Stacey Atkinson

MARCH SPEAKER NIGHT – STACEY ATKINSON ON SELF-PUBLISHING

Speaker Nights March 15How to self-publish a book

Stacey Atkinson is a freelance writer and editor based in Ottawa. In 2012, she began Mirror Image Publishing as a way to self-publish her first novel, Stuck. She learned so much along the way, especially when it came to publishing and marketing a book, that she began offering advice and services to other independent authors. In 2016, she self-published her second novel, Letters from Labrador.

After self-publishing two books and working primarily as an editor of self-published fiction and nonfiction, Stacey took what she had learned and developed an online course on how to publish a book.

At this event, Stacey will explain her ten-step process and answer your questions about self-publishing. She’ll also be asking people to share their own self-publishing stories.

Christ Church Cathedral, 414 Queen St., Lackey Room, 6:30 p.m.
Free for members; $10 for non-members

 

HOW TO SELF-PUBLISH A BOOK (PART 4 OF 4) BY STACEY ATKINSON

 

In parts one, two, and three of this blog series, we looked at the first eight steps to self-publishing a book. This included discussing the differences between being a traditionally published author and a self-published author, as well as offering tips for writing, editing, designing, printing, and marketing a book. In this final blog, we’ll look at the last two steps to self-publishing a book—setting your book price and figuring out ways to keep up the momentum after the book launch.

9. Setting the Book Price

When setting your book price, you should consider three things:

  1. What do similar books sell for?
  2. What are your costs per book?
  3. How much profit do you want to make per book?

Let’s say you’ve written a 300-page nonfiction business book with black and white interior, and now you want to set the price for it. So you research similar books, and you’re pretty confident that your book would sell for $19.99. To test if this price will earn a profit for you, let’s start with a few simple calculations.

Distributor and Retailer Fees

You can expect a typical distributor fee to be from 55 to 65 percent, with 40 percent going to the bookseller.

  • Distributor fee (15 percent of $19.99) = $3.00
  • Retailer (bookseller) fee (40 percent of $19.99) = $8.00
  • Total = $11.00

Costs of Goods Sold

The cost of goods sold are the costs you incur to produce your print book, including materials and labour. For example, you would factor in the costs of printing and shipping the book, as well as factor in a small amount to go toward recouping expenses incurred for writing, editing, and designing the book. Here’s a sample breakdown of costs:

  • Writing, editing, and design expenses per book = $1.00
  • Printing cost per book = $4.00
  • Shipping cost per book = $1.25
  • Total = $6.25

Now, when all the above expenses and fees are added up, you get $17.25. So setting a book price of $19.99 would give you the following profits in the following scenarios:

  • Book sold in a bookstore via a distributor: $2.74 profit
  • Book sold online as print on demand (e.g., on Amazon.com): $6.10 profit
  • Book sold directly by the author (e.g., at a speaking event): $13.74 profit

E-Book Pricing

Some say $2.99 to $5.99 is a great range to price an e-book. Others sell at $9.99 and higher. It really depends on the type of book you’ve written. For example, according to the 2015 Smashwords Survey, $3.99 remains the sweet spot for a full-length self-published fiction e-book, and $1.99 should be avoided because the survey findings revealed that books priced at $1.99 earned 73 percent less than the average of all other price points.

10. After the Book Launch–What’s Next?

Once you’ve launched your book and told the world about it, it’s time to keep up the momentum. Look for clever ways to continue to put your book front and centre in the minds of readers. But remember, people don’t want to be sold to—so minimize the number of Facebook posts and tweets that say, “Buy my book.” Instead, focus your energy on making it really easy for people to buy your book when they’re ready.

Here are two activities you can do to keep people talking about your book.

Enter Book Competitions

Entering and winning a book competition is great promotion for your book. There are some wonderful book competitions for indie authors, which can really boost your credibility as an author if you win one or even if you come in second or third place. Plus the news of winning the award can give you content for all kinds of social media posts, especially if there is an awards ceremony and lots of photo opportunities.

