A lot of people ask me about the process of self-publishing and I thought I’d share some of my experience for the benefit of other aspiring authors.
It’s been about five months since I self-published “The Percussionist’s Wife: A Memoir of Sex, Crime & Betrayal,” and instead of buckling down and finishing my second book (I’ve got 30,000 words written, OK? I’ll get there), I got distracted by my sales stats.
To give you some context, I published my memoir separately on five different forums. Some self-publishers use a service like Smashwords to distribute their ebooks on multiple forums at once. The benefit is that the author needs to format the book only once, but the drawback is that Smashwords takes a cut of the profits. I felt I had enough skill with Microsoft Word to successfully accomplish the formidable formatting that was required for multiple forums, but some people don’t, in which case, Smashwords is a good DIY alternative.
This series will address each distribution channel separately:
- Amazon Kindle
- Barnes & Noble Nook
- CreateSpace (Amazon’s print-on-demand publishing service)
- Direct sales
To be clear, my book is a memoir — a true story of my life. Memoirs are quite different from works of fiction and they appeal to a decidedly smaller segment of readers. There’s also less competition; more than 540,000 memoirs and biographies are on sale at Amazon while there are more than 2.4 million works of literature and fiction. Every book is going to sell differently, of course, but it’s probably safe to assume the sales results of a vampire romance won’t have much in common with a true crime memoir.
Today, let’s look at Kindle, which represents, by far, my biggest publishing opportunity. A shade less than 50% of the sales of “The Percussionist’s Wife” have come by Kindle, Amazon’s ebook publishing opportunity. I suspect there are three reasons:
- Amazon has impressive promotional machinery and is by far the biggest seller of ebooks.
- My ebook is $9.95, compared to $16.95 for the printed paperback, so it represents a good value for readers. (Pricing is a whole other topic post; most self-published authors of fiction charge $3.99 or less.)
- While I have had a number of book signings and the paperback of my book is available at two brick-and-mortar outlets, most of my promotion has come online (through my blog, Facebook page, online social networking) so my audience is probably skewed toward the technically savvy who own e-readers.
Kindle makes your ebook available to a worldwide audience: United States, United Kingdom, India, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, China and Brazil. I know I have Australian readers, too (they’re apparently using the U.S. site). Of course, a book written in English is going to have a limited appeal among non-English speakers; I haven’t sold any ebooks in any non-English countries.
Readers without Kindles can buy books through Kindle. I have a Kindle app on my iPad that I use to read books. I imagine Kindle apps are available on other tablets, too. I know at least one of my readers read my book on their iPhone.
How-tos of Kindle publishing
Publishing to Kindle is relatively easy. Start here and take advantage of all the instructions and how-to videos. Kindle accepts .doc or .docx file formats; you’ll need to know how to create indentation, headings and page breaks, and avoid crazy fonts, bullets, tables, headers and footers. You don’t need an ISBN as Amazon will assign its own if you don’t have one.
You’ll need an image for the cover. If you’re not a designer, get one. To read more about the design of my cover, click here.
Also, I can’t address KDP, the acronym for Kindle Direct Publishing. To use that program, you need to make your ebook exclusive to Amazon Kindle for 90 days. If you want to publish in other ebook distribution channels (like Nook), just skip that option when creating your book.
Authors earn 70% royalties through Kindle (Amazon charges a miniscule delivery charge).
Kindle sells ebooks, so promotion online is crucial. I’ve had the most success through blogging and my Facebook fan page. I’ve had a little success with LinkedIn, and though I’m an occasional tweeter, I don’t see Twitter as having helped me at all.
But I don’t get all the credit or even most of it; my readers do. I think Facebook word-of-keyboard (like when a reader buys the book or writes a review and then posts it on their timeline) has effectively spread the word about my book, even better than I could by myself.
Write a good book, engage potential readers, promote like crazy, and then let what happens, happens.
Tomorrow: My experience with Barnes & Noble Nook