You've finally decided to go Indie! You're feeling good about it! Your work is worthy of readers' eyes and you're so FREAKING ready. You're so ready that you've been imagining a future interview with Oprah Winfrey about your successful book(s). Oh, wait...that's me!
So, by luck, or miracle, you landed in the right place, where you'll learn about the most affordable route for publication. After all, you're looking to make some money doing what you love. Right? Definitely, it's your right as a creator, to get that chance. Not only will you find out, but I will link to my resources, including editors, proofreaders, beta readers, books, banks, and domain providers, so you may utilize them.
First step: Get acquainted with the idea of being a self-published author. If you're looking at self-publishing, you already know your work is worthy and it's not about a fast buck. Understand the only difference between Indie and traditional publishing is you have to do all the work for your book(s), to shine and vie for readers. By going Indie, you cut out the middleperson. Essentially, you are marketer and publisher, which is a hell of a lot of work. Definitely don't be like me! In 2015, "From a Circle" was published, with the now defunct Splashing Cow Books, LLC. But then the publisher sat on the sequels, while he re-organized his business. Until recently when I'd pulled out, I thought traditional publishing was the only legit way. In the past, every couple of years, I would send out a query or two. Oh, the time I wasted...waiting...waiting...waiting. In February, I became a do-er, moving forward in my quest to learn everything about self-publishing. Though, I must confess, before I could, I had to face the words: self-published author. Hearing those words used to make me cringe. I remember eight years ago, a former professor told me to self-publish and in my head, I was like, "How dare he? My work needs a real publisher!" Now, self-published makes me feel in control, especially after realizing what it all entails. So, as Instagram's chasitytrish told me today, "Do not be intimidated!!! God put you here for a reason. And your book and reviews are testimonies of greatness!" So you too, if you are here, do not be intimidated--your work is worthy of eyes!
Second, read and research all about it. I learned a great deal from watching YouTube videos and reading books and blogs on the topic. I don't have a particular channel for Youtube, or a particular blog because I learned bits and pieces here and there. Just search "how to self-publish" and you will run into some good information, eventually. Just be careful of any paid publishing services. Sure, maybe they're willing to do all the work for you, but it defeats the purpose of self-publishing. In addition, if you had $5,000 to $10,000 to fork out toward your writing career, you probably have the time to hunker down and find suitable publishers for your work. Right? Because remember, your work is worthy. You just don't have the time to submit and more importantly, you want to keep most of your book money.
Third, send your work out to beta readers, or at least proofreaders, or both. Polishing your work is a must, whether Indie or traditional. I have English-related degrees and still managed to get a 9.5 on a grammar/context test. Definitely, I feel it's a must, to get fresh eyes on your work. Plus, read the blurb from a recent three-page beta read for my upcoming chapter book, "Bang, the King is Dead." Here is what his (decillis') take on structure reads like:
"The story begins with a strong hook, expressed in childlike terms and corresponding emotional emphasis. The opening lines establish the core dynamic of the story: a distant father who's more often treated as a tempestuous monarch than a family member; the feeling of loss; a simplistic and disappointed relationship with God. The tone of the girl is so young that it's not clear at first whether she's describing literal events, or whether the story is satirical to some degree."
You decide where you will find a more qualified beta reader. I have a Master's degree and still feel comfortable to have extra eyes on my work. Another way to double-check your work is to send to reviewers, such as Readers' Favorite. This agency requires your completed book (digital or PDF, not just your manuscript. But it doesn't need to be published, just publication-ready. If you receive a five-star, you will reek immense benefits, such as a link from their page to your Amazon author page and being featured on their 500,000 newsletter and their social media. They will also link to your YouTube book trailer if you have one. You will also be able to enter in their contests. Cost is free, if you're willing to wait two weeks to a month for a review. In comparison to other reviewer sites, Readers' Favorite charges reasonable fees for faster reviews. In addition, it is touted by Jim Carrey and Penguin Random House.
Fourth, find a cover designer. Sure, you might say, you purchased Adobe Indesign and don't need to outsource. I'd still advise you to use a professional cover designer. They're fairly inexpensive. I tried three until I settled on a favorite. My cover designer, who has five stars, is experienced in Amazon and IngramSpark specks/formats and will guide you. She also offers you three formats: Amazon, IngramSpark, and a free mockup. Her picturebook mockup is a little warped, but I still like her communication and her professionalism. Also, if you don't like her work, she offers revision. Just make sure you seek revision within the allotted time.
