This post will probably only be of interest if you are thinking of self-publishing your work at some point but hopefully it will reach a few of you.
Let me start by saying that I am a beginner. I set out on this writing journey armed with a pen and paper and a basic understanding of Word but I knew nothing about advanced formatting, web-design, blogging, posting images online (I don't even have a Facebook account). So when I decided to self-publish, the first thing I did was make a list of what I wanted to achieve and then drew up a timetable. This has been invaluable and I would recommend anyone thinking of going down this path to do the same as it can feel overwhelming when you are starting out. Having that piece of paper can help keep you calm. I also set a 'launch' date and worked back from there. My book is in the supernatural genre so it makes sense to publish early autumn, ready for Halloween and Christmas. I made the decision to self-publish at the end of January so have given myself plenty of time.
Here's my list:
1 Finish manuscript.
2 Have text copy edited by a third party (this will cost).
3 Understand how CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) work.
4 Decide whether to stick with Amazon (which owns both CreateSpace and KDP) or to publish on other platforms. (As my learning curve is so steep, I have decided to deal exclusively with Amazon for now and to ignore other platforms until I have a better idea what I am doing.)
5 Build website and blog (work out cost).
6 Choose title and design book cover (or outsource book cover design - work out cost if outsourcing).
7 Begin to think about how to market the book (libraries, universities, local press, online, printed material? Again, consider costs).
8 Decide on a launch date and whether to have an event (and price it up).
9 Register for public lending rights if book to be stocked in a public library.
Each of the above points has its own sub-list. In today's post I will look at point 1 (manuscript) and also touch on point 3 (understanding CreateSpace and KDP). The others I will save for another day.
As soon as I made the decision to self-publish I jumped straight into point 3 (understanding CreateSpace and KDP). The partially completed manuscript was put aside for about three weeks while I wrapped my brain around what I was thinking of undertaking. I made the decision to self-publish at the end of January this year. At that time I had completed six of the eight stories and I was trying to decide whether to send them off to agents and publishers. But my research showed that many agents didn't accept unsolicited collections of short stories and then someone mentioned CreateSpace.
I had heard of 'e-publishing' and 'self-publishing', of course, but what I hadn't realised was how accessible it was. Further, I discovered that Amazon didn't just have a facility for publishing e-books (via KDP) but also had a sister company which enabled people to generate good quality print copies of their books (CreateSpace). This was an important moment as I wanted to create a physical book, something I could pass around relatives who don't use e-readers, something I could sign, and/or give as a gift. I also think that spooky tales work well when read from crinkly yellow paper. (Plus self-published titles never go out of print. They are printed on demand each time an order comes in and so do not disappear even if sales are low.)
Tip: What I should have done next was visit the CreateSpace website (www.createspace.com) and set up an account. (It's free - just a username and password required). Once you have an account you can see the steps that need to be completed (see the picture above for a snapshot of my member dashboard) and it gives you a clearer idea about what you are undertaking. Even if you do not set up an account, you can download a Word template from the CreateSpace website which you can then use for your manuscript. I didn't do this. I thought that I would finish my manuscript first. This is not necessary and I would recommend that anyone who is serious about going down this route considers setting up an account early in the process. At least take a look around the website and the Word templates available. Update: one thing I have found with book 2 is that if I type my WIP straight into the CreateSpace Word template it is not very efficient from a printing and reviewing perspective as you only get a few hundred words per page (as it is set out like the real book). You can increase the size of the fonts so that each page fills a side of A4 (by going into print/scale to paper size/A4) which makes it bigger and easier to read on paper but you still only end up with the same word count per page. I can see this becoming frustrating and so I may actually revert to my previous practice of pasting my WIP into the template when it is at an advanced stage but you may feel differently. I suppose the message is that if you haven't done this before, this will only really make sense to you if you take a look at the templates, play around with them and see what works for you.
What I DID do: I bought an e-copy of 'CreateSpace & Kindle Self-Publishing Masterclass' by Rick Smith and read through it. From this I learned that my manuscript needs to be formatted differently for the printed book and the e-book (after all, they are two very different platforms). If you are planning on producing both a physical book and an e-book (like me) Mr Smith recommends starting with the CreateSpace version as Amazon has a facility which then automatically converts the CreateSpace manuscript into a version which is compatible with KDP. I decided to follow this advice.
Please note that the version I have of this book (2nd edition 2015) does not contain up-to-date information regarding the US/UK tax position. I assume Mr Smith will update but if you find a version which says anything other than 'use the online Amazon form and input your NI number' then double check you have the most recent information available as the process has been significantly simplified and a few minutes filling in an on-line form should do the trick if you have no other connection with the US.
I also began looking at how other books were being presented/designed and taking pictures of (and measuring!) the ones that I liked. It might seem like you are getting ahead of yourself if you haven't even finished writing your book but if you want to download the formatted Word template from CreateSpace and work directly into it, you need to know what size your book is going to be (ie the 'trim' size). I have chosen 5" x 8".
With my next book, I will decide on a trim size at the outset, download the Word template from CreateSpace and work directly into it. (Update: please see my comment above regarding the use of the template during the WIP stage). As it stands, I have had to copy and paste my manuscript into the template (although it hasn't given me too many problems at all and I may actually revert to this practice given the issues arising as I edit - please see above). Please note that you do not have to use the template provided by CreateSpace but you will need a reasonably sophisticated knowledge of book formatting if you decide to go it alone. The template provided sets out the print margins, chapter breaks, contents page etc for you so all you have to do is provide the words. It was the obvious choice for me.
Tip: Try and keep manual tabs/indents out of your manuscript. Apparently they can cause problems. I was aware of this and spent a couple of hours taking them out and using the rulers to set the paragraph indents. I then used the 'central justify' button to set up the asterisks I am using to denote certain scene breaks so there is not a manual 'tab' in sight.
Tip: Ensure that you have not used a document which at any time has contained a table of contents in Word. This contains hyperlinks which can cause problems. The table of contents in the Word template you download from CreateSpace requires you to manually enter the page numbers into the table. Update - this is intended for straightforward fiction manuscripts by beginners who wish to make things as easy as possible.
Tip: You will need to decide upon font size and type and also the spacing between lines so have a good look at the insides of the books you are wanting to emulate and see if you can work out how they have been put together. Rick Smith's book contains some advice. Once you have your Word template you can play around with font sizes and spacing (and indents etc) as much as you want. Each time I make a change I print out a few pages and compare them with published books to see what it looks like (as it prints out at the same size as the finished book). There is no harm in getting a feel for how you want to lay out your book even if you haven't finished writing it. It can provide a nice break from writing and the time spent will not be wasted. There is a lot of information to take in and decisions to make and it helped me to know what these were while I finished my manuscript. It took my brain a while to digest all the information and I have done this gently, over a period of time which I think is better than cramming it once the manuscript is ready to go.
Now my manuscript is in hand (pasted into the CreateSpace template and ready for a copy edit) I am wrestling with designing my book cover and (mostly) enjoying it. I will post separately on this in a few weeks. Thanks for reading (if anyone got this far!) and happy writing.
I love most types of fiction - crime, mystery, fantasy. Oh, and historical fiction of course and middle-grade books and, well, you get the picture.
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