Getting your book published

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Wertbag    152

I successfully self-published my first book (https://www.amazon.com/Day-Before-Inquisition-Glen-Allison-ebook/dp/B06ZY2BHB8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492656259&sr=8-1&keywords=the+day+before+the+inquisition) and in my case the project was about learning about the industry, learning new skills and at the end of the day having a paperback novel in my hand with my name on it.  I’m not going to become a professional writer, it is nigh on impossible to do so now days.  If you have a look on Amazon at the numbers of books available there are over 1.5 million fiction books, 2.2 million non-fiction and over 400k religious books.  Any single category could fill a whole library.  What I wanted to do was write up a quick ‘lessons learned’ for anyone who is considering doing a book of their own to hopefully help better understand the process.


The first thing you have to understand is there are 3 types of publishers: 

Traditional publishers -  such as Corgi, Random House, Penguin etc.  They work on the idea of purchasing your copyright.  They will pay you $5000-$10,000 upfront, but they take all of the risk and artistic license.  They will pay for printing, proof reading, marketing and art, but in return the profit split is usually 90/10 to them.  As they own the copyright they can rework your book, make changes or do anything that they deem will help increase sales.  The loss of artistic control puts some authors off.

The other thing to remember with traditional publishers is that it is incredibly hard to get picked up by one.  You have to submit your manuscript in a very specific way (size, font, length, physical or soft copy, double spaced etc) then it goes, along with 200 other books, to an editor who will browse through and pick 1% that are worth investigating further.  There was the famous story of the Harry Potter novels, submitted to 12 different publishers before JK Rowling gave up and decided to self-publish. She became a billionaire.  The publishing industry is slow (it commonly takes 3-4 months for a reply but can take as long as 12) and so flooded with works that it is a miracle to be picked (Amazon lists ~80k books released per month!)


Vanity Publishers – such as Author House and Xlibris.  These are the dodgy, in it for the money types who will try to get you to purchase a package deal.  They call themselves self-publishers but then lock you into contracts with them.  They don’t buy your copyright, but by demanding a printing contract they are the ones who chose where it is released, at what price and can discontinue the book at any time.  If you want to take your book to another publisher you have to buy the rights to your own book back.

The package deals will range from $1000 up to $20k and include everything from proof reading to art, to marketing and social media setup. 

Some of the dodgy business practices include giving one free edit of your book, then intentionally putting mistakes and poor formatting in so that you have to go back several times to correct their mistakes and being charged for the privilege.  Or giving a proof reading service that only covers 20-30 thousand words (about 100 pages) with an hourly limit or per word cost charged over that (buried in fine print) so what was advertised as $400-$500 comes out close to $2k.


Self-Published – Such as Createspace (by Amazon), Lulu, Smashwords etc.  These services provide a set of tools that allow you to produce a digital book file.  You use a website to design your cover, format your interior and choose your distribution options.  I personally used Createspace and found it a great service and completely free.  There are optional services you can choose to make use of such as art, proof reading or marketing, but I used none of those and was perfectly happy with the final result.  Once the digital book is created that is made available for Print on Demand services, so no physical copies are produced, it is only when a customer pays for your book on a website that the order is passed to the nearest printer and couriered out to them.  Alternatively you can convert your book into an e-book, the process is quick and easy as you are already dealing with a digital file.

You do have to do your own marketing and this is the hardest part.  You can go on goodreads.com to list your book, you can make a Facebook page and bring it up in blogs and discussions, you can do book signings and give-aways, but there will be a thousand other authors doing the same thing.  One of the biggest sales pushes comes from winning book competitions, but this also is highly contended and often has an upfront cost.


Formatting – There are few hard and fast rules, as a lot of formatting choices come down to personal preference.  Things such as whether you right justify your text (give it a smooth right hand edge by automatically adding spaces) or leave the right jagged.  99% of novels will be right justified as it does give a more professional/polished look, however it has been found that people with reading disabilities can struggle with the uneven spacing, so if your target audience is people that fall into that category then perhaps jagged is a better choice.

