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Step 8: Convert to correct file formats 

In order to publish with Amazon KDP or Ingram Sparks (or any number of other distributors/retailers), you will need to have your interior file in PDF & EPUB.

 

Why convert to MOBI? You don't have to, and it is a labor intensive step, but one that allows you to share your book in a Kindle-friendly format directly with readers (to ARC readers, for example). If you do not choose to produce a MOBI version, you can still share your book directly with Kindle readers in PDF, the format just isn't as pretty. 

Step 8.1: Create your PDF

  • For Mac users:  

    • select File → Export to → PDF

  • For Windows users:  

    • select File → Save as → PDF

Step 8.2: Create your EPUB

  • For Mac users (version 10.13 or higher) this process is easy - you need to:  

    • open your manuscript in Pages

    • select File → Export to → EPUB

    • insert your title and author name *this will be your metadata title, so it's very important it appears how you'd like it to appear in people's devices!*

    • cover → choose an image → insert your JPEG cover file

    • layout should be set to reflowable

    • advanced options → category → choose the category for your manuscript

    • language → choose your language

    • click the check boxes to include your table of contents (set from the pages settings for headings you have included in your document) and embedded fonts

    • Next → Save

    • Try opening your book and testing how it looks in your default EPUB reader (I use iBooks for desktop)

 

  • For Windows users there are two options:

    • Option 1: use a PDF convertor

    • Option 2: Build your EPUB from scratch using SIGIL (recommended)

      • Open SIGIL

      • Add text: Make sure your “Book Browser” is open so you can navigate easily within the document (View → Book Browser). You’ll see something in the dropdown menu under Text called Section001.html – make sure this is an HTML file and not an XHTML. To make the change just left click on Section001.html and rename the file. Right click again to add blank HTML files. These will appear as Section002.html, Section003.html and so on. Paste your plain text chapters into these different sections and make sure to use the h1, h2, h3… buttons for your chapter titles. This will enable you to easily generate a Table of Contents.

      • Create your Table of Contents: Navigate to Tools → Table of Contents → Generate Table of Contents. You'll see no visible change so you will next need to go to Tools → Table of Contents → Create HTML Table of Contents.

      • Add your cover file: Go to Tools → Add A Cover. Here is where you can upload the JPEG cover of your book.

      • ​Don't forget your metadata! Navigate to Tools → Metadata Editor and make sure that you have inputted and saved the book title & author info. This will ensure that when people purchase the ebook the title appears at the top of the Kindle or iPad rather than [no data]. 

Step 8.3: Create your MOBI *optional step*

With a PDF and EPUB, you are set to upload your book to Ingram or Amazon, or give/sell copies of your book directly to readers. However, I often get requests for Kindle format when sending books to my ARC community (sign up at the newsletter subscriber link below to join my ARC team). This Kindle format = .mobi. To get your MOBI, you'll need to...

For Mac users:

  • Upload your EPUB to Calibre, then export as a MOBI file

For Windows users:

  • Upload your Word, PDF, or newly created EPUB file to Calibre, then export as a MOBI file

TO NOTE: I'm not as dedicated in outlining this process myself as I haven't done it! But I will continue to update with feedback from those who are more familiar, and after I go through this process with my next release. 

FREE (mini) Guide to Self-Publishing 

Why I made a guide

The idea for this mini guide came after I published Saltlands in May 2016. During this process, I noticed that there were very few FREE publishing resources. Several years later, publishing has been made much easier through platforms like Amazon publishing. However, this still limits you to Amazon.

 

What does this guide help you do? Answer: create PDF, EPUB (and MOBI, optional) files of your manuscript, as well as PDF and JPEGs of your book cover with all of the required (and optional nice to haves) information and metadata needed to publish your book through the big name distributors, like Ingram Sparks, or retailers like Amazon KDP.

A couple words of warning: 1) I work on a Mac; and 2) don't feel panicked if you are following these steps and may need to skip between them - this is simply the order that I've found works best. 

Skip straight to...

Author Resources

Step 1: Design your cover

 

You've typed "The End" on the final page of your manuscript. Now what? I like to commission the design for my cover as a first step. To do this, you can create a mood board, search for bestsellers in your genre to get some ideas on what is working, hand sketch a concept yourself, or type your ideas out clearly. Send these ideas to your selected designer. Don't know where to start the search? Below are a few ideas submitted to me by happy authors:
 

 

* If you have a name you'd like to add, please let me know!