Here are some credible competitions to consider:

  • Amazon First Novel Awardis for first-time Canadian authors.
  • Benjamin Franklin Book Awards, run by the Independent Book Publishers Association, is for independently published books, and all entrants receive direct feedback on their entries.
  • IndieReader Discover Awards honor the year’s best independently published titles from around the world.
  • Kindle Scout Awardsis for unpublished manuscripts voted on by the crowd.
  • Readers’ Favorite book award is for contestants ranging from first-time authors to New York Times bestsellers and celebrities.
  • Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards is for self-published books by professional writers, part-time freelancers, and students.
  • Also, be sure to check for city/state/provincial awards on the arts and culture pages of government websites, to see what kinds of local awards you are eligible for.

Write Your Next Book

One way to keep people interested in your book is to start writing your next book. You’ve learned so much from writing and publishing your first book that you can’t help but improve for your second time around, building on the momentum you’ve already created. Also, you’ll give your fans something to talk about and anticipate so that you’re not leaving them with years in between books.

At the very least, you can use your website, blog, and social media sites to stay connected to your fans by sending out updates. You can even get creative and release a new chapter for your new books or write short stories too.

That concludes this blog series on how to self-publish a book. I hope you’ve found some helpful advice in the ten steps to self-publishing, and I wish you luck in your self-publishing journey!

Stacey Atkinson is a freelance writer and editor based in Ottawa. The advice offered in this blog series is taken from excerpts from the 10-lesson online course on How to Publish a Book.

HOW TO SELF-PUBLISH A BOOK (PART 3 OF 4) BY STACEY ATKINSON

 

In parts one and two of this blog, we looked at the first five steps to self-publishing a book. This included discussing the differences between being a traditionally published author and a self-published author, as well as offering tips for writing, editing, and designing a book. In this blog, we’ll look at steps six, seven, and eight—printing, distribution, and marketing.

6. Printing a Book

Deciding on a printing company depends on what your plans are for your book. Do you need inventory or can you print on demand? Do you even need a print book? Or could you focus on selling an e-book instead? When choosing a printer, some authors are motivated by price, others by location.

Let’s explore the different types of printers available to you.

Print on Demand: A print-on-demand (POD) company offers the option of ordering the exact number of books you want printed, whether it’s one copy or several hundred copies, and the books are printed and delivered exactly when you need them. POD is a popular option because you don’t have to worry about inventory. Often POD is used to fulfill a sales order, and the books are usually printed on a digital printing press.

CreateSpace and Ingram Spark are examples of print-on-demand companies catering to self-published authors.

Short-Run Printing: You would use a short-run printer if you wanted to order a small batch of books for printing (e.g., 200 copies). You may not have orders for the books yet, but short-run printing enables you to have some inventory on hand. There may be a setup charge for your print job, but then after that the printing should be fairly low cost. Short-run printing can be a good option for self-published authors because the printers are usually easy to work with, and some even offer interior layout and book-cover templates.

Bookbaby and Friesens are examples of short-run printers.

Four-Colour Offset Printing: You would generally hire an offset printing company if you needed high-quality printing in large volumes. Essentially, offset printing, or offset lithography, uses ink transferred onto rollers and then onto printing plates. This is likely not your first choice as a self-published author, but it’s good to know about it anyways.

Bookmasters is an example of an offset printing company.

Espresso Book Machines: If you want to print a single copy of your book, the Espresso Book Machine might be the answer for you. You’ll find these printing kiosks in select bookstores and cafes, where you can print your book while you wait and sip a cappuccino. You can find locations for these Espresso Book Machines through the website OnDemandBooks.

7. Distributing a Book

Book distribution is the delivery system for placing your books into the hands of bookstores and customers. The Association of Canadian Publishers offers up a list of book distributors on its website, as well as this advice:

Once a book has been published it will need a distributor. If your book has been published by an established publishing house, they will already have distribution contacts. If you self-publish or publish with a very small house that does not have distribution set up, you will need to make this contact on your own. Remember that distributors will generally take 55–65 percent of the cover price (40 percent of which is going to the bookseller). Make sure your pricing formula has taken this into account

Distribution for Print Books

To further break down book distribution, let’s look at the role of a wholesaler versus a distributor.

Wholesaler: This is a company that fulfills bookstore orders. For example, you provide the book to the wholesaler at a 55 percent discount, and then the wholesaler sells it to the retailer at a 40 percent discount. So you (author/publisher) make 45 percent, the wholesaler makes 15 percent, and the bookstore makes 40 percent.

