On May 6th 2022, I self-published my first novel...
And now I am sharing my experience in the hopes it can help someone with their process.
A little about the book...
I started writing 'The Way Back' when I was 16. It was something I picked up and put back down over the years and I was finally fully able to finish it. After looking to go down the traditional publishing route, I decided I wanted to self-publish through Amazon KDP.
I decided to go with Amazon KDP as it allowed me a free platform to publish my book in print form as well as eBook. The only thing I had to pay for was my proof copies (which are optional, but I would recommend) and my author copies if I wanted any. Amazon pay for the printing of your book (through your sales) and you receive royalties (either 60% or 40%). The books are printed to order which means there is much less risk and less pressure when selling copies.
These are the steps I took when self-publishing my book...
Step 1: Writing
Finish the book. This is a very important step. As an editor I knew this was essential however as a writer, it's hard to ever feel finished with your book. It can be hard to let go...
If you're not sure, check out this blog post here:
Although it's difficult, this is so important. There is no point in beginning the process until you are fully finished, otherwise you will be going around in circles. By finished I don't mean fully edited, I mean that you're 100% happy and there are no more changes to the bigger aspects of your book (the character, story line, plot etc).
This is also a great time to complete a self-edit. The self-editing process is essential before you bring anyone else onto your book. Here are some tips to help you:
Step 2: Editing
At this point, you may want to consider finding an editor. At this stage, you will most likely be looking for a copyeditor and a proofreader.
Each writer will be different, however I would always recommend a copyeditor as they will help you identify if there are any issues in your book that you may not have seen and help with consistency and the overall flow of the book, as well as looking to correct any errors in your writing.
I worked with a copyeditor and then a proofreader. It was a very quick process, therefore even with the assistance there were still a few minor errors spotted in the book (which has now been corrected). This is why my biggest tip would be take your time and the more eyes checking your work, the better.
Step 3: Getting started with the production
Once my book was completely finished, it was time to start its production. I had a few options for self-publishing but I ended up working with Amazon KDP. I think it's important to know your options and research before making a decision, there are a variety of different platforms all offering slightly different things. I went with Amazon as there was less risk and I had more control.
The process was very simple to follow and I could pick it up and put it down whenever I wanted. At the beginning I was asked what kind of book I wanted to publish. I had a few options: eBook, paperback or hardback (you don't have to pick just one, you can publish your book in all 3 formats if you'd like, but each one needs to be uploaded and published separately).
I then went on to fill in any information about the book and myself. Again, like I said you can pick this up and put it back down which meant with the book description etc, I was able to edit it again and again.
Step 4: Creating the book
The second stage of publishing is where all the design takes place. This process is what I felt most out of my depth, I had a lot of experience with editing but not book design. I had a little experience from university but other than that, it was trial and error.
I started out with the paperback version of my book...
I started by picking out the type of paper I wanted, however this was simple as I knew I just wanted something simple, a typical choice for a fiction manuscript. However, if you want to publish images or in colour then you may want to read into this a bit more (this may also increase the price on how much it costs to print your book).
This is where things went into a lot more detail...
The book cover: You can either upload your book cover or use Amazon's cover design tool. Uploaded a picture won't work with a physical copy of the book, you need to consider the back copy of the book too and upload a book jacket pdf not just an image. This is why I used the Amazon tool. This tool can be a little difficult to work with so I'd recommend giving yourself the time to play around with it. You may also want to consider hiring a cover designer, the front of your book is the first thing your reader will see, therefore it's a great investment into the success of your book.
The inside of the book: For me, this was a very tedious process. I used Microsoft Word to format the inside of my book. I kept it very simple:
Changed the page size to ensure it fit to the book size I had set on Amazon (this was a long process where I tried out different sizes until I found a size I liked).
Applied styles to titles and chapter numbers to ensure consistent design through out.
Found a font and font size that worked with the book.
Added a few simple design features.
Added page numbers and headers (changing the header for each section of the book).
Typesetting is such an important part of the publishing process, you may want to consider hiring a typesetter if you're struggling with the inside design of your book. A bad design could lead to a reader giving up on your book as it's too distracting or difficult to read.
When I was finished with this, I uploaded the Word document to Amazon KDP and checked each page on the page viewer tool. Again this was a process that I kept repeating as I kept seeing things I didn't like and would have to go back to the Word document to change it. What's great with Amazon KDP is that before you publish, you can order proof copies to see what your book will look like. You have to pay for the printing costs and delivery but it's definelty worth it and better than the alternative which is publishing blindly.
Proof copies - I ended up ordering 12 proof copies overall (that is how many changes it took for me to finally be happy with my book). I didn't want to waste these, so I went on Instagram, found some bookstagrammars who were interested in my genre of writing and offered to send them the proof in return for a review on Amazon.
Step 5: Sales
The next part after the book was finished and it was time to set prices and rights.
Territories - This allows you to set rights for different countries, unfortunately I just set this as world wide, so I am not too sure what would happen if you set it any different. These are the rights to sell in certain countries.
Market place - Although you have set worldwide rights, you can still select where you think your book will sell the most. I chose the UK here, I think this may be for printing purposes.
Pricing - At this point you can choose the price of your book. Here you need to consider how much your book costs to print (it does tell you this) and then how much royalty you will receive. I went on Amazon, searched books similar to mine and set prices that way, I wasn't so worried about how much money I was making but at the same time, after all my hard work, it would have been nice to make something. You can also set prices for the rest of the countries you're selling your book in.
Distribution - On Amazon KDP, you have two options when it comes to distribution.
Amazon - which means Amazon exclusively sell your book. This distribution means you can gain a royalty of 60%.
Expanded distribution which means your book is available to order by other online retailers. However using this option, you royalty would be 40%.
I decided to go with Amazon distribution, although I wasn't worried about a lower royalty, with this option Amazon must have a higher minimum for what you can sell your book for. I think I had to have my book selling for at least £12, which put me off as of course I didn't think someone would pay that for my book.
Step 7: The eBook
After I was finished with my print book and ready to publish, it was time to work on the eBook, I wanted to publish both at the same time.
Creating an eBook is a very similar process, with only a few differences:
The book cover is much easier to design as there is no back cover, you only need to upload an image.
There is no need for page numbers as page sizes will vary depending on the size of the screen of your device.
Titles, new pages, chapter numbers etc need to be anchored to the page to avoid it moving around.
As there is no printing costs, eBooks receive a higher royalty.
You may want to consider a lower price as eBooks are generally a lot cheaper.
You also need to consider if you want to be included the Kindle Unlimited Scheme (this is a great way for new readers to find you).
Step 6: Publish
You'd think that's where it finishes but it doesn't!
Once my book was published, I shouted to the world about it, asked people to leave reviews and talk about it as much as possible.
Some things I have done since publishing:
I set up an author page of Amazon.
There's no rest for the wicked, I am already planning for book number 2
I started an author Instagram page (@sophietateauthor).
On that Instagram, I am still creating posts and reels about my book.
Engaging with readers.
I also ran a giveaway for my book.
And finally, if you'd like to see the final product, then here it is The Way Back.