Let’s Discuss the Latest on Self-Publishing Resources

Jordan Dane

Just a short blog post today from me, but I could really use your help. I’m interested in hearing from those who have good resources for self-publishing regarding formatting and sales ops. Since we have a wealth of experienced followers on this blog, I’d like to hear your thoughts to broaden my horizons. Self-publishing is a HUGE topic, but I’d like our chat to be focused on the questions below.

Here are some of the things I’m interested in getting updated on:

Format Questions

1.) Do you have format service companies or individuals you would recommend?
I’d like to find a one-stop company or individual who formats for all the major sales outlets: Amazon, B&N, ITunes, Kobo. Please share your experiences.

2.) What format add-ons do you recommend (as far as website links or features) that have worked for you? (ie website links, mailing list signups, retailer sales links, etc.) In other words, what marketing tools do you add to your formats that you would recommend?

3.) Within your format of text, are there navigational aspects or enhancements (bells & whistles) you would recommend to add to your content? (ie chapter list with links to easily navigate within your book, audio enhancements, etc. Some of these might be costly, but I’d love to hear any new ideas.)

4.) Does anyone have a special format service provider for Lightning Source? I hear the LS set up is expensive and corrected proofs must be reloaded. This could be cumbersome, but I hear the quality is good and LS does hardcovers with different distribution outlets. It’s something I’d like more information on.

Sales Enhancements

5.) Regarding sales outlets, are there any new players worth considering?
If you have a site, please post it and comment as to why you would recommend it. I’m thinking the sites mentioned above encompass the majority of sales, but if you’ve found other sites worth considering, I’d love to hear about them.

6.) Has anyone added sales/purchase capability onto their website where a reader could buy from the author directly? I’ve seen this done via a secured PayPal app, but had concerns on sales tax and shipping. I wondered how this worked (for anyone who has experience).

7.) I know promotion is a big topic, but for the purposes of discussion and brevity, what one promotional activity or service provider do you use without fail and would recommend to anyone?

Editing & Cover Design

I haven’t mentioned editing, because again that is a must have for any author and the cost can have a wide range, depending on services needed from line edits to book doctoring. I also haven’t asked about book cover designers. I work with Croco Designs and love Frauke Spanuth. But feel free to mention any other self-publishing services you’ve found helpful.

I bow to your infinite wisdom, TKZers. Please share your thoughts.

44 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss the Latest on Self-Publishing Resources

  1. Jordan, I’ve tried a couple of online sales services, but the one with the best results by far was ohfb.com. One of our biggest one-day sales numbers ever.Good luck.

  2. So far I’ve only used Scrivener to format my books. I embed a link that goes directly to my mailing list signup form, and clickable icons to write reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and share about my books on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Those are a must for me.

    I’ve seen great premade bookcovers at Bookcovers4u.com, which I’m planning to use. I haven’t used any bookcover designer. I find it tricky to not know what I’ll get and at what price. I imagined myself keep saying to the designer, “No, that’s not exactly what I have in mind,” but then unable to explain what I do have in mind. Browsing premade bookcovers also sparks some ideas for future books. 😉

    • Great input, Abigail. Love the links ideas.

      On the premade book covers, I had a friend buy a cover before she even had a story in mind. We brainstormed the plot with her. I’m not sure I’d recommend that as a method, but we had a blast doing it.

      Cover designers generally have you fill out a form listing key things about the book & imagery. Plus I like to send image pics or other covers I like to inspire the design. In the end, I let the designer do her/his thing & have always been pleasantly surprised. You go to a cover designer because you like what they do & trust in their ability.

      Thanks for your input, Abigail.

  3. Jordan, I’m a wet-behind-the-ears beginner, but I attended a Central Ohio Fiction Writers conference this past weekend (because Jim Bell was presenting). I was impressed with Brad Paquette and his company Columbus Publishing Lab http://www.ColumbusPublishingLab.com. They offer the whole gamut of services for self publishing, with the exception of developmental editing.

    I’m going to finish a series that I started with a small publisher, then I definitely plan to talk to Brad about their company. He was very knowledgeable about publishing and self publishing, has been in the business long enough to know the ins and outs, and was very approachable. I liked his philosophy about helping indie publishers.

    He should be a good resource.

  4. For formatting, editing and cover design services, Elizabeth Craig maintains a large database of resources.

    As Abigail mentioned, Scrivener will compile your books in all formats, but it takes some training to learn how to do this well. If you don’t mind that, go for it. I recommend LearnScrivenerFast.com for instruction.

    Re: marketing. The two best ways, by far, are 1) your own email list (which takes time to build, of course); and 2) deal-alert services like BookBub, BookGorilla, eBookSoda, KindleNationDaily and so on. Purchase space on these for your books on an ongoing basis.

    • Thanks for Elizabeth’s link, Jim. It’s nice to have a comprehensive list.

      BookGorrilla & ebooksoda are new to me. Thank you. Great advice.