I found it helpful to use the interior design tool early on to get the correct page size and to turn on the feature called ‘mirrored offset margins’.  This is where the page on the left has a big right margin while the page on the right has a big left margin. Those margins are the part that will form the spine of the book and are the unreadable space.  Writing the book with the formatting already in its final form helps you visualise the page layout and better know the total number of pages in your finished product.  It is worth noting you will not see a spine in the cover creator until your interior is at least 130 pages, as that is the minimum width required.

You also have to select a font to use.  Most traditional publishers will ask for your manuscript to be in 12pt Times Roman and they will select a different option later.  When you self-publish you have to make that call yourself.  I chose Georgia, as a fairly easy on the eyes font, but again it is personal preference.  If you use a non-common font you have to make sure to embed the font into your document so the printers have it included for their use.

I would say Microsoft Word is a requirement.  There are other programs such as Open Office or Libre Office which are fine for the basic formatting and data entry, but Word’s spelling, punctuation and grammar checks are far superior to the other products.  You always have to carefully consider the changes it suggests as sometimes you intentionally make mistakes, especially when doing dialogue as it is more realistic “What cha all look’n at? Ain’t ya never seen a pig fly before?”

Other things that you should do to give it a professional looking style include: capitalising the first word in dialogue eg:  John turned to Sue and said “Hello.” With the closing punctuation within the speech marks.  Consider your language for the timeframe you are discussing (modern words in fantasy novels are really jarring).  Only do a single space after a full stop (especially if you are right justifying your page as it is already adding additional spaces).  Remember to add a title page and a copyright page to the beginning of your book.  And always make sure your word processor has the right dictionary setup (UK vs US).


Submitting – To finalise your book you will have needed to complete a couple of steps.  Firstly there is a tax form to complete.  Being from New Zealand I was able to select ‘non-US citizen’, enter my tax code, name, date and address and it was pretty much done. 

Second your distribution choices.  I can’t understand why you wouldn’t select all options, but perhaps if your work is full of porn you may want to choose not to offer it to schools.  I selected all which puts it on every Amazon website (.com, .uk, .it, .de etc 6 for print books and 12 for e-books), makes it available for other websites (book resellers), libraries, retailers, schools and on the Createspace website.

Third you have to select a price to sell it for.  This can be tricky, but browsing online stores you can get a good idea of what books in your genre are going for.  I found a fantasy novel was ~$9.99US and an e-book ~$3-6.  I selected the defaults.  They pay a royalty ~50% if the book sells via an Amazon website, about half that if it sells via another website, and ~75% for an e-book.

Finally you submit the book to their final check.  They will look for objectionable material (bomb making, drug making, child/animal porn, breach of trademarks etc) and for any formatting issues that will stop it from being printable.  It is best to try and avoid using brand names or famous people’s names due to the risk of copyright/IP infringement.  It is usually easy enough to say “he walked into a café” rather than “he walked into a Star Bucks”.  While most companies won’t care a one off usage such as that, if your book ever gets converted to TV or movie then every last word will be carefully considered.


The only thing I spent money on was buying a physical proof copy before making it live.  I’m glad I did because I picked up a few things to correct and it helps to see the size and confirm your cover art prints the way you imagined.  The authors copy costs ~$4 plus $10 shipping (US to NZ) and took about 3 weeks to get to me.  Due to the low price, good end result and because you are doing it for yourself there is no time pressure it made the whole project great fun.


Bit of a random rant off the top of my head, happy to answer questions if you’d like me to expand on anything.


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Thanks! I spent a lot of time reading about this and going to hear small time authors speak about the process. Your approach seems to be in line with what they said to do. I wrote a book about my deconversion experiences and my life prior, but it loses the personal aspect and switches into deconstructing the daily life of a believer for those on the outside. I think it needs more of me in it to make it more of a draw. So I need to edit and re-write it before considering publishing.


Then there are the remaining years I have where I can influence my niece and nephew, so I remain undercover around them and pretend. So it will be a while.

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