by Jeff Schmoyer
You may have heard the term “going wide” regarding self-publishing. This means making your title available in as many places as possible, rather than taking an easy (sort of) route and only publishing on Amazon.
Amazon can get your masterpiece into the world in eBook, softback, and even hardback formats. You can also use them to get your book into distribution so that bookstores and libraries can get it. But, as I understand it, that probably won’t be very successful as many booksellers don’t want to work with Amazon and are likely to make less money if they do.
To “go wide” you will need to offer your book on many different platforms. For eBooks, these could include Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Google Play, and on and on. Print-on-demand book (POD) publishers include Amazon, BookBaby, Blurb, Lulu, and more.
This means a lot of work for you as your book needs to be uploaded to each of these publishers. That could take longer than writing the book in the first place. However, services like Draft2Digital, as seen at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, simplify an author’s book publishing process to make the book available for sale almost everywhere (including Amazon).
Instead of going really wide with my new mystery series, I am using Amazon exclusively for my ebooks, allowing me to use their Kindle Select option. For wider POD distribution, my books are available through Ingram, as well as non-exclusively through Amazon.
Amazon’s Kindle Select program offers inclusion in Kindle Unlimited, free book promotions, and access to Kindle Countdown Deals, which allow you to discount your book for a period of time.
Kindle Unlimited allows monthly subscribers (it’s not included in Amazon Prime, sadly) to read your book for free. The author’s payment is calculated by a formula based on the number of Kindle Unlimited subscribers and the actual number of pages read in your book. It can pay as much as an eBook purchase.
To qualify for Kindle Select, you must sell your eBook exclusively through Amazon for 90 days at a time. This is for the eBook only and does not affect the POD version. If Kindle Select isn’t for you, or you change your mind after 90 days, you may spread your eBook as far and wide as you like.
Ingram is a global book distributor and wholesaler and they will make your self-published book widely available to retailers and libraries. Uploading to their IngramSpark website is as easy as using Amazon, and now you can do it for the low price of free because they have dropped their setup fee.
First, to sell your book through another distributor, like Ingram, make sure you don’t check the “Expanded Distribution” box on the Amazon pricing page for your print book.
You will need three pieces to publish your baby: A PDF of the inside of your book, a PDF of the full cover, and an ISBN.
There is little hope of making an eBook much more than tolerable to read on a tablet or phone as it may appear in almost any font and page size. That’s why I just threw up my hands and used the Kindle Create app to make the eBook version, hoping for the best.
The print version, however, is completely in your control, from fonts to spacing, margins, and much more. You’ve been working for years to write and polish your tome, now you need to make it pretty. You can hire out the layout job, or create your own PDF with one of several available programs.
Ensure the size (height and width) you have chosen is offered by Amazon and IngramSpark, or whatever publishers you choose. Once you have created the PDF of the innards at the selected size, you will have the exact page count necessary to create the cover.
You will need a single PDF of the entire cover, front, spine, and back. Templates for the exact cover size and page count are provided by Amazon and other publishers. While it’s not difficult to create the cover using Adobe or other software, you might want to choose a professional to make it look, er, professional, or at least design your cover art.
Once you have the full cover, you can crop it to just the front to use for your eBook.
For wide distribution of your print title, you will need your own ISBN (International Standard Book Number) versus a free one assigned by Amazon, for example. It is best to go direct to the source and order them from Bowker. While you can order them individually, ordering 10 at a time is a better deal if you are planning more than one title. If you are exclusively distributing your eBook on Amazon, you can use an Amazon-assigned ASIN rather than an ISBN.
The barcode on the back cover of the book contains the ISBN and can include the price as well. Create it using one of the tools on the internet, rather than paying Bowker for it. Links to Bowker and a free barcode generator are at the end of this article.
Get uploading. I have found it best to upload the print version to Amazon first and once I have that perfected, upload the Kindle version, then move on to IngramSpark.
Both Amazon and IngramSpark will need to approve your uploaded materials before publishing. While I have never had a problem with content approval, they have both given me grief over my covers, usually about the text on the spine being too large to fit. Grumble to yourself, then make the adjustments they request and resubmit. It can take up to 72 hours to get their attention so be sure to allow room in your timeline.
Carefully check the proofs of your book at each publisher. Make sure the inside and outside look exactly the way you want. This is your last chance before your adoring public sees it. You should order a proof copy and give it a read-through. I can almost guarantee you will find a soul-crushing error that you still have time to correct.
While you can earn up to 70% on eBook sales, the print book story is not as shiny. There is a cost to printing the book, which is calculated from a fixed amount for the cover plus a cost per printed page times the number of pages. The distributor and the bookseller cuts add up to about 55% or so of the cover price. To find out what’s left for you, subtract that amount and the printing cost of your book from the price you set. My shorter mysteries have a high cost-to-price ratio, therefore there is not much left for me when a bookstore sells my book. Yours will likely have more pages and get you a better cost-to-price ratio.
I have had sales of my Amazon eBook and print book, and page reads on Kindle Unlimited. A local bookstore was happy to bring in books from Ingram for a signing.
Jeff Schmoyer, a recovering tech entrepreneur, tries to find humor in the everyday world around him. He’s had several of his short plays produced and a flash fiction story published in the Pikes Peak Writers anthology, Journeys into Possibility. The first book of his new series, Smoked: A Snack-Sized Mystery, is now available. Find more at JmarsInk.com.