Thinking about self-publishing your book?

More and more, authors are turning towards alternative routes to traditional publishing to get their books out in the world and in readers’ hands. Self-publishing, with its creative control and flexibility, can be a great option for many authors. Plus, there are loads of resources out there to make the process less daunting.

Author and WriteMentor flash fiction competition judge Sally Doherty has self-published her own children’s book, Toby and the Silver Blood Witches. She shares her experience, her process, and her advice for writers.

Self-publishing company or Do-It-Yourself? 

Initially, once I had made the decision to self-publish, I was, without a doubt, going to use a self-publishing company. The thought of formatting etc. terrified me so I was prepared to put in the money for some help. I also wanted a print run rather than print-on-demand. 

It’s funny how things change. After getting a quote from a reputable company (Matador), I discovered that I would actually be making a 30p loss per book sold on Amazon. If you don’t intend for most of your sales to be on Amazon and if you plan to do a lot of school visits and events, then a self-publishing company could be the right route for you (Do make sure it’s not a vanity press though). As someone who is housebound, however, Amazon would be my main point of sales. And so I did a complete u-turn. 

A successful self-published author steered me in the direction of using KDP and IngramSpark. You use KDP to print and sell your books on Amazon. As it’s Amazon-owned, they take forty percent royalty compared to sixty percent if they’re selling your books from someone else such as Matador. (Matador also take fifteen percent on top of this). By also publishing via IngramSpark, your book will be available through mainstream distributors such as Gardners for bookshops and libraries to order (Let’s face it, this won’t be a big market but you may get some). I also order my author copies from Ingram as the cover is slightly better quality than KDP.

Let’s talk money. With a book of 240 pages priced at £7.99, I receive £1.69 royalties per book from KDP and £1.29 from Ingram. Obviously, I could price my books higher and make higher royalties, but middle grade books tend to sell at £6.99 or £7.99, and I wanted mine to be competitive. If I were to sell author copies directly to schools etc, I would make over four pounds a book as you buy author copies at the print price and don’t pay a middleman to sell them. For Kindle e-books sold at £3.99, I receive over £2. There’s lots more I could tell you about KDP and IngramSpark but it’s easier to direct you to this great blog post which set me on my path

Editing and formatting self publishing book

Book specifications

You need to decide on the following:

  • Trim size (paper size): The standard for self-publishing seems to be 5 x 8”. I went with the standard for traditional middle grade books which is 5.06 x 7.81”
  • Paper colour: White paper tends to suggest self-published so I went with cream
  • Cover finish: Glossy or matte (I changed my mind so many times about this. Traditional middle grade books seem to be matte but they have shiny foil lettering for their titles. In the end, I went for matte)

Book cover for self-publishing

I know the phrase is ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’, but let’s face it, everyone judges a book by its cover. If most of your sales are going to be online that’s even more true. It was really important to me to have a cover that fitted in with the traditional market. I put out a call for an illustrator both in the SCBWI Facebook group and on Twitter (which is where I eventually found mine). She was actually the fourth person I contacted (but in the end, the best too). One didn’t reply, one was too busy and one was way out of my budget.

It’s likely your chosen illustrator will provide a contract for you to sign. You’ll pay a certain amount as deposit up front (I paid fifty percent). Typically your illustrator will retain copyright of their images.

I had a clear idea of what I wanted on my cover but it’s also important to give your illustrator creative leeway too, after all that’s why you’re hiring them. They’ll likely have some brilliant inventive ideas (such as the way my illustrator incorporated the title into mine).

When choosing your illustrator, have a look at covers in the same age group and genre on the market. I chose my illustrator for their style but I also sent some current covers to them to show the kind of thing I wanted.

Designing self publishing book cover

Editing and formatting

Just because you’re self-publishing, doesn’t mean your book shouldn’t be the best version it can be. By the time I came to self-publish, my book had already gone through two full manuscript critiques (when I was trying to get an agent/publisher) and also through edits with my publisher (before they unexpectedly closed). I did however decide to pay for a proofreader who checks things such as grammar, typos, and continuity.

And then it’s time for the dreaded formatting. I hired a formatter who produced a PDF version which you use for both the KDP and Ingram paperback, and an ebook version which you again use for both. Some self-published writers choose to buy Vellum software (only for use on Mac computers) which then means they can do their formatting themselves. Apparently it’s pretty straightforward.

On the subject of formatting, you’ll need to send your illustrator a cover template from both KDP and Ingram. Ingram paper is slightly thinner so the spine widths differ a little. Do make sure you know how many pages your book will be first as this affects spine width and thus the cover template.

I know this is a lot of information to take in and might seem daunting. But believe me, if I can do it, anyone can. I hope it’s been helpful and do join me for my next blog post on marketing a self-published book.

And if you’re seriously considering self-publishing, I highly recommend buying a copy of How to Self-Publish and Market a Children’s Book by Karen Inglis. It was my bible for every step of the way.

Twitter: @Sally_writes

Read more from Sally…

A sinister plot. A secret city in the sky. A boy with an impossible choice.

1 thought on “Coffee break reads: 4 things to consider when self-publishing”

  1. Helpful post, thanks. I’ve self-pubbed 3 nonfiction books (history of words) now and while I didn’t take the exact same route as you (I decided against Ingram Sparks and formatted myself) it’s great to see an honest article outlining costs and decisions taken. Hope your book is selling well for you.

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