Friday, February 26, 2016
originally published in Mashable
Yuli Ziv is the founder & CEO of Style Coalition, a network of top fashion and beauty bloggers in partnership with ELLE. Her first self-published book in the Fashion 2.0 series Blogging Your Way
to The Front Row: The Insider's Guide to Turning Your Fashion Blog into a Profitable Business and Launching a New Career is now available on Amazon.com. Follow her on Twitter @yuliz.
It’s been six years since Amazon acquired CreateSpace, an on-demand publishing platform, and almost four years since they announced the free online setup for self-publishing. While four years seems like a long time in our fast-paced world, self-publishing still hasn’t reached the mass audience. Even the biggest social media gurus still take the traditional route, only choosing to self-publish when they've been rejected by mainstream publishing houses.
The truth is, print-on-demand publishing is the fastest, most profitable and easiest way to get your written thoughts out there. Today, self-published books are even distributed to traditional outlets like Barnes & Noble and academic libraries. Most people searching Amazon or shopping the book shelves don’t even think to question whether the book was self-published or printed by a publishing company. They wouldn’t ever know unless they checked the product details.
Of course, self-publishing means you don’t get the marketing resources that come with a traditional publishing deal, but in our world of social media, that can be easily fixed. So if self publishing is so easy, why don’t we see more authors using it? Most people are simply not aware of the low barrier to entry. I didn’t even realize how easy it was to publish a book, until I decided to write one.
After evaluating the various options, I chose CreateSpace. It met my needs the best, but your mileage may vary, so research your options careful and pick the service that matches best with your goals and the type of book you plan to publish. Here is a step-by-step guide to publishing your own book using CreateSpace:
When writing your book, make sure it has all the necessary parts: introduction, acknowledgments, dedication, resources, table of contents and copyright page. If you choose to prepare the files yourself, as opposed to using CreateSpace professional services, you need to make sure to set up the appropriate margins, headers, page numbers and other formatting elements. To make things easier, the site offers ready-to-print templates that you can download for free and use to write your book. When you’re ready, you'll simply export a PDF and have a print-ready file.
Once you’ve completed the writing process, you can easily set up a new book in your CreateSpace account. The setup process guides you through simple steps of inputting the book title, description, and credits, choosing the book size and paper color, and finally, uploading the files (one for the interior, one for the cover).
While the interior file is relatively easy to create yourself using a template, the cover of your book may be a little more challenging. Again, the site offers a variety of solutions for beginners (such as building a simple cover using their online Cover Creator tool) and advanced authors alike.
Finally, you'll choose your book’s ISBN number. I decided to go with a free CreateSpace assigned ISBN. Unless you are planning on re-publishing or distributing your book with a traditional publisher in the future, or would like to choose your own publisher company name, there isn’t really any value to paying $99 for your own ISBN.
Now it's time to submit your book for a review. At this point, the CreateSpace team looks at every file and checks for potential issues before approving for print. If they see something set up incorrectly, they will email you the notes so you have a chance to re-submit your file. For example, I included color text and special characters that wouldn't print correctly, and the review team caught both and sent me an email. The review process usually takes up to 24 hours, after which you can order a physical proof copy to check over before putting your book for sale.
The community section of the site warns all first-time authors that they might need to view multiple proofs of their book until they’re satisfied. It’s helpful to have at least two to three other people reading the printed copy of your book — each might discover separate issues that the others hadn't noticed.
Once you are ready to hit “approve” on your proof, you can set up the distribution information for your title and select your sales channels. This is where you'll set up your book’s price and calculate royalties based on the book’s size, number of pages and type of paper. From the research I’ve done, CreateSpace provides the highest profits on a standard trade type book, however I suggest playing with their royalty calculator before you decide on the format and size of your book. For example, after increasing the font size of my book I discovered that it added 20 pages, which resulted in almost $0.50 less royalties per book.
CreateSpace does not offer a hardcover option at this point, so if that’s a deal breaker, you'll have to choose another platform (like Lulu) to publish your book. For most independent authors, because hardcover books cost more to print, you may not be able to profit from them, which is something to consider. It's a decision that not only affects your retail price and royalties, but also the personal cost to buy your own book for press promotions.
After finalizing the price, you can choose one or more distribution channels. There’s the CreateSpace eStore, where you can market your book directly with a customizable product page, Amazon.com or Expanded Distribution Channel. The last option requires a pro plan upgrade.The pro plan has a one-time fee of $39 with a $5 renewal fee each year thereafter. It makes your book available to thousands of retail and online outlets, including Barnes & Noble, libraries and more. Although there is no guarantee these stores will actually pick up your book, at least it will be included in a distribution list. While the eStore listing is created immediately, Amazon listings take about five to seven business days. Expanded distribution may take a few weeks.
Once Amazon creates the initial listing, you can update it with additional information or edits via Amazon Author Central (this requires opening an author account). Here you can actually create a nice author page with your full bio and headshot, which may help your sales. In my experience, Amazon was responsive and kind when dealing with my requests. From applying edits to my title within hours to personally answering my first-time author questions via provided phone support, I was supplied with consistent help throughout the entire process.
If you're planning a digital release, it might actually make sense to delay the release and encourage people to get the paperback first. Releasing a digital version of your book could be a great reason for a secondary marketing push, so plan it wisely. You can use the CreateSpace conversion service for Kindle ($69, takes about 2 weeks) or spend a couple of hours reformatting the book yourself, then converting it into a .prc file using one of the many free downloadable tools. From there, just upload it into Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing site. If your title is already listed on Amazon, the Kindle version will be automatically matched.
Converting to iPad is a similar process. Convert your files to ePUB and upload your book to iTunes. CreateSpace doesn't help much so you'll need to use a competitor like Lulu.
Once your title is listed, all that’s left to do is to let people know about it! Here again CreateSpace supplies a suite of on-demand marketing solutions from a press release to video trailers. Amazon also offers up-to-date sales reports so you can track how well your book is selling. Of course, traditional social media marketing techniques apply here as well. You should certainly lean on you pre-existing social networks to promote your book.
Considering the ease and effectiveness of the self-publishing process, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more and more self-published books in the next few years. At this point self-publishing still remains an uncharted territory for independent content creators, which means it’s the perfect time to get on board.
Image courtesy of Flickr, Jenn and Tony Bot