First and foremost you have to have a novel you believe in, if you don't believe it's great, chances are no one else will. We all want to believe we have written a New York Times best seller...but have we? In this blog I'm going to give step by step instructions on how I published all of my novels at minimal expense.
Your word doc should be formatted to a size that is easily used for all the websites. My format: paper size is 5" x 8" with a one inch margin all around. I use either Timesnewroman or Garmond. the indent is .03 justified left first line, single spaced. This format seems to work for all the websites.
Once I get my novel to a point where I feel it's ready for publishing, I go to http://www.editminion.com. All you have to do is copy your text (I do a few paragraphs at a time) and paste it into the box and hit the button "EDIT!". This will take yourtext and show you exactly what is going on with your work (the more colorful the highlighted areas of your text, the more work you have to do to repair it.). Once you have your report, go back and fix the errors. It's not the greatest editor in the world, but if you want to self-publish using little or no funds this is a pretty good tool.
Once I finished with the edit minion, I always put the work aside for a few weeks then go back and read the novel as if I am reading it for the first time (believe me, you will find areas where the sentences don't seem to flow very well). I repair the flow and copy the text (that area only) into the edit minion site and see if there are any huge errors.
Once I'm satisfied with the end result, I go to the on-line copyright office and electronically file my work. This site allows you to submit your work electronically...the fee for doing this yourself is $35.00. Although your work is copyrighted the moment you first save your word document, it is best to have the government behind you. This little fee protects your writing from those individuals that plagiarize. There are some on-line sites that will file the copyright for you, most charge over one hundred dollars.
Once your word doc is submitted to the copyright office (it is protected the very second it's submitted), you can safely send your work anywhere without fear of someone stealing it. There is no need to wait for the copyright number (takes upwards of 6 - 8 weeks).There are plenty of on-line critique and editing sites if you feel you don't want to pay an editor for a "final" edit. The final edit picks up any punctuation or grammatical errors you may have missed. This is the point where you have to ask yourself is my novel worth a couple of hundred dollars. If the answer is yes, then find an editor that will charge you a minimal fee to do the final edit (I use Loretta Gilbert email@example.com).
You'll need a cover for your masterpiece so if your're not very creative you may have to find a site that offers how to advice (youtube for example). If you feel you want to try to design your own cover (you can also use a generic cover most self publishing sites offer) you'll need to go to a website that can offer cover designs for a fee. Some authors I know use Killercovers. I have been trying my hand with photoshop and find I'm not only learning, but I'm also having fun waking up the creative juices in the otherwise dry gray matter I call a brain.
Now that your work is where you want it, you can start the self publishing process. I'm going to state again this process cost me $0.00 or of pocket. Go to smashwords.com and download the free style guide (be prepared, you'll have to set up an account). Format your novel according to the step by step instructions. Smashwords will format you novel for every available e-book out there. You don't have to use smashwords, but it's a great site where you can generate coupons or give free novels to contest winners (once you have up-loaded your files the novel is usually posted for sale immediately). If you chose to just use Amazon, you will have to go to kdp.com and set up an account (this will be linked to your amazon account). Amazon has an offer to authors that sign up to give them exclusive rights to sell your e-book (this will only allow readers that own the kindle or kindle compatible e-readers otherwise people can read on their computers with the amazon kindle download). Anyway, getting back to the e-book publishing, I personally never place my novels just on amazon exclusively. Once you've uploaded your files on amazon, you'll have to wait until the title/content is approved before it goes live (this takes up to 24 hours). While I'm waiting for the novel to go live, I go to Barnes and Noble Publit and upload the same material (Barnes and Noble takes up to 48 hours to make the novel available for purchase).
ASIN: this is a number that is given to your novels (e-book copies only) in lieu of an ISBN. All the above sites will either assign a free ISBN or ASIN number free (I use the free numbers for e-books), however you can purchase your own ISBN numbers through Bowker the cost of an ISBN is $125per number or you can buy a "block" of ten numbers for $250. If you choose to own your own ISBN numbers, you become the publisher and own the rights to publish, promote and sell to whoever and wherever you would like.
ALL FORMATS OF A PUBLISHED NOVEL NEEDS TO HAVE IT'S OWN ISBN!
This brings us to the hard copies of your novel. Even though you're the publisher, you will need a place to print and deliver your novels. I use Lulu for the simple reason I can have my novel printed at a minimal fee and the size (5 1/2 x 8 1/2) is not the same as the size used on lightningsource (more on lightnigsource later). Again you'll have to format your word doc to fit to the proper size (PAGE SIZE MATTERS) if you haven't already (see above). when uploading a file to lulu, you can use the formatted word doc. I don't use my private ISBN on the lulu site for the simple reason the overall cost of the paperback will be extremely high. I allow them to assign a number, yes they own the publishing right to this particular paperback size but not to all size paperbacks. Make sure you use page breaks as specified in the smashwords style guide (insert page breaks at the end of every chapter). once you have your word doc up-loaded, you will be asked if you would like a pdf sent to your e-mail...this is important always say yes! Once you receive the file from lulu, skim through it to make sure your novel looks like other book interiors. if not, go to the original word doc and make the required changes. If your file is satisfactory, click the save and continue button. this will take you to the cover wizard (you will need a front and back cover for this area of the publishing process. You can use their generic covers or upload your own. Again you will be asked if you would like a pdf sent to your email again it is important to say yes. After all the files have been accepted it is now time to fill in the legal mumbo jumbo. Pricing of your paperback novel will be decided by you at this point. By now you have decided if you'll be using a generic ISBN or you have purchased your own. If you use your own ISBN number the cost of the paperback through lulu will be far more than most people are willing to pay, not to mention you won't be able to use the publisher grade paper (go figure) you'll have to use the more expensive paper and it drives the overall cost of the novel through the roof. So for the sake of having a location where you can get inexpensive novels printed do not assign an ISBN number with lulu! Lulu has a "Global Reach" program where they will assign an ISBN number and distribute to various websites (like amazon) the cost for this is $75.00...is it worth it? I really don't know. You can send readers to the lulu site where your novel can be purchased through a link. They say if you purchase an ISBN from them your novel will be listed in the Ingram catalog but this takes more than six months for them to approve the novel for distribution. So in answer to that question I would say the time frame alone makes me not want to pay the $75 fee. I always chose to promote the paperbacks on lulu by sharing a link.
So far the cost for publishing a novel has cost you:
$125.00 or $250.00 ISBN (this is an optional cost that not everyone will opt for)
So the grand total for self publishing your novel is $35.00. By doing everything yourself, you have saved thousands of dollars. All that is left is to promote.
Make a Facebook authors page
create a blog
create a free website
Join sites where authors help authors
Join other various sites where people can see your novels (goodreads as an example).
Have fun with your inexpensive alternative to self publishing. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.
Next post will be Lightning Source and Ingram.