    • Wow…Bookbub is Expensive! Have you or others you know make enough from that one justify the cost? ($1200 for thrillers for a single day advert).

      They say their average sales per thriller title are about 2000 books, which would make a profit, but boy, that’s a chunk-o-wallet space.

    • I’ve seen comments about indie folks making maybe $75 in profit by using Bookbub. One thing to be aware of for direct email ads–85% of the books in the ads are priced at $.99. Even if you sell a ton of books, you make almost nothing. I’ve tried the $.99 sale price on some very small services, and I figure I lose about $.40 minimum per book sold. At the moment, I’m building readership, so I’m okay with the loss. It’s better use of my marketing budget than anything else I’ve tried.

    • Basil, my co-writer and I used BookBub with THE BLADE. In one day we went from 6 digits to the top 100 on Amazon sales.As I mentioned earlier, OHFB.com worked great for us. Best single-day sales so far. The absolute best is Amazon Daily Deal. Used it two times and in both cases, our ebooks went to #1 on Amazon sales. Tough to get into, though. Our publisher arranged that one.

  5. I’m trying to keep costs down, and I have prior experience as a desktop publisher, so I do my own formatting. The online retailers have apps that convert Word files. I don’t do a lot of extra stuff beyond that because I want my files to be as vanilla as possible to be compatible across as many device versions as possible. I don’t think that fancy files have high value to readers, but maybe that’s just me. Dropping to Amazon or Smashwords usually takes less than an hour, but I have a Word format I use that runs well through their systems.

    I use Lightning, and setup charges are high. However, they produce consistent quality print versions. I own InDesign and create my own pdf files from my Word versions. I learned early to carefully proof the pdfs before I sent them to avoid paying extra for corrections when I got the proofs back. I have an InDesign template for my books that includes my custom fonts, repeated front matter, etc. Setting up a new book is quick and easy. The last one took me about 90 minutes from importing the Word file to having the pdf ready to upload.

    Unless your website gets a heck of a lot of traffic, adding sales capability isn’t worth the effort. PayPal and Google both offer shopping cart apps, and they both take a cut of every transaction. The apps will compute the sales tax, but you’ll have to track and pay it. Unless you’re buying mailing supplies in huge quantities, the cost of them is expensive. Then there’s the matter of printing the mailing labels, getting the shipment to your preferred package service, and responding when a shipment is lost or a customer wants a refund. Do you want to spend your time writing, or do you want to be a shipping manager?

    As a new indie, I’m working my way through promotions. Blog tours arranged through tour promoters were a bust. My three books had around 65 stops. I had no comments from readers, gained just four reviews, got no newsletter signups, and made just one sale. I’m experimenting with direct email advertising now. Bookbub is the gold standard. It’s very hard to get accepted. Books that do well tend to be those that have a high number of reviews (30-50 or more). Or at least that’s what I’ve seen and heard. I’ve also heard there’s no point in advertising anything but the first in a series (assuming that the book is part of a series).

    I’ll be interested to hear about other authors’ experiences, especially where covers are concerned. I currently do my own, but I’d love to find someone to work with who can do more than manipulate stock photos.

    • Great input, KS. Your Lightning tips will help with one of my projects. Thank you.

      On using blog tours, host sites often use Rafflecopter as a giveaway form, or a comprehensive rafflecopter form so all entrants are in one spot for easier tour administration. On these forms, you can list incentives for people to enter that match your goals of getting twitter followers, mailing list signers, facebook likes, etc. That way you can see progress as the tour continues. For reviews, you can request winners give you an honest review. Hopefully they will, but you shouldn’t force it.

  6. Cool resources here. The only one I can add would be my friend and cover designer Anders Nyman, who made the cover for my last novel, MIDNIGHT SUN. He does a great job and can work in mulitiple languages for covers as well as complete ebook production. His website, http://www.whipmedia.se is all in Swedish at the moment, but he told me this morning he should have the English version up by tomorrow. You can also contact him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/whipmediasverige

    Great guy, and great to work with.

  7. Small indie or self publishers should be looking at IngramSpark, not LightningSource, for POD (paperback and hardcover). Same POD company, different (and less expensive) interface designed for publishers with few titles.

    Advantages: high quality POD, global distribution to all print markets that matter, low cost, can also distribute ebook with option to exclude amazon and/or iBooks from your IngramSpark, allowing you to continue to work directly with those retailers if you prefer.

    Disadvantages: Unless you’ve invested a lot of time in learning the tech of book layout and formatting, you will need to hire someone to turn your manuscript into a perfect pdf file and/or epub to submit to IngramSpark. If you want to change it later, it will cost you $25 every time.

    There are many other adv and disadv to IngramSpark but I find it to be a reasonable compromise for what I want to accomplish as a small publisher (ScienceThrillers Media).