Step 2: Edit your manuscript

 

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD, PLEASE DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! 

Too many self-published authors these days have such poorly edited manuscripts, please be one of the few who takes the time and care to at the very least, line edit your book. There are three different types of editing and their scope:

  • developmental editing - story arc and progression, character arc and development, plot holes and larger, macro-issues 

  • line / copy editing - spelling, grammar and punctuation  

  • proofreading - final pass intended to catch anything missed in the line editing process.

 

If you have the means, you should absolutely invest in all three, though a line editor is really the bare minimum. Understanding that these services are expensive, a fantastic alternative is to go through an ARC process and share your book in advance with potential readers who will take a look at your manuscript after it is fully formatted, but before it hits the book or e-book shelves. These ARC readers will not only be the first to provide you with reviews (ARC books are usually handed out in exchange for the commitment to review the novel the day of or prior to its release date), but can also be a great source for catching any typos / mistakes.

If you have the cash to invest in a professional editor, here are a few you can get started with recommended by me and other happy authors:    

* If you have a name you'd like to add, please let me know!

Step 3: Format your interior file

This is a multistep process.

Step 3.1: Pick a size *print book only*

 

E-books can be any size, or remain in standard letter / A4. For print books, this is a great FREE guide by The Book Designer to selecting a size for your book. The most common trim sizes for standard trade fiction and nonfiction books are:

  • 5" x 8"

  • 5.5" x 8.5" (my books are all 5.5” x 8.5”)

  • 6" x 9"  

 

Once you've selected the size you'd like, open your manuscript document and make the necessary changes. Please note, I use a Mac so all of this is done with Mac commands, which may differ on a PC. 

 

  • If you are using Microsoft Word: 

    • select File → Page Setup → Paper Size → Manage Custom Sizes

    • enter your width x length sizes

    • hit Enter 

  • If you are using Pages (Mac version 10.13. or higher only): 

    • ​select File → Page Setup → Manage Custom Sizes

    • enter your width x length sizes

    • hit OK

Step 3.2: Pick a font *both print and e-book*

 

The most common fonts for novels published by publishing houses are:

  • Minion

  • ITC New Baskerville

  • FF Scala

  • FF Scala Sans

 

Because these are custom fonts, most self-published authors will use:

  • Times New Roman

  • Garamond

  • Bookman Old Style

  • Book Antiqua 

  • Georgia (this is not actually on the list of common fonts, but is the one I used for the Population series)

Step 3.3: Set your margins and spacing *print book only*

 

  • Set your margins in Microsoft Word:

    • File → Document Setup → Margins

    • Select facing pages - this will ensure that the bound part of your book page has a wider margin and that your book will be readable when opened 

    • Set your margins (I used .5” margins on the top and bottom, .75” margins on the inside margin and .55" on the outside margin) 

  • Set your spacing in Microsoft Word: 

    • Format → Paragraph → Line Spacing → Exactly (I used exactly 17pt spacing, though you can experiment with different options)

  • Set your margins in Pages (Mac only):

    • Make sure your toolbar is visible (View → Show toolbar)

    • Select the document icon → Document → Document Margins

    • Select the checkbox for facing pages - this will ensure that the bound part of your book page has a wider margin and that your book will be readable when opened 

    • Set your margins (I used .5” margins on the top and bottom, .75” margins on the inside margin and .55" on the outside margin) 

  • Set your spacing in Pages (Mac only)

    • Make sure your toolbar is visible (View → Show toolbar)

    • Select the format icon → Style → Spacing → Exactly (I used exactly 17pt spacing, though you can experiment with different options)

Step 3.4:  Leave space for your book details *optional, but recommended step*

 

When you open any book, there is typically a page in the beginning that includes important publication information. You will need to set aside a page or two for:

 

  • Your Name © Copyright Year

  • Place of publication

  • All rights reserved, and where a reader should contact you or your publishing house for any questions around rights, republication, or media inquiries

  • ISBN numbers

  • LCCN number 

  • Table of contents *optional for print, required for ebooks* *it is helpful in this step to make sure that you are using document headings as this will generate your table of contents when you convert to EPUB (step 8.1 for Macs)*

  • Credit your cover artist

Step 4: Price your book

If you've ever wondered how much to charge for your books, you are not alone. This is a tricky step and will depend on the distribution channels you prefer. Ingram Sparks offers a helpful guide here. Overall, I recommend researching books in your genre and pricing your books in range of what other authors are offering. If you are a more established author, you can afford to price on the higher end. A newer author may need to price on the lower end of the spectrum. However, there are two things that need to be taken into consideration first: 

 

For your print book: 

If you are using Ingram, you have to price your book high enough that you do not incur negative author royalties. How do you make sure you set your pricing high enough? 

