Books, Publishing, Teaching Writing, Uncategorized, Writer's Life

Venturing Into Self-Publishing

teacher

It was one thing to consider different publishing options and decide that self-publishing seemed like the best fit for my writing life.

It’s another to move past considering into doing.

The first stages of prepping my novel for its debut haven’t been too bad, largely because I’m fortunate enough to have some excellent people helping me.

But those final stages- especially that moment when the story moves from an obsessively edited Word document to a real paper and print book- loom at the end of the road, unknown and intimidating.

Last month, my students gave me an excuse (ahem, I mean reason) to venture into self-publishing in a somewhat less frightening way.

My 7th and 8th grade Creative Writing class authored short stories under the theme “Fantasy, Myths and Fairytales” which we planned to compile into an anthology. (Thanks to author Dan Alatorre who shared guest posts on anthologies (here and here) and encouraged me to give it a try!)

The process of turning our class project into a book allowed me to check out two major self-publishing venues: Kindle Direct Publishing and Barnes and Noble Press.

Kindle Direct Publishing

Kindle Direct Publishing (or KDP) is Amazon’s self-publishing platform.* KDP allows writers to publish Kindle-friendly e-books and/or print-on-demand paperback copies. There are also options for audio books etc.

Pros

It took me a little while to find out just where on the KDP site I wanted to be, but their self-publishing instructions were worth the search.

KDP provided step by step directions, in the form of 1-2 minute videos, for setting up book formatting essentials like page sizes, fonts and margins. They also included tutorials on as a few things I’d never heard of like “bleed.”

Coupled with my basic working knowledge of Microsoft Word, I was able to set up the anthology with little or no trouble in about an hour.

Cons

While KDP, with Amazon’s wide distribution, is a strong contender for publishing my own book, it wasn’t a great fit for my student anthology.

First of all, the site is geared towards sales- no shock there- meaning that there was no option for buying copies of the book without it also being posted on the main Amazon website. Since I was working with students’ names and information, I didn’t care for that lack of privacy.

Secondly,  setting up an account means providing bank information, tax information, and all sorts of things that I didn’t wish to provide for our little anthology. (Though, once again, this likely isn’t a drawback if you’re using KDP to sell your books!)

Finally (and at least one published author I know doesn’t care for this feature either) once you upload a draft of your book to KDP, you cannot remove it, even if you don’t end up publishing it. While it’s not available for public viewing, if you don’t care to have your draft out there on the internet, plan ahead before you click!

Barnes and Noble Press

Once it became clear that KDP wasn’t the best fit for this project, I started looking for options. The ladies of a writer’s group that I am part of were kind enough to point me to Banes and Noble Press.

Pros

Barnes and Noble (or B&N) has a clear, easy to navigate website. Before you begin your self-publishing process, they will calculate the estimated cost AND allow you to choose if the book will be for general sale or just for personal use.

If you choose their “personal” option, you are not required to provide any banking or tax information. The site has a great array of options for book sizes and styles.

Before the book is available for order, it goes through a review process. I’m not certain what this entails, but I was glad to know that my first attempts at formatting had gone through at least a bit of review.

Cons

B&N has formatting information available on their website, but I did not find it nearly as easy to follow as KDP’s. I was thankful that I was able to use the file I created using KDP’s directions with only a few minor adjustments.

I was also less-than thrilled with their cover options. My students had come up with their own cover picture, and it didn’t fit well into any of the templates. However, I was able to work up a very basic cover using their design on Microsoft Publisher, and, saved as a pdf, it uploaded on to the B&N website and worked perfectly.

colors of imagination
The final background color was a little deeper and less jarring- my computer is being ornery 🙂

As I said, B&N allows you to estimate your project’s cost in advance. However, that cost does not include shipping, taxes or fees. These raised the cost of one anthology (a 42 page book) from $1.50 USD to $8.00. **

I had assumed (never a good idea) that ordering in bulk would offset this a bit, however, when I’ve entered various numbers of books into their “shopping cart” the shipping increases the same amount each time, so that every book is between $7 and $8. If this changes when I actually place our student order, I’ll let you know!

Conclusion

In the end, I did publish and order one copy of our anthology through B&N. The final product is beautiful- sturdy and professional looking. I’m collecting order forms from my students and preparing to place a larger order!

My students are excited to be published authors, and I’m relieved to be able to say that I think I CAN manage self-publishing. I hope my experiences are helpful to you, too!

Writers- do any of you have experience with these or other self-publishing companies? Do you have impressions or stories to share?

As always, many thanks to all of my visitors for stopping by!

 

*Amazon also ran the self-publishing site “Create Space” for some time. However, from what I can find, KDP has completely absorbed them.

