Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

In Part 2 I talked about just how crucial book covers are when it comes to setting yourself up for success in your publishing journey by not defrauding reader expectations. I also listed different options to stay within a reasonable budget or allow you to go wild if you want to go all in. So, with the editing and proofreading done, and the cover ready, there's really only one step left in the production of the book: formatting.

Formatting

I’m going to make this very easy for you. Formatting is the easy part: where you put your book together and it will start to look like a book and not just a manuscript. If you write your book on Microsoft Word, you will probably be aware that the manuscript looks nothing like the interior of a book. So how can you format your book to be ready for self-publishing?

Microsoft Word

Wait... but you just said you can’t format books on Word! Well, I lied. Kind of. Not really. Word is very versatile and allows you to play around with the margins, with the font size and type, with paragraphs, and everything else. This is quite complicated, however, and I would only recommend this to someone who’s really prolific with Word, has plenty of time to spare, and doesn’t want to pay a penny.

If this is the route you decide to take, there are plenty of online tutorials on how to format a book using Word, and then you can always use a file converter to convert the .doc file into .epub or .pdf later on. Another downside for me with doing this is that is can lead to glitches due to the file conversion process, which only makes the whole process longer. Much longer than it needs to be, in my opinion.

Formatting Software

There are computer programs out there that really make book formatting dumb-proof. They’re usually rather intuitive and simple to use.

The most popular one is Vellum, which costs $250 if you want to format both print and ebooks, or $200 if you only want to format ebooks. You pay that price once, and then you can create unlimited ebooks. So, it’s not a subscription service. This will be a one-time expense, meaning the cost will be mitigated the more books you end up formatting throughout your author career. The real down side of Vellum is that it’s only available for Mac users.

If you use Windows or Linux, you can use Vellum’s main competitor, Atticus, which costs $147 for both ebooks and print, and it’s also a lifetime purchase. I personally use Atticus and like it quite a lot, but I understand it’s slightly clunkier than Vellum and also less intuitive. I personally find it very easy to use.

If you are really only interested in publishing ebooks on Amazon specifically, no other store, you can also use the Amazon Kindle Create software, which is 100% free and allows you to transform your manuscript into a full-on ebook.

Formatting Professional

If you’ve got the budget but not the time to learn or the eagerness to dedicate your waking hours to formatting the book, you can hire someone online to do this for you. They will most likely be using Vellum and charge you around $100 to $200 for this service. If you pay more than this, you are being ripped off.

And there you go!

You now have a full-fledged book written, edited, proofread and formatted. It’s ready to publish, right? Hang on a minute...

Let’s not talk about publishing the book on Amazon just yet... Many people get too excited when they complete all these steps, which are already tremendous hard work, and they rush their book release, which severely handicaps their success prospects. There is no point in spending all that money and doing all that work producing the book and writing it, if you’re only doing half the job on the publishing side. So besides book production, what else is a publisher supposed to do with a book? Well, promote it!

Marketing (pre-book launch)

Since the printing press was invented and book selling became a business, publishers have been responsible for not only producing the books, but also distributing them and promoting them. Book promotion is extremely important, everyone knows that. The problem is that traditional publishers typically have several employees besides the author: multiple editors, artists, designers, marketeers. They have got whole departments of them. In self-publishing, all of that falls on your shoulders. Yes, you, the author.

I would go as far as to say that marketing is half of self-publishing. Everything I’ve mentioned up until now, you can and should outsource to other people, but marketing your book is really something you should take upon yourself to do. You can’t just publish your book on Amazon, shout ‘buy me book’ on your preferred social media of choice and hope for the best, because if you do, the ‘best’ will be grim.

There are also lots of scammy so-called 'book promoters' out there, who charge for reviews of your book or other such services which guarantee they'll do specific things to promote your book, but they most certainly will. It can be hard to spot them, so keep your eyes open. This is why I suggest you get comfortable with handling all the marketing yourself from the get-go.

Traditional publishers have distribution and discoverability on their side: they can pay for Barnes and Noble or Waterstones to highlight certain books in their stores, to make them easier to reach readers. They can really push certain books with booksellers to guarantee their lead titles get best-seller status or at least really solid sales. They can pay for billboards in Times Square. They can send the author on book tours. Of course, not all traditionally published books get this royal treatment from their publishers, but you get the picture. They also rely somewhat on Amazon for ebook and audiobook sales, which means they also compete directly with self-published authors (including you!) in the Amazon best-seller rankings. If you are a fantasy author, you can find yourself struggling to climb up the ranks occupied by giants such as George R.R. Martin or J.R.R. Tolkien.

No pressure...

That doesn’t mean all hope is lost for self-publishers. Far from it. There is much you can do and I’m going to take you step by step on how to promote your book and create enough buzz before it is even out. Without the help of brick and mortar stores such as Barnes and Noble, your discoverability will be inherently lower than that of the big traditionally published books, and also smaller than that of the best-selling self-published books which are high on Amazon ranks. Add that to the fact that you are a debut, and Amazon has no idea how relevant your book is to their customers. Readers have never heard of you before, so how can you even start on this insanely uphill battle?

Step number one is harnessing the power of Community. But that is something for Part 4, so stay tuned!

(Continues in Part 4)