Distributor: This is also a company that fulfills bookstore orders (sometimes through a wholesaler). However, one of the main differences between a distributor and a wholesaler is that the distributor usually has a sales team to promote your book to bookstores and wholesalers.

Remember, just because you have book distribution doesn’t mean that a bookstore will actually place an order for your book. You need to promote your book in order for it to sell. A self-published author may also choose to sell directly to local bookstores (usually on consignment) and niche markets such as gift shops.

Distribution for E-books

Given that an e-book is a digital file, it is sold exclusively online. You need to deliver your files—mobi for Kindle and epub for all other e-readers—to the online stores that sell e-books, such as Kindle.

There are two main approaches to getting your e-book into these online stores:

  1. You can open a seller (author) account with each of the online e-book stores, such as Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and iBook. You would upload your e-book file to each store, and each store would interact directly with you and pay you directly for your e-book sales.
  2. You can open one account with an e-book distribution aggregator, which is a company that will act as a distributor between you and the online stores. The aggregator company will take care of ensuring your e-book files are properly formatted for different e-reader devices, will collect your sales proceeds, and will distribute your files to as many as 60 online e-book sellers. The aggregator company will charge you a percentage fee for this services, but in the end they are saving you lots of administration time. Smashwords and Bookbaby are two main e-book aggregators.

8. Marketing a Book

No matter how great your book is, you have to remember the following: people can’t buy your book if they don’t know it exists. You need to promote it. In order to effectively promote your book and achieve book sales, you’ll need to make a basic marketing plan and carry out the activities in that plan. To begin, you’ll need to

  • Know your audience. What is your book genre? Who are your target readers? Where do these readers buy books? Where do they shop in general? What would make them buy your book?
  • Make a plan. Create a list of marketing activities and then implement them one by one and watch the results. If you start to see sales attributed to one particular action (e.g., a Facebook ad, an email list, a radio interview), then you know you’ve hit upon something that is reaching your target audience, and you can repeat it.
  • Try different marketing activities, and then narrow them down. Test several marketing activities, but don’t try to sustain them all; you’ll be spreading yourself too thin. Instead, test out ideas and social media sites, and then focus in on a few and work at them as hard as you can to reach your target audience.
  • Set a budget. You’ll want to recover your publishing investment plus make money from selling your book. The only way to do that is to set a budget and stick to it.

Marketing Communications

Marketing communications is the act of influencing or affecting behavior of an audience. In other words, you want to influence the people in your target market to buy your book. Marketing is a set of activities that creates exchanges between you (the author/publisher) and your customers (the reader). Here are six marketing approaches to selling your self-published book:

  1. Personal selling: an in-store book launch
  2. Advertising: a Facebook ad
  3. Sales promotion: a price discount offered
  4. Sponsorship marketing: associating your book with another company’s brand
  5. Publicity: free advertising such as an editorial write-up in the newspaper
  6. Social media marketing: using Facebook and Twitter to promote yourself

What Are the Top Social Media Sites for Authors?

According to the 2015 Smashwords Survey, best-selling authors are more likely to be on Facebook and Twitter and to have a blog. Similarly, a panel discussion at a past Digital Book World conference revealed that Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and author blogs were most widely used by authors. So, if you’re looking for where to start building your audience online, theses are excellent places to begin.

So there you have it—choosing the right printer and distributor, as well as having well-planned marketing communications, are key steps to successfully self-publishing a book. In the next and final blog in this series, we’ll review the last two steps to self-publishing a book—setting your book price and planning activities for after the book launch.

Stacey D. Atkinson is a freelance writer and editor based in Ottawa. The advice offered in this blog series is taken from excerpts from the 10-lesson online course on How to Publish a Book.

how to self-publish a book (part 2 of 4) by Stacey Atkinson

Here’s part 2 of Stacey’s advice:

4. Designing your book interior

It’s common for self-published authors to take interior book design for granted, thinking they can send their polished, edited MS Word files directly to the printer. Actually, there are a few steps to go before we get to the printer.

Print books

As you begin the design process, you will have to start making decisions on how you want your book to look. The trim is the width by height of your printed book (e.g., 5.25” x 8” is a common size for a fiction novel). The running heads are the short titles that appear at the top of each page inside your book, so you might want your book title on the top of the left page and your author name on the right. The gutter margins are the inside margins by the book’s binding, and the outside margins are the margins at the outside edge of the paper and at the top and bottom of the page.