Fifth, illustrations! If you're a children's writer, you know images are a must. Without pictures, you will lose young readers since words and images work together, to enchance a child's overall reading experience. Don't fret! Prices vary from $50 to $5,000 (not kidding). I just want to comment about the varation in price...I wouldn't agree with the sentiments, "you get what you pay for." I haven't found that to be true in most cases. But I found prices vary according to experience. Yet, many are brilliant as they are talented. We should be grateful, for sure.
Sixth, formatting! I researched so many possibilities from outsourcing to purchasing a writing program. In the end and after months of research, I opted to go with Adobe Indesign. There's definitely a learning curve, because at first, it's quite frustrating if you have no graphic design background. My go-to book, How do I Do That In Indesign, is helpful for the quickest way to do things in InDesign. You could also watch YouTube videos. If you need a children's formatter, there's Upworks. What about ISBN's? Well, it's not a must. Yet, I should mention if you want to own your own ISBNs, purchase them. I used
Bowker Identifiers and from the book I read, it's the only legit company in the USA. In Canada, they're free. Expect to pay $125 for one; $295 for 10; $575 for 100. Also, while Amazon will give you an ISBN, IngramSpark requires you to have one. I decided to purchase my own after I'd read "My Publishing Imprint: How to Create a Self-Publishing Book Imprint & ISBN Essentials," which convinced me that it made sense to own them. I even gave the book a 4-star (follow the above link and scroll down to find it). At the time, I was happily spending my tax returns. It's banking on me, finally! Hence, I needed enough to cover my upcoming series, which have endless possibilities and various formats, which also require separate ISBNs. To reiterate, Amazon will supply you with an ISBN, but for IngramSpark, you will need one immediately. (An option is to hold off on IngramSpark until your book makes enough money to purchase an ISBN ).
Okay, so if you've reached step seven, you're close to putting your work together. Now, open an account on Amazon's CreateSpace/Kindle, follow directions and upload your front and back covers. Amazon and Ingramspark request those files separately. I think the easiest way to ensure your work looks the best is upload the digital first and use the view tool, to see if it's all formatted correctly. Just note, if you have pictures that should be facing a certain way, double-check it when you also uploud your paper format. Apparently, Amazon adds a page, which can change the facing pages for your images. Just be aware of that! (In later posts, I will address categories; difference between Ingramsparks and Amazon; various book formats). If you've reached here, I hope you've already researched how to save and upload to Amazon/IngramSparks. It's straightforward, but you won't get that from watching the videos. :-)
Congratulations! Oh, nope, don't relax! Now put on your marketing hat! Again, this is where I will defer to Fivver. They have people dedicated to SEOs and marketers. What? SEOs? It's related to backlinks and how search engines find you...well, in this case, your book on your Author's Page. I suppose it's like being popular on social media, the more you're connected, the more you land in the top few pages. Right, who bothers scrolling beyond 10 pages? I am in the process of making use of backlinks! We will find out in three to four weeks.
As I am writing this blog, I keep hearing my brain say, "Ah, what about a website? Am I hearing you ask, which domain server did you use? Well, since you asked: Network Solutions? It isn't necessary, honestly, and for sure, you need time to construct it, yet it has advantages. What about an Amazon's author page? Or what about reviews? What about social media? What about a business name? Should you register as a business with the state and IRS? (Do not pay anyone to register your business. It's easy to do. I linked to the IRS for you and for the state, look up your state). What about a business account? I found Radius Bank to be worthy of its growing reputation (Use my code if you decide to use them at NAJA623A7DB and we both could get $50...Learn to say yes, especially to money!) Should you use a separate mailing address for your business? What about Audible? What about adding your book to KDP exclusive? These are good questions. I certainly did all the above and will write about those topics in later posts. However, if you want answers now, feel free to research it.
Again, if it sounds like a lot of work, that's because it is--you're wearing two hats...in addition to your coveted writer's hat. In no time, you will reap all the benefits of authorship and forget about your hardwork...sort of like birthing a child, you forget about the labor...you make way for the nurturing, to make your baby shine. In time, you will find it was all worth your hardwork.
Najah "Nashayah" Jabbar is the author of From a Circle and From a Rectangle plus upcoming books. While she earns a small profit to market the above products, they were all products used in the making of her books.