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Monday, August 31, 2020

The Journey to Self-Publication, Part 7: Formatting and Distribution

I've gotten quite a few questions about why I finally decided to delve into self-publishing and how I'm doing it, so I figured why not create a new blog series!

Every Monday, I'll be sharing a piece of the self-publishing puzzle---from how I came to this choice to writing, editing, marketing, sales, and everything in between. Please remember that this is simply my experience, how chose to do things. Others do things differently, and that's fine! So, your mileage may vary, but in the end, I hope seeing yet another way of tackling self-publishing will help you on your path. 

Need to catch up on previous posts? Find them here:

Today, we're diving into formatting and distribution, and I decided to cover these two topics together because they kind of go hand-in-hand. Each vendor that sells your book requires a different format, so knowing where you plan to distribute your book will help determine what types of formatting you need to have done. 

When self-publishing, there are a lot of options for distribution. The most popular ones are: 

Kindle Direct Publishing -- This is Amazon's self-publishing company, and probably the single most popular option authors use, because like it or not, Amazon is still the biggest retailer for ebooks. With this option, you can create and sell both your ebook and print book all from the same platform / dashboard, which is really convenient. You also have the option to enroll in Kindle Unlimited, which pays you per page read whenever someone borrows your book via KU. The drawback to this, though, is that they require exclusivity for 90 days, meaning you can't sell your digital book on any other sites. It's limiting, but for some genres--like romance--authors make a bulk of their income via KU pages read. And best of all -- it's FREE to publish via KDP. When using this option, KDP requires either a PDF or mobi file for upload. 

Smashwords -- This is a great and easy to use option if you want to distribute your ebook widely. Once you upload to Smashwords, you can have your digital book distributed to places such as iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, WalMart, Overdrive, etc. It's a one-stop upload, and then they handle the distribution to the rest of the vendors. For this option, it appears you can use a Word doc. While I haven't looked into this one too much (yet), it does appear to be free as well, though if you want to opt-in to their expanded distribution, there is a fee. I'm not sure how much. 

IngramSpark -- This is typically used for print books, though they do have an option to publish ebooks as well. This option is great for print because you can (1) do pre-orders, and (2) it's ideal for bookstores to order directly from Ingram when hosting book signings or other events. (Most bookstores / events won't order from Amazon, so bear that in mind if your marketing plans include a lot of in-person events.) For this, you need a PDF of both the book and the cover. This one, unfortunately, is not free. It's $49 for both print and ebook, $49 for print only, and $25 for ebook only. 

Now, I know there are a lot of other options -- Draft2Digital comes to mind -- but I haven't really explored any others because I don't plan to use them, so I've been focusing my time on the above three. 

Currently, I have Eternal Curse enrolled in Kindle Unlimited for the required 90 days. My plan is to see how many pages read I have once the book releases. If it's a fair amount, I'll leave it as is. But if I see little to no pages read, I will un-enroll it from KU and use Smashwords to distribute widely. My print book is being printed and distributed via IngramSpark. Because of COVID, I obviously don't have any big in-person events planned, but I hope to someday be able to do so. Not to mention, I wanted to be able to have it available for pre-order, which you sadly can't do via KDP for print (you can for ebook).

Once I knew what my plans were for distribution, and I knew what various formats I'd need, I reached out to my formatter. Luckily, my cover designer also does book formatting, so I was able to use her for both. 

While I only technically needed PDF, mobi, and Word documents, I had her create an epub as well--mostly because I decided to utilize NetGalley for early reviews and they prefer an epub--but also because I figured it couldn't hurt to have all formats handy just in case I ever needed them in the future.  

Here's what the final formatting looks like: 

Isn't it gorgeous?? I'm so pleased with how it turned out, and it looks even more amazing in person! 

So, my advice is to plan ahead. Figure out where you want to distribute your books, then work with a formatter to create the various formats you'll need. But, be sure the book is fully edited BEFORE you get it formatted, because trust me, it's a pain to go back and make changes once the final files have been completed. It can also get expensive if you're using distributors that charge for file changes (Ingram does this, so fair warning. I learned this the hard way, unfortunately. LOL.) 

Come back next week when I'll dive into my personal marketing strategy for this series--and I'll even share if it's actually working ;-) 

Got questions?
Drop them in the comments! 

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