You’ll also want to avoid any bad breaks on the pages, which refer to awkward breaks in a sentence, title, or paragraph. These can include a widow—when a word or short sentence appears at the top of a page, and an orphan—when a single word appears at the bottom of a paragraph or page.

If you have some design skills and a desire to learn more about how to design a book interior, there are some great books, videos, and websites out there to help you along. For example, Book Design Made Simple by Fiona Raven offers a step-by-step guide to designing and typesetting your own book using Adobe InDesign. Adobe TV offers how-to tutorials about basic tasks and new features of InDesign. And finally, Createspace, a leading self-publishing company by Amazon, offers design templates in MS Word and a step-by-step guide to formatting your book’s interior.

However, if the design steps we’ve just discussed seem out of your skillset, then you should hire a designer. Start asking around for a word of mouth recommendation, search online for designers’ websites and social media sites for samples of their work, search LinkedIn, or search the “find a designer” tab on the website GDC, Canada’s National Association for Design Professionals.

E-books

There are two main e-book formats: epub and mobi. The epub is a digital book file that is compatible with most e-readers (e.g., Kobo). The mobi is the proprietary e-book format for Kindle e-readers. These digital book files contain the following elements:

  • Chapters in HTML (HyperText Markup Language), which is a website language for coding or tagging text. HTML is used to mark up the text, such as inserting paragraph breaks, line breaks, font sizes, lists and tables, and images.
  • Style files in CSS (cascading style sheets) that contain files on the metadata (unique identifying information such as author name and book title), table of contents, and images. CSS are also used for style decisions such as paragraph indenting.

Now, unless you have HTML design skills, you probably want to hire an e-book designer to create your epub and mobi files for you. Thankfully, it’s not too expensive, and you should be able to get it done for under $100.

Audiobooks

There’s a growing market for audiobooks, which are created when someone narrates a book in a sound studio while a sound engineer records the narrator’s voice. The recording is then edited and mastered as a digital file that can be distributed similarly to a music file and listened to on an iPod or on CD. You can purchase audiobooks at online stores such as Audible.com.

Tip: People read books in all kinds of formats (print, e-book, audiobook), and on all kinds of devices (computer, tablet, e-readers, phone), so the wise self-publisher will understand the market and make sure the book is available in the formats that the readers want.

5. Designing your book cover

The cover art for your print book—front cover, back cover, spine—will have to fit exactly to your book’s trim size. For e-books, the cover art will be limited to just the front cover image. So that means the book description, which normally features on the back cover of a print book, will now be part of your e-book’s metadata (digital book information), which will appear alongside or underneath the cover art on seller websites.

If you want your book to compete in the big leagues, you’ll likely want to hire an experienced book designer (see tips on how to find a designer in the last section). Book cover designs can range in price from $99 to $1999, or more if illustration is required. Here is an example of book covers designed by a professional designer. The goal for the self-published author is always to choose the best cover based on the reader audience and book genre. In this case, the book Stuck was for a new adult/young adult reader, so the cover with the orange hoodie was the winning design.

pic-1pic-2pic-3pic-4pic-5

 

Now that you’ve toiled over the imagery for your book cover, it’s time to sort out the copy—that is, the book summary and quotes appearing on the cover. Your designer will be expecting you to provide this content ready to go and error-free.

The book description is the one to two paragraphs of text that appear on the back of your book, which is going to be an important way to influence people to buy your book. A testimonial is a reference to buy your book—a short, quotable blurb by someone of influence. Alternatively, you can pay for a professional book review from companies such as Kirkus Reviews. For example, scroll back up to the book cover designs, and you’ll see how a Kirkus Reviews quote was added to the cover.

Expect to pay extra for stock images used in your cover design, as this cost is usually not quoted in the design price. You could give your designer a budget and instructions to only use low-cost images, such as many of those found on Shutterstock.

You’ll also need to provide your designer with your book’s ISBN (which you can get for free from Library and Archives Canada) and bar code for the back cover, which wholesalers require to scan for inventory and selling. The Association of Canadian Publishers explains more about bar codes for Canadian authors on its website.

Tip: People do judge a book by its cover, so you have to do everything you can to make the best first impression so that people will pick the book off the shelf and walk to the cash counter with it…or click that “buy” link online.

