1. It's Free!
Self-publishing has come a long way in recent years. Gone are the days when you'd have to pay up to several thousand dollars (depending upon the services purchased) for a vanity press to provide you with copies of your own book. Now, print-on-demand services are available and ebooks are growing at an exponential rate. Whether you want a print copy or a digital copy of your book, either way you can now do it for free.
With print versions, I have used both Blurb.com and Amazon's Createspace.com. Blurb is known for producing high-quality coffee-table type photo books, but they do have formats for text-driven books too (both with hardcovers and paperback versions). You download their Booksmart software to format your book. It is very user-friendly, (especially when it comes to putting text on the covers and spine) and you can purchase as few or as many copies of the finished book as you want. I was very happy with Blurb.
Amazon's Createspace.com provides you with templates you can paste your text into, and it has a cover design feature to help you design a cover (but I found it easier to make my own cover and upload it. More on creating your own covers in the next blog). Creatspace did make me purchase a "proof" copy of my book before I could upload it for sale, but they are looking at giving authors the choice to order a proof or not, and may even provide a digital proof option, which would be great. What I really like about Creatspace is that once your book is approved, it sells on Amazon.com, which is pretty cool! The drawback is your royalties will be much lower through Amazon (unless you purchase the expanded distribution package for $39, which I did not) than they will be with Blurb. Either way, both services provide a high-quality print version of your book for free (other than the cost of ordering yourself a copy to keep!)If you self-publish as an ebook, which I highly recommend and would do in addition to making a print copy, you can do it for free as well. There are services such as BookBaby.com, which will convert your book to all digital formats for a fee (about $99 and then you keep 100% of the royalties), and if you're not comfortable with technology you can certainly go this route. However, if you're pretty good with Microsoft Word or a similar program, then you shouldn't have any problems converting to an ebook yourself at no cost.
2. It's Easy!Going the ebook route really is easy. If you just want your ebook sold at specific retailers, you can publish directly with them. The Kindle store, Nook store and even Apple ibookstore all allow you to do this directly on their sites (and I did that with my latest book by publishing directly on the Kindle store). However, there is an even easier way to go: Smashwords.com. I am officially a huge fan of Smashwords. They will take your Microsoft Word document (or equivalent) and convert it, for free, into every digital format available. Not only do they make all these formats available for sale directly on their website, but then they distribute your book to a number of retailers where it sells on those sites as well. These include Barnes and Noble Nook store, Apple ibookstore, Diesel, Sony, Kobo and, hopefully by the end of the year according to Smashwords, the Kindle store.
So what's the catch? While you don't have to pay Smashwords anything upfront (they take a small royalty for any books sold, but the author still retains at least 60% and all rights to the book) you do have to invest some time. But it's worth it! Smashwords has a great step-by-step guide on its website that walks you through exactly how to format your document before uploading it. It took me about 3 hours to do it, and it worked perfectly! Within a week of uploading my document my ebook was for sale at all the retailers listed above. Very cool! I did go ahead and upload it directly to Kindle so it'd be available there a well. Formatting for Kindle was definitely more challenging and I had to resort to some personal technical expertise to get it to work correctly (thank goodness my husband is in IT). So as soon as Smashwords completes its deal with Amazon, then you won't have to do this extra step, they'll do it for you, which will be a major bonus!
3. It's Rewarding!
The feeling of seeing your book for sale on all these well-known sites is incredibly satisfying! If you've spent months or in some cases years writing a great book you shouldn't file it away in a drawer just because you haven't been able to get it traditionally published yet. Instead, publish it yourself and get it out there! Let your family and friends know about it so they can support your efforts! They'll be impressed that you actually have a book for sale on these sites. It's a great way to see what formats you like and what you're comfortable doing. It's also a good way to start building your online platform and developing your online social networking skills to promote your book (which we'll discuss in a later blog). Finally, it will keep you motivated to continue writing. Seeing your name "in lights" so to speak is such a great feeling, you'll want to do it over and over again!