  8. I use both IngramSpark and CreateSpace for my trade paperback books. CreateSpace is a lot cheaper (free setup and free changes to both the interior and cover, as opposed to $25 each at IngramSpark (Lightning Source), so $50 to update both. Also, the quality of the interiors is better through CreateSpace, as they use 60-lb paper, whereas LightningSource / IngramSpark uses 50-lb. paper so the print shows through to the other side. I’ve complained about this to them and also about the $25 for updates, but they say they have no plans to change their paper weight or their fees. I need them though, as I use IngramSpark for my books to bookstores and libraries, as I and they offer the 55% discount these outlets require, and not POD, so they’re returnable. My books published through CreateSpace are all print on demand and not returnable, so most retailers won’t purchase them.

  9. I’ve used book and e-book formatters but I like to be able to make updates and re-upload my books whenever I want to Amazon and CreateSpace, so now I format my own books, and have pretty much figured out all potential problems, so it seems to be working just fine! And that makes it free for me and I can revise and republish whenever I want, without paying for new formatting.

  10. For my e-books, I have links from chapter names in the Table of Contents to that chapter, and also links from subheadings in the T.O.C. to that topic in the text. And at the end of every chapter I have a link called “Back to TOC” so they can click back to it quickly.

  11. I have found CreateSpace (Amazon) a consistently excellent resource for paperback formatting and publication. They are very professional and reasonably priced. Several years ago they were outsourcing some of their print runs, resulting in modestly decreased quality. To their credit, they quickly responded to authors’ concerns and effectively addressed the issue. I believe that their product and service is now first class.
    Like others have commented, ebook formatting and publication is quite straightforward with Scrivener or Ulysses. The skills needed to produce a top shelf ebook are easily mastered and worth the effort to assure a first class product. No one cares as much as you do, so whenever possible, do it yourself.
    Finally, I have used the services of “The Cover Counts” on my two novels and have been pleased on both occasions. They are capable and very reasonable. Highly recommended.

    • Hi Evan. Thanks for your advice. I’ve got Scrivener & will use that on formatting myself. Why not?

      Thanks for the cover design contact. Will check it out.

  12. For e-book formatting I highly recommend e-bookbuilders.com. Deena Rae is quick, efficient and inexpensive.
    E-book formatting can be migraine-inducing when trying to do it yourself. And sometimes when you upload on Amazon, it messes everything up.

    However, if you plan on formatting the e-book yourself, download Kindle Previewer (it’s free) and make sure the book looks exactly how you want it. It shows you how your book will appear to readers on every version of kindle out there, along with iPhone and iPad.

    For book covers, I do my own. With my first book, I paid someone $350 to design merely the front cover for me. I loved the design, but wanted to change the model on the cover, and I had to pay an extra $60 for that.
    For my second book cover, I decided to find someone cheaper and found a designer charging me $110, but all of three designs he sent for me to choose from, I liked none of them. We spent a while going back and forth–the designer just could satisfy me, so out of frustration, I just settled for a design I didn’t really care for.
    After that book was published, I downloaded Gimp, familiarized myself with it, and redesigned the cover for that book. From then on, I make my own book covers and save myself cash and headaches.

    I used Createspace for prints. Their process is pretty easy and FREE. I have no problem with the quality of their books.

    Marketing, well that’s still the hardest part of self-publishing. You spend money on so many sites promising exposure, and…nothing. Blog Tours, Release Blitz, all those things barely helps.
    Anyone’s best bet as far as marketing/promotion goes, for both traditional and self-publishing, is Bookbub. Their price is exorbitant, and it’s hella hard to get accepted, but once you get listed, you’re guaranteed thousands in sales.
    I have yet to use them, because I can’t afford those prices, but I get their daily emails, and 90% of the time, the books one their daily list soar to Top 100 Bestsellers. Easily.

    • Love your tip on Kindle previewer. That could help even if you work through a formatter & want to double check your book if you have issues. Thank you.

      That cover price appears high to me, harder to justify & recoup your cost, when others produce a good quality alternative.

      Createspace has been good for me too, but I am trying Lightning Source for one project, to compare.

      Thank you.

  13. I belong to Independent Book Publishers Assoc. (IBPA) and they offer tons of great advice and marketing opportunities for indie authors and publishers.

  14. For the cover of my science thriller REVERSION coming in November, I hired BookDesigners.com. Look at their portfolio and you’ll see their covers are the very best, period. For quality you can’t do better. However, as you would expect, they are very expensive.

  15. Good stuff. I have only one thing to add:

    Whatever route you take re formatting and producing your book (hiring someone or DIY) PLEASE be slow and thorough. Readers are really getting angry about typos and formatting issues. We have done our books (both e and print) and hired people. Both routes still resulted in some errors. On our own projects we can go back and correct things.

    But readers are onto us. They will write scathing reviews on Amazon if your technical work is sloppy. I don’t blame them a bit.

    • Excellent point.

      But this goes for books from large established publishers too. Dreaded typos and format inconsistencies can happen to anyone.

      Thanks, Kris.

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