So there you have it—the first five steps to self-publishing a book. In the next couple of installments, we’ll discuss the last five steps to publishing a book, which are printing, distributing, marketing, budgeting, and what to expect after the book launch.

Stacey is Director of Training and Development, Editors Canada, and has published two books, Stuck and Letters from Labrador.  

How to Self-Publish a Book (Part 1 of 4) By Stacey D. Atkinson

Have you written a book and are now ready to take the next step toward publishing? Or perhaps you are a freelance editor who works with self-published authors, and you want to build up your knowledge of the steps needed to turn an MS Word manuscript into a printed book for sale on a bookstore shelf. How does that happen?

Well, overall there are ten steps to self-publishing a book. In Part I of this blog, we’ll review the first five steps, which are to first determine if self-publishing is right for you, and then move on to writing a book, editing a book, designing a book interior, and designing a book cover.

1. Self-publishing—Is it for you?

Stop. Before you go any further, you need to ask yourself three questions:

  • Why am I writing a book? (e.g., for family and friends; for sale at speaking events)
  • Do I have an entrepreneurial drive? (e.g., I enjoy promoting what I do on social media; I’d rather just write and have someone else sell my book)
  • What kind of book am I writing? (e.g., a popular genre such as a thriller; a niche topic with a small audience)

Your answers to these questions will determine if you are a good candidate for self-publishing—that is, being your own project manager and running the business of selling your book—or if you should be spending time seeking out a traditional publishing deal with a publisher (spoiler alert: publishing deals are hard to get, which is why so many new authors turn to self-publishing).

Tip: According to the 2015 Smashwords survey, the top fiction genre is romance, and the top nonfiction genre is biography.

2. Writing your book

Write the best book you can possibly write, and be original. That means taking the time needed to fully work out the plot/thesis, character development, and style and tone. Keep writing and rewriting, and look for inspiration wherever you can, for example, by taking a creative writing class, watching YouTube tutorial videos, and buying yourself some inspirational writing books, such as On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.

Is your book complete? You’ll want to spend time planning out the front matter and end matter. The front matter is a section of pages found at the beginning of the book that could include a half title page, a copyright page, a dedication, a foreword (not written by the author), a preface (written by the author), an epigraph (quote), and endorsements or blurbs from notable people.

The end matter content is placed at the back of the book and could include an author bio, an epilogue or afterword, a glossary, end notes and footnotes, an acknowledgement page, an appendix, an index, and a bibliography.

 Tip: If you’re having trouble finishing writing your book, remember that we all have a creative voice and a critic voice inside our heads, and any negativity you might be feeling is coming from the critic voice. So find ways to quiet it, such as writing for ten minutes straight, without stopping to rework anything. 

3. Editing your book

A writer simply can’t edit his or her own material—even if that writer is a professional editor! It’s just too hard to find your own mistakes. Plus, it’s always good to have fresh eyes on your work. For those who are not familiar with the different ways to edit a book, here’s a rundown of the four types of editing that an editor(s) can do for you to polish your book for publishing:

  1. Structural editing focusses on assessing and shaping material to improve its organization and content. This is the type of editing you would need if your manuscript was incomplete and you wanted advice on how to close the gaps in the story line, reorder the chapters, and resolve the plot.
  2. Stylistic editing clarifies meaning in the sentences, improves flow, and smooths out the language. This is the type of editing you would need if your manuscript was complete but you wanted to improve your wording and vocabulary, and you wanted advice on the plot and characters.
  3. Copy editing ensures correctness, consistency, and completeness. This is the type of editing you would need if your manuscript was complete and well written, and you wanted a review of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and consistency of style.
  4. Proofreading examines material after layout to correct errors in textual and visual elements. This is the type of editing you would need as a final review of your fully designed book after a copy edit and before going to print.

Tip: Use Editors Canada’s Online Directory of Editors with keywords to help find an editor experienced in editing books in your genre (e.g., historical fiction, memoir).

Stacey is Director of Training and Development, Editors Canada, and has published two books, Stuck and Letters from Labrador.  

For a more in-depth learning experience on the ten steps to self-publishing, check out the online course How to Publish a Book, offered by Stacey D. Atkinson. Contact the author at info@mirrorimagepublishing.ca or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Watch out for Part 2 of this article soon!