Updated: Dec 21, 2021
I mentioned last week the importance of recognizing self-publishing as a viable option when finishing off a manuscript and deciding where to go from there. With my poetry book, I knew from the start that would need to self-publish. There are very few agents for poetry out there and it is difficult enough to get an agent when you have a fiction novel and thousands of agents to choose from to send queries to.
What do you do when you have made the decision to self-publish though?
I am sure that there are plenty of different routes to go—all viable options—but I decided to work with KDP (amazon's self-publishing resource).
The unfortunate thing was I didn't really know to work with it at all at first. Dad, who has previously published books (as well as Mum) directed me to KDP's site and got me started.
But the reality was, I had none of what I needed, despite having the site that I needed to plug it all into.
I had the starting product—the finished, polished, edited manuscript all ready to be turned into a lovely poetry book—and I had the end resource—the place to plug in my formatted manuscript and cover as well as the blurb, the keywords and so much more.
I had work to do and I didn't know how to do it. Or how much it was going to cost. Because the reality was, I didn't know how much this book was going to make me and I was not going to invest thousands of dollars into a book cover only to sell one or two copies.
Then I did some research and found Fiverr.
Fiverr is great. The site is a place where professionals (or people less professional) can sell their expertise to people like me looking for the interior design of a book or a book cover. The "gigs" can cost as low as $5 and could cover the entire project if you are careful to find the right person, lay out the terms before buying anything, and always check the product they give you before approving it.
The first step, I found, was getting the manuscript formatted. I researched multiple interior designers, finally found one that would do it for me for a low price and got the formatting done.
It took many repetitions to get the formatting done. I paid $5 (plus the Fiverr $2 fee) originally but the formatter was working so hard, I then gave him more, and then tipped him when he was done. I didn't check the work properly though and I missed a few things and had to ask for more formatting. Not only that but when I finally completed the cover and got an author's proof, there were a few issues that had to be fixed (issues that cannot be noticed before printing). I eventually even had to change formatters to get the final issues fixed and I missed issues in the final author's proof and had to get them fixed while the book was live.
The cover was an entirely different story. While the formatters were, largely helpful and easy to work with (the difficulties were not entirely on their part but partially my own inability to notice things and/or the two of us working to get things just right), the cover artist I attempted to work with was a nightmare.
I gave him instructions, described what I was looking for, and provided two potential photos for him to use (from Unsplash which is CC0). I even pointed him in the right direction, explaining which of the photos I preferred (the one that was used in the cover in the end. I was provided with covers that looked as though a child could have put them together. They were nasty. I tried again, providing him, this time, with something I worked up using a free trial of photoshop and the photo I liked best. "This is what I want," I told him. "Just make it better." He made it worse.
Finally, I realized that I could do something just as good, if not better than the cover artist I had hired had and I did so. I had KDP make me a template for my book's dimensions. I made the cover. I edited it when it wasn't quite right on the first author's proof (and on the second when I had to reach out to a friend for help because my photoshop trial had run out).
Finally, I had a cover (and a working blurb and about the author which had to be included on the cover) and a formatted manuscript. I plugged them into KDP (and I ordered 3 author's proofs one after the other, fixing things in between to make them perfect. They cost me $6 apiece since KDP doesn't fall under amazon's free shipping.) and all I had left to do was enter the last bits of information KDP needed.
Thanks to Dad's subscription, I was able to use publisher rocket to find the best keywords and categories to make my book look good. Publisher rocket helps you to see which keywords are searched most, which categories have the least amount of books in them (allowing you to climb to the top of the category easier), and other similar things.
Finally, Dad helped me to choose a price. I really have no advice for this part of self-publishing. It is probably the hardest thing to do. How do you put a price on your writing? What do you think that others will pay for it? What do you wish others would pay for it?
It is a difficult decision. But finally, I made it and I pressed the button to publish my book.
It was a very anticlimactic moment. You press the button, excited to see your book go live and then you get a message that Amazon is reading over your book and cover, etc. to check that it is appropriate and all that jazz.
I pressed the button 8th of December, 2020. I got the message on the 9th of December that my book had gone live.
I have now sold almost 20 books (some even going over the world) and have my agent in New Zealand (Nana) selling another 20 books there. It may not be much but I believe I have the ability to make an impact with every book sold.
I hope that you are inspired to feel the same about your book whether you self-publish or publish conventionally.