** UPDATE: I just ordered 8 books, per student requests. With shipping it only came to $3.00 apiece. I guess it varies, and I still have some things to figure out! 🙂

 

32 thoughts on “Venturing Into Self-Publishing”

    1. I’m so glad! There are so many appealing things about traditional, aren’t there? It just came down to the fact that I still have little kiddos and am getting back to work on TOP of writing, and I need to be able to choose how much time I put into it. We’ll see how it goes…. Best wishes on your writers’ journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. My friend, writer Richard Lassin, has self published his books and his latest, Red Jacket (historical fiction) he is really trying to work with. He printed (not sure where) and has been making the rounds to Michigan book stores, reviewers, etc. and is doing fairly well. He says the big challenge in self-publishing is marketing the thing because you don’t have agent or publisher support. It’s on your dime and your time. In some ways, he had a regional and historical swing so has had copies in bookstores in the area where the book took place, did newspaper interviews, readings, etc., but it takes time to make those arrangements and travel money if not local. He’s done the Amazon thing and I think Red Jacket IS on Amazon. For the student anthology, of course, none of that would much matter, but for your own work, it’s a component I’m not sure everyone keeps in mind — we’re just so darned glad to get the thing done! Here’s a blog interview I did with Richard. The self-publishing/marketing parts are near the bottom. https://themarmeladegypsy.blogspot.com/2018/10/an-interview-with-author-richard-lassin.html

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The “on your dime” is the tricky part, isn’t it? And the market is so saturated that figuring out just WHERE to spend those dimes most effectively is another headache. Of course, my friend who’s been picked up with small press is STILL being asked to put an awful lot of time into marketing her book- that was a big push for me to just go for it on my own. I need to be able to decide just how much time I can commit.
      Thanks so much for sharing the interview AND a new historical fiction title to check out! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very helpful post, Anne. Although I have several books published traditionally, I’ve been seriously considering going the self-pub route. I appreciate the info you presented. Thanks, and best of luck with the anthology and your own book! 🙂
    –Michael

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Michael! With all of the publication options out there, it’s a lot of information to sift through- glad to hear this was helpful, and thanks for the kind words 🙂 (I’ve still got your book on my TBR list- teaching this year is just kind of wiping me out! )

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have not done the KDP Publishing except for my ebook. Create Space was the best but they were absorbed by KDP. I wonder if they have the same customer service as Create Space. Small Presses which are sometimes called Vanity Presses ask for upfront fees which can get enormous and for writers with small budget is not a good idea. Marketing is a lot of work but now even traditional publishers want you to do marketing unless you’re a celebrity. It’s a lot to learn.
    Best of luck on your writing journey.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I heard good things about Create Space- too bad it shut down.
      I’ve heard the same thing about traditional publishers expecting you to do your own marketing-it was a nudge towards just doing it myself 😉
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You talk about your reasons to go into self publishing, I was told by an author that I should not do self publishing and should go through an agent. I’m not close to that step quite yet, but it hasn’t cleared up anything for me to help make a decision.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a tricky choice, and it will probably hinge on what you want to do as a writer.
      If you decide you’d rather go through an agent, that means first finding agents who fit your genre, sending out query letters to them and having them offer you representation- that’s if you want to go traditional publishing. Word is that there are some great things about that path- working with experienced people, and someone else footing at least part of the bill for advertising etc.
      However, there’s still a LOT of marketing etc that’s expected of new authors, and there’s a certain amount of creative control that has to be given over.
      Self-publishing means having to find all of the people you’ll work with for editing, marketing, cover design and everything on your own. However, you get to keep complete control over how, when and what you write. That was the selling point for me- I teach and have small kids and other obligations. I want to create a professional book, but at this stage of my life, binding myself to someone else’s publications schedules just isn’t workable, and I’ve found great people to work with to make the book the best it can be.
      Of course, even if you’re looking full-time career writing, there are self-published authors who’ve done very well. (That movie that came out a couple of years ago- The Martian? Originally a self-published book 🙂 )
      Sorry, that’s a long reply- I hope it was helpful, though! If anything needs clarification, feel free to let me know 🙂
      Best wishes as you try to find the path that works best for you!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you so much for your comment. That is a lot to think about as I write my first book. I feel there are pros and cons to both sides. That is something I will need to think more about when I get to that stage. I probably should have an idea right from the start, but I’d rather focus as much energy as I can on my writing. I too have young children so I mostly work around their schedules. Thank you for all your input though. It is very helpful.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. I haven’t got to the publishing phase yet. Currently in the ‘Oh So Fun’ editing phase. I didn’t know about Barnes & Noble Press. Will look in to it. I wonder if you can do both?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Ha- editing is a headache, isn’t it?! Though I do like to watch a story get stronger. And yes, you can do both- a number of authors I know “go broad” through different distributers. However, word is there are incentives, at least through Amazon, to only going through them- access to some marketing tools, and the Kindle Unlimited program.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is hugely helpful … thank you so much for writing this. I’m nearing the end of the first draft of my book and whilst I hadn’t really thought that self publishing was for me, it doesn’t sound quite so bad as I had originally thought. Thanks again. Katie

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so glad that you found this helpful Katie! It can all look a little daunting- so far, the key for me has been to find people who’ve done it who can talk me down when I panic about all of the steps 😉 Congrats on nearing the end of the first draft- that’s a huge accomplishment!

      Liked by 1 person

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