Bill’s Guide to Publishing
So, you have written a book and want to publish it. Let’s start off with what you have so far: A professionally edited work, a good title, shown it to somebody, and they liked it. At this point, your work must be the absolute best it can be, and no changes from now on. (Well… Until your second edition.) These are the publishing steps (not necessarily in the correct order):
1) Write a one-paragraph basic summary of your work (not including the ending or plot twists). (This is not the book description, just a brief summary.) Write a one-sentence summary. Write a two-page summary of your book, including the ending and twists. This document is for professionals like the cover designer, publishers, interviews, and general information.
2) Decide what category your book is in. IE, Science fiction, drama… Look at the available book categories on Amazon and pick four.
3) Now comes the most challenging part of the entire writing process. Writing a “book description,” also called a “book blurb.” This document is an advertisement, teaser, and select a summary of your work. Search for tips on how to create one and read at least 100 blurbs on Amazon. This task should take 4+ hours. Read the classics, your favorites, short ones, long ones, five stars, and one star. Your goal is determining the format, length (~200 words), and how a good/bad blurb reads.
Remember when I suggested you write a brief paragraph about your work? Start there. Your goal will be to create something sharp, get the reader’s attention, and deliver a knockout “buy it now” teaser. Show it to as many people as you can to get their feedback. Important tip. Print your work on oversized paper or use a whiteboard during the initial development. Study EVERY SINGLE word! This brief document must be flawless. Important tip. A blurb is not a plot summary. Always think of it as an advertisement. Do not give away too much. You entice the reader to buy the book and learn the promised secrets you teased in the blurb.
Go over your book blurb with a professional editor that knows about creating a blurb. If your book description is slightly less than perfect, people will not “buy it now.”
4) Now, you have a significant decision: Traditional publishing, self-publishing, or hardcore self-publishing. Let’s start with hardcore. You print 10,000 copies (on your dime) and sell them one at a time. My father hardcore published ceramics textbooks for years. While this used to be popular, hardcore self-publishing is a significant time and money investment. I do not recommend this option except for niche markets. Guides, reference books, text books, or some place where you master your market (like your school/church).
Traditional publishing has become a strange environment that is unfriendly to newcomers. You must first locate a “book representative” to present your work to a publisher. Book representatives often want $2K+ up front and 20%+ of your profit. Publishers WILL NOT talk to you without a book representative. Locating a competent book representative is an arduous task. Traditional publishing has been dying for years, and this route is not the future.
However, if you ignore my sage advice, then this is where the two-page summary will come into play. Send money and your two-page document to many representatives and hope for the best. Then, they will take it from there. You may have to pay for more editing, book cover, and expenses. Each publisher is different. Also, do not expect the publisher or book representative to do any promoting. However, they will promise to do this step. “Just keep writing books, and we’ll do the rest.” -Big phony
Self-publishing has two different approaches that you can do in parallel. The first is on-demand printing, and the second is an electronic book (eBook). Once you have formatted your book for on-demand printing, the printing house keeps an electronic copy on its servers. When somebody orders your book, it gets printed and mailed directly to the buyer. This method allows for flexibility (like quickly making a second edition and not having any inventory), but you must set up on-demand printing for each market (Kubo, Amazon…). I recommend only doing Amazon on-demand printing and strongly recommend paying a formatter to do the formatting. No decent guides explain the process, and professional software/expertise is required. If a reader pays $15-25 for your book and the formatting looks off, they will go far out of their way to give you an awful review.
There are two popular file formats, epub, and mobi. You can use a free program like Calibre to do the ebook conversion/formatting, but I recommend using a professional formatter. Important tip. Use a program like Calibre to enter/check all the metadata. (Title, book category, electronic links, cover picture, and summary.) Most professionals “forget” this step. Important tip. When you get your ebook, put it on a tablet, kindle, phone, Calibre, or another platform to review. Make sure all the formatting looks good on different platforms. My books looked good on one and wrong on another more than once. Important tip. Make sure the table of contents links connect to the right chapter.
