Books written by Ray Sullivan

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

How to Self Publish Books - Part Four

Over the last three posts related to self publishing I've discussed the process from completing your book, to checking it for errors, ensuring it is formatted correctly, designing a cover, writing the blurb and setting a price.

At this point you have all you need to publish on Amazon and Smashwords.  One thing about publishing that isn't immediately obvious from the outside is that you can modify your book, including the pricing, at any time that you wish.  So if you decide you've pitched the price incorrectly or if someone points out a howler of a typo, you can change the details at will.

My preference for publishing is to publish with Amazon first - virtually all the legwork needed to publish at Amazon will cover what you need for Smashwords also.  When you submit the book for publishing it disappears for a few days while Amazon do some internal work including, it would appear, the underpinning work that allows your book to be read out by a Stephen Hawking-like synthesised voice on the Kindle.  I've been meaning to download 'A Brief History of Time', partly because I've always meant to read it and partly because the Kindle read aloud feature would make it sound like Stephen was reading it himself!  How cool is that?

In my experience it can take up to three days for a book to be crunched by Amazon and uploaded on their catalogues - unless you restrict where it can be sold it will appear in the,, and sites.  The German and French sites will sell your book in Euros, the UK site in British Pounds and the US site, which pretty well covers everywhere that isn't Germany, France or the UK, in US Dollars.  You have access to a dashboard that shows all your titles and sales appear to register immediately, although I have seen board postings from authors stating that sales they know to have taken place have not registered in days - not my personal experience, but then again I only know of a limited number of sales at the time of purchase, most are completely anonymous so I don't know how long they took to register.

Publishing on Smashwords is similar, and can be done in parallel with Amazon (it's your book, sell it where you wish).  They run your book through what they call the meatgrinder - this is an automated program that checks for formatting issues and will reject your book if it fails in some way.  When I submitted Skin it was rejected because in the original draft I created a cover page with 'Skin' written in a very large font - Smashwords is intolerant of font sizes varying over certain parameters because they're considering all the potential e-readers the book may end up on, including mobile phones.  The meatgrinder seems to take a couple of hours these days - it was taking days early in the year but they've made improvements to it - but it can get log-jammed by volume so be patient.

Once your book is published you have access to the Smashwords dashboard.  This advises on sales (only books bought direct from Smashwords reports immediately and they email you when that happens too), but also provides graphs that show how many people have downloaded a free sample or a page view - I regard the pageviews as drive-bys, the electronic equivelant of someone pulling a book off a shelf and dipping into the odd page.  When you consider that Smashwords is currently uploading 6000+ books a month, anyone pulling your book off the shelf should be considered a result regardless of whether they choose to buy it or not.  In some ways I value the drive-bys more than the sample downloads, but that's probably more to do with my buying methods than anything.  I personally only do a sample download on books costing £3 (or $5) or more.  Certainly anything less than a dollar, if the image and the blurb have attracted my interest enough, doesn't need another filter to go through.

As a personal aside, one thing I cannot understand is people downloading samples of free books - and I know a few who choose to do this.  To me it's like stumbling across an oasis in the desert and choosing to fill a small bottle with water before staggering off to try and fins another oasis instead of drinking your fill.

Anyway, the graphs are a good indication of the interest being shown in your book and it's a shame Amazon doesn't feel the need to provide similar information for their authors.

Now I mentioned in an earlier posting that Smashwords provides access to other booksellers such as Sony, Apple and Barnes & Noble.  To access these markets your book has to comply with slightly more stringent formatting rules and needs an ISBN.  Smashwords will provide an ISBN for your books free of charge and they don't take any ownership of the intellectual rights so it's a no-brainer in my book, but please do satisfy yourself against their Terms and Conditions.  The additional formatting requirements probably won't affect most Authors in the main - if their book made it through the meatgrinder it should be OK, although I personally had an issue.  They wouldn't accept DLF as one of the rules is that titles cannot be all in uppercase.  So THE JOURNEYMEN wouldn't be acceptable, and quite rightly so in my opinion, but DLF is an acronym used through out the book.  Unfortunately the vetting process is an automated one, so there's no human intervention, so after trying D.L.F unsuccessfully I finally relented and renamed the book as Digital Life Form on Smashwords.  I did add a grumble after the copyright statement which you can read if you download the free sample!  If you want to vote for me as a contender for Grumpy Old Men, feel free, I'd be honoured!

One word of caution regarding Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony etc - you don't find out about sales until some time after, in many cases a couple of months, and then you can wait a couple more months before they pay Smashwords.  Smashwords will schedule payment to you at the next quarterly payment point after they have received the payment, so it could take over six months for a sale to hit your account.

So, now your book is published, along with thousands also published every month.  What happens next?  Well, that is the subject of Part Five.

I can be followed onTwitter - @RayASullivan

email me on

Visit my books on
Amazon (for Kindle owners) and Smashwords (for access to all other formats and access to Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Sony and many other good ebookstores.

Now on WH Smith!

No comments:

Post a Comment