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 (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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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! 🙂