  • Login to Ingram Sparks (see step 11 below for more in Ingram)

  • Set your price

  • Set a wholesale discount at 55%

  • Check the box to make your book returnable

 

Ingram will then calculate your royalty for you and if it appears in the negative (in red), you need to set the price of your book higher. If you do not do this, then bookstores will not be able to buy your book and you will not be able to distribute it through most channels. 

 

For your ebook *a note on KDP Select*: 

If you choose to go through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, you can earn higher royalties if you enroll in KDP Select. This places your Kindle book in the lending library, and on Kindle Unlimited, offering your book for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. You are then paid according to how many pages of your book are read in any given month. I highly recommend enrolling if you're marketing budgets are low, only have a few books out, and you don't have a huge subscriber database (all of these are true for me and I have earned a lot more since enrolling in KDP Select). However, there are downsides. I've outlined the positives and negatives from my perspective, below. 

 

Upsides of KDP Select:

  • Higher royalties (up to 70%)

  • Better advertising - Amazon loves promoting it's KDP Select authors, you get a lot more visibility

  • You don't have to worry about pricing


Downsides of KDP Select: 

  •  You are limited to distributing your ebook exclusively through Amazon

Step 5: Buy your ISBN

If you plan to publish your book exclusively through Amazon, you can get a free print book ISBN from Amazon direct publishing services.

 

For those of you looking for global distribution...

  • head to Bowker Identifier Services

  • buy your ISBNs *print and ebooks need two separate ISBNs, so if you plan to publish both, or if you plan to publish more than one book in your lifetime, you save money by purchasing a package of 3 or 10

  • assign your ISBNs by uploading your cover image, filling in your book details, and pricing information

  • purchase a barcode for your print book (can also be bought as part of the above ISBN packages)

  • assign your barcode by filling in your book details and pricing information

This is an optional step, but getting an Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) for your print book allows your book to be found and purchased by libraries. It is not possible for a library to buy your book without it.

 

To do so go to the LOC website. You can find a more complete step-by-step guide by following this link.

 

NOTE: You will need to create an application to participate in the PCN program in order to get your LCCN. You do not need to be a publisher in order to be accepted into the program or get your LCCN! Just apply with your own name and address here.

This step is the easiest - you don't need to do anything to copyright your work!

 

You are fully protected by copyright law from the moment you fix your work in tangible form. What does that mean? The work is yours the moment you write it down. In countries that have an official copyright registration process – and many don't – registration provides no additional copyright protection. Read more about why NOT to copyright your work on Writer Beware and for you lawyers, you can read the official copyright laws here

Step 7: Copyright your work

Step 6: Get your LCCN

Step 9: Share your book with the world

At this stage, you should have: 

  • interior files of your manuscript in EPUB and PDF (and possibly MOBI)

  • full cover file in PDF from your book cover designer

  • front and back cover files in JPEG or PNG from your book cover designer

With these ingredients, you are ready to select your distribution channel. I recommend a combination of: 

You can distribute through both channels at the same time (unless you are intending to enroll your ebook in KDP select) - read this article on why you should. 

Once you register with your accounts, you will in either case be prompted for your cover, the files you have already created, pricing information (this MUST match what is on your barcode and the price you assigned to your ISBN), and book details. Be sure to pick good categories for your market, and use the right language in promoting your book (this has been a bit of trial and error for me). 

I won't go through the step-by-step processes as these are outlined in great detail on the sites themselves but feel free to email me or Tweet at me if you need help at the contact information in the footer of this site.

Celebrate often and celebrate loud. If you made it this far (literally, just reading this far...) then you'll know how much work goes into publishing a book and how HUGE the accomplishment is. It's easy to forget when you've finally hit the "Publish" button on whatever distributor you choose, sent out your first EPUB to an advanced reader, or held your own paperback in your hands. 

Don't forget to enjoy the magic of the moment and celebrate your accomplishment as much as you celebrated that rare, beautiful moment when you sat back and stared at your computer/notepad/typewriter and wrote the words "THE END". 

Step 10: Celebrate!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
- A note from Elizabeth -

Anything to add? Corrections? Suggestions?

Have resources you'd like to share or designers, illustrators, editors you'd like in this guide?

 

Let me know. I'm always learning.

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