5) Another major decision is to use a “self-publishing helper.” This person will guide you through the self-publishing process and make sure your work is the best it can be. The problem is that this person (or company) will be expensive. They usually charge $50-100 per hour or a flat rate. Remember that your first book will be what the public remembers. So, make it the best you can.
6) Write a short bio about yourself and find your best picture. Then, professionally edit this bio and show it to people. The goal is a brief background, why you write, what you like to write about, and what you want to write in the future. Do not boast; people hate that.
7) Get an ISBN, UPC, Library of Congress, and copyright. This is an easy $100 step; many companies offer a complete package.
8) Write the disclaimer, copyright, and author protection/contact. This step is easy. Just change what I copied from some book:
Copyright © 2023 by Bill Conrad
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
No part of this book may be translated, used, or reproduced in any form or by any means, in whole or in part, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage or retrieval system without express written permission from the author or the publisher, except for the use of brief quotations within critical articles and reviews.
Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Limits of Liability and Disclaimer of Warranty:
The authors and/or publisher shall not be liable for misuse of this material. The contents are strictly for entertainment purposes only.
Printed and bound in the United States of America
Important tip. See the websites and email above? Make sure the ebook hyperlinks work.
9) You need to hire a cover designer. Why not do your own? Microsoft paint is free! Readers expect a hyper-specific appearance. It isn’t easy to describe, but you will see a big pattern if you look at 100 covers of famous books and 100 books with one-star reviews. Successful books use certain fonts, colors, margins, graphics, photos, and layouts. The artists who make book covers are a niche group.
How to find one? There are sights where they advertise with reviews. You will send them a two-page summary of your work, your ideas on what the cover should look like, book categories, images of books in the same category (examples), and book cover images you like. The book interior must be completed because this alters the layout (book thickness). Next, the artist will design the cover, spine, and back cover. The back cover will have the ISBN, UPC barcode, and your completed book description. On mine, I have a QRC code for my website.
How much will they charge? Depends. Also, pay for the rights to photographs you may use. Make sure you keep the documentation that came when you purchased the photograph rights. Expect to pay $300-500+ for a cover design. Romance books all have paintings that probably cost a lot. Important tip. DO NOT copy something from the internet without getting the rights. This WILL BITE YOU HARD. Take care with photographs of famous landmarks/buildings/other as they often have restrictions. Eiffel tower? Heavy restrictions.
10) Create an Amazon, Kubo, Smashwords, Apple Books, and Barns & Nobel account. Then, publish your books on these sites. This is where you will use your blurb, biography, picture, short paragraph description, and one-sentence description.
11) Now, you have a critical decision. To use Amazon KDP, select or not. The advantage is that you get more royalties and can offer your book for free during a promotion. (KDP select claims to promote your work internally. Essentially give your book a higher standing in the searches. I saw no proof of this when I was on it for six months.) In my opinion, the KDP select advantage is minimal. I used it for a free giveaway, which did not help. If you use KDP select, your eBook CANNOT BE ON OTHER SITES. Amazon checks other sites and will boot you off their site.
Also, if you use KDP select and stop, then double-check to ensure you are truly off it. (Get written email proof.) The Amazon website often says you are not using KDP but actually are. The status is not clear because I think they do this to trick you into still using KDP select.
Another disadvantage of KDP select is your overall marketing strategy. Your marketing goal will be to spread your wings as far as possible. Which is better? Having your book on one site or 10? I also think that Apple and Barns & Nobel do a far better job of having a fair search engine that will quickly find your work. Or a general search that comes up with your book. For example, if you search the unique book title, “Interviewing Immortality,” then “How to Answer Interview Questions: 101 Tough Interview Questions” comes up first on the amazon search. My book comes up first on all the other sites.
12) There is arguably one additional essential step, the endorsement. This is when somebody famous reads your book and recommends it. “The best book I ever read -President Obama” Many authors and publishers insist that you have endorsements at the beginning of your book and on the back cover. To get one, pay big! $2K+ I do not think an endorsement improves sales, and I know from experience they are a pain to get.
You’re the best -Bill
February 5, 2018 Updated April 01, 2023
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