile on Amazon Author Central and Goodreads
Having an author profile has quite a few benefits. It’s easy enough to set an author profile up on both Amazon Author Central and Goodreads. Do it. That way you can link to your books and post regular updates.
8. Upload your manuscript and cover to Createspace and order a proof copy!
Hopefully by this step, you have a final manuscript up and ready to go. Createspace has two methods for viewing proofs – you can view a digital proof (online) and/or order a print copy proof.
Createspace has a nice checklist you can use to figure out what else you need to upload, before you can publish (or order a proof).
The “law of publishing” seems to go that the first time you see your book in print, you find at least one spelling error. It sucks, but that’s just how it works.
I like to see the book in print before I officially publish it – just to make sure the cover looks ok, the font size works out, and all the margins look ok.
9. Approve the proof copy and hit “publish”
If you like the way your book looks, you can hit “publish.” Anyone who pre-ordered a print copy will be charged and the book will be shipped to them. After this, you can also start ordering copies of your own book (for the cost of printing).
Note: As soon as you hit “approve proof,” the book will automatically start selling on Amazon. I learned this the hard way.
I wanted to approve the proof copy and order a couple hundred copies of my first book, so I could start selling them in Japan the same day the started selling in America – but I wasn’t able to order copies until I approve the proof. And as soon as I did that, the books started selling in Amazon, a month and a half before they were supposed to!
It ended up causing a lot of problems.
10. Order copies of your book (and sell them!)
Click here to figure out how much it would cost to print your books on Createspace. The website itself is, of course, free to use. The only thing you have to pay for is copies of your book – if you decide to sell them at conferences, speaking events, via an online shop on your blog, etc.
Createspace has a nice calculator if you want to figure out how much that would cost before bothering with the setup process. You can find it here.
Although selling books in person requires quite a bit more work (and upfront costs), I make a much higher profit margin, so I try to keep 75 – 150 copies of each of my books at home.
I sell signed copies of my books on Etsy. And my blog.
I’m going to do another post soon(ish) about how to market and sell your books (for super-cheap and without any experience/connections).
If you have any questions or any topic ideas you want me to write about (related to self-publishing), please just let